Just as books don’t magically appear on library shelves, ebooks don’t automatically pop up in a library’s online catalog. Librarians work with ebook vendors to get econtent into the hands, or rather, onto the e-readers, of their patrons. With the many e-lending options now on the market, here are five of the big ones with a few of their major features for cross comparison. At the end of the article, check out the handy reference chart according to your econtent needs.
OverDrive: 1 Million Strong
OverDrive, a global distributor of ebooks and audiobooks, is “all about adjusting and innovating on the fly,” says David Burleigh, director of marketing.
History: OverDrive began its distributing business in the late 1990s and incorporated the Content Reserve database (now called OverDrive Marketplace) in 2000.
Collection Size: OverDrive offers 1 million titles to 22,000 libraries, schools, and universities.
Growth Rate: Each month, OverDrive adds 40,000–50,000 ebooks and five to 10 publishers.
International Reach: Channel partners (libraries, retailers, publishers, and technology companies) come from 29 countries; OverDrive offers ebooks in 52 languages.
Subject Areas: Users can narrow search results via a long list of subjects, including dance, current events, mythology, and romance.
New Features: OverDrive is in the middle of redesigning its member libraries’ websites to an updated "Next Generation" design, and the company just appointed Lee Milstein (who has worked at Google, YouTube, and AOL) to the new position of chief strategy officer. Milstein will spearhead the company’s digital media initiatives.
What’s Next: OverDrive is diving into the realm of streaming video lending with its streaming technology, which is in pilot mode this fall with titles from Paramount Pictures.
3M Cloud Library: New Kid on the Block
Since its launch, 3M Cloud Library has experienced tremendous growth. “People are voracious in their demands for content,” says Tom Mercer, marketing manager. 3M was the first ebook vendor to offer ebooks from all of the Big Six (now Big Five) publishing houses.
History: 3M started 2 years ago, with an official launch in April 2012.
Collection Size: 3M has more than 300,000 ebook titles in its cloud-based system that are offered to its 150 member library systems.
Growth Rate: Each month, 3M adds thousands of ebooks and about 10 new member library systems. These systems typically have 10 or more branch libraries.
International Reach: 3M is developing its foreign language content; the company recently signed agreements with several Spanish publishers and is pursuing popular Spanish-language titles.
Subject Areas: The company's ebook collection has different titles for each member library system, but best-sellers are top on the list.
New Features: 3M recently expanded into mobile with apps for Apple and Android devices, and now offers social media integration with Facebook and Twitter, as well as email sharing. 3M’s ebook lending service is now integrated with Innovative Interface’s Encore discovery application that allows libraries to access ebooks from 3M and local collections, all from the Encore interface.
What’s Next: Soon, 3M plans to go international, starting with Canada.
Axis 360: Integration Options Galore
Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 is a “fully accessible digital content platform and reading application that provides the only ADA-compliant solution for libraries,” says Michael Bills, director of sales and marketing for digital products. Axis 360 services include FirstLook Digital notifications for new releases and standing order plans for automatic additions to popular series.
History: Axis 360 launched in 2011 with more than 400 customers in public, school, and academic libraries. Baker & Taylor partnered with K-NFB in 2010 to become the exclusive provider of content for the Blio digital reading application.
Collection Size: Axis 360 has about 600,000 ebooks and audiobooks.
Growth Rate: Each month, an average of 12,000 titles are added as well as 25–30 new member libraries.
International Reach: Axis 360 is working on displaying diacritics correctly, but it does have a large selection of French- and Spanish-language titles, in addition to other languages.
Subject Areas: Axis 360’s entire collection of ebooks is available to libraries, but titles are also delivered directly to apps such as Blio or axisReader (which connects to individual libraries’ collections). Blio’s categories include fiction, biography, business, cooking, crafts and hobbies, education, and parenting/family, with a special children’s section.
New Features: New initiatives include API integration with SirsiDynix, The Library Corporation, and Polaris Library Systems; CustomReach for Libraries that offers customizable marketing materials; and the availability of on-order title displays patrons can use to place holds for prepublication titles.
What’s Next: Axis 360 has new customization options in the works for member libraries, including enhanced presentation of a library’s digital collection.
ebrary: Academic Ebooks Abound
ebrary, a ProQuest business, is the biggest distributor in the academic library market, thanks to the “sheer volume of content that we have,” says Leslie Lees, vice president of content development. Kathy Masnik, vice president of product management, echoes that statement, noting that ebrary is “squarely in the research space,” though the company does offer titles for public libraries that are research-oriented.
History: ebrary was founded in 1999 and began aggregating ebooks directly to libraries using a subscription model, the only model in the industry at the time. ProQuest acquired the company in 2011.
Collection Size: ebrary currently hosts nearly 700,000 documents that it offers to its 4,500 library customers from 550 global publishers.
Growth Rate: Last year, ebrary added 110,000 new titles, and adds an average of 10,000 titles monthly.
International Reach: ebrary serves more than 19.2 million users and has about 4,500 global library customers.
Subject Areas: Subjects range from agriculture and history to science and technology.
New Features: The company is in the process of developing a new platform that will merge ebrary and ProQuest’s recent acquisition EBL; it is also working with publishers to create new purchasing options.
What’s Next: ebrary will be combining its products with EBL’s to “keep as much choice for librarians as we can,” says Masnik. ebrary might consider Kindle integration in the future based on customer-demand; it also may acquire the Big Five publishers’ titles if they are relevant to the academic market.
MyiLibrary: No Longer Academic-Only
MyiLibrary is part of Ingram Content Group, Inc. MyiLibrary’s “sister relationships with other Ingram businesses enable us to help academic and public libraries around the world coordinate cost-effective purchasing of print and e-books,” says Pamela Smith, vice president of sales, Ingram Content Group library services.
History: MyiLibrary launched in 2004 as an academic library platform. It was then part of Coutts Information Services Ltd.; Ingram acquired both companies in 2006.
Collection Size: MyiLibrary’s collection offers 430,000-plus titles accessible to its more than 3,000 member libraries.
Growth Rate: Each month, MyiLibrary adds more than 7,000 titles from major academic publishers and some trade publishers.
International Reach: MyiLibrary plans to increase its language options. It currently offers ebook titles in Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Subject Areas: MyiLibrary’s nonfiction offerings include business, self-help, travel, biography, and sports. Featured subjects range from agriculture and education to fine arts and military and naval science.
New Features: Using the new access model, libraries can purchase access credits for ebooks so they can be lent to more than one user at a time. MyiLibrary also increased its public library offerings with titles from Random House, Harlequin, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and recently moved into the mobile space by integrating with Readmill, an e-reading app.
What’s Next: MyiLibrary plans to integrate with ILS vendors so libraries can borrow ebooks, preorder titles, and access reporting features all on one platform. It also plans to sign agreements with more of the Big Five trade publishers.
Features at a Glance
Ebooks From Major Publishers
Ebooks in Multiple Languages
Number of Titles (Estimate)
Login Needed to Search Collection
All of the Big Five except Simon & Schuster
3M Cloud Library
Yes, all of the Big Five
Kindle Fire only
Yes, all of the Big Five
Kindle Fire only
Yes, axisReader and Blio
84 of the top 100 academic publishers
Kindle Fire only
Random House, major academic publishers
Kindle Fire only