OverDrive appears to have established the format of how to distribute eBooks in a public library environment. To oversimplify their business model, OverDrive is essentially the digital middle man between publishers and libraries. Think of them as the library iTunes of the eBook world; libraries who use OverDrive can offer their patrons access to an enormous library of eBook titles. OverDrive takes care of all the content management and collection development issues, and grants portal access to libraries who contract with them. On the other side of the fence, publishers upload their content directly into OverDrive, which enables a library to purchase the publisher’s titles.
LexisNexis Digital Library is a pairing between Lexis’s treatises and OverDrive’s electronic library management system. Essentially, LexisNexis supplies the content, and OverDrive manages the method of distribution. The patron, then, has access to a number of Lexis-published eBook titles that can be accessed via popular eReaders (Kindle, iOS, Sony Reader, Nook), various operating systems (Windows PC, Mac), and differing mobile device operating systems (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone). The library, notably, purchases licenses for the eBooks. One license means only one copy of the eBook is accessible; once a patron has checked out that one copy, no other patron can access the eBook until it is returned. A library can purchase multiple eBook licenses, if they believe a particular title will be popular enough to have concurrent users. After a due date has elapsed, the eBook is automatically returned, and becomes available to the next patron.
Again, to emphasize, the LexisNexis Digital Library treats eBooks like physical books, availability of titles is limited by licenses: “In addition to simultaneous access to many titles for multiple users, users may also check out multiple copies of the same eBook depending on how many copies the library purchases” (from LexisNexis’s April 12, 2012 press release). OverDrive’s license-limiting model has been successful in public libraries, an environment of multiple publishers and huge patron bases, but does this arrangement successfully work in law libraries? Does firm size/patron-base affect the success of implementing LexisNexis Digital Library? How do patrons respond to eBook availability?
We’re still in the era of observing how the big vendors are wrestling with distributing eBooks. LexisNexis’s pairing with OverDrive offers a particularly unique approach to this issue.