BCPL cloud service offers new way to get e-books
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:13

Circulation up despite restrictions

by John G. Bailey

    Staying on the leading edge of information technology, Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) introduced its cloud-based digital book (e-book) service on Sept. 5 in all its branches. Though similar to the OverDrive e-book service at BCPL, which it complements, the cloud-based option is touted as being much easier to use.
    Jamie Watson, BCPL’s collection development coordinator, explained, “Customers can download e-books with just one click with the cloud-based system. It’s easier than OverDrive.”
    In the same way the definition of “site” and “portal” have been adopted and expanded by emerging information technologies, “cloud-based” describes databases that are not fixed in location or restricted in quantity. In the 3M cloud system used in the BCPL program, an e-book still exists in the 3M database after a customer checks it out.
    However, due to the proprietary concerns of publishers who sell e-book titles to libraries, only one customer can download a “copy” of an e-book at a time; simultaneous, multiple downloads of a single item are prohibited by terms of contract.  

To counter this one book-one lender restriction and to satisfy customer demand — a key reason for the new BCPL service — BCPL customers can borrow or reserve up to six e-book titles at a time, using both the cloud and OverDrive systems.
    Demand is high. In September, the first month of the service, 1,286 items were downloaded.
    However, this demand may be frustrated by another constraint from the publishing world. Three of the largest publishers — Simon & Schuster, Macmillon and Penquin — do not sell titles to public libraries, claiming that when publishers sell e-book titles, they lose future profit.
    However, exposure equals sales, and more than 40 other publishers have jumped at the opportunity to market e-book titles through libraries.
    Regardless of the pecuniary motives of publishing companies, the 3M cloud e-book service is free for library customers.
    For libraries, e-books are frequently more expensive than print titles. When asked how BCPL will divide a finite acquisition budget between print and e-book titles, Watson was reassuring. “We are prepared to budget as much as we can to keep customers stocked in e-books, if and when the content becomes available.”
    BCPL currently holds 2,500 e-book titles that are accessible with PCs, iPads, iPhones, Nooks and Androids. The cloud system is not yet compatible with Kindle or Macintosh computers. To access the service, visit www.bcpl.info/find-materials/downloadables.