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After a two-year study, Minot High School contracted with OverDrive to offer an ebook collection our students could download onto their own devices. You are likely to be familiar with this service. Our experience is worth sharing so that schools are well-informed before they too contract with OverDrive.


Our first and foremost concern was whether OverDrive could provide the titles our students wanted to read. OverDrive’s promotional website for K-12 schools invites schools to “Search Our Catalog” which we did. After an extensive study of the catalog, we were satisfied that OverDrive would meet our needs. It was a gamble because if we were to discontinue our contract with OverDrive we would lose thousands of dollars of digital content.


We immediately noticed that some titles we thought were available were not when we attempted to purchase them. As the year progressed the problem became much more evident. Although the books we wanted were marketed in the catalog on OverDrive’s K-12 website, we eventually learned that many of these titles could not be purchased by schools. When we contacted OverDrive about this, we were basically told “Oops, I guess our catalog doesn’t indicate which titles are available only to public and academic libraries and consortia and which are available to schools.” Apparently, some publishers won’t let OverDrive sell to schools. Of course, schools are not informed of this caveat ahead of time, and it only becomes evident when they attempt to purchase books marketed in the catalog.


The titles in question were from writers popular with our students: Susan Collins, Sarah Dessen, Ellen Hopkins, Beth Revis, Richelle Mead, John Greene, Stephen King, Kahled Hosseini, and the list goes on. I checked 80 titles of popular young adult novels shown in their catalog; however, fewer than 30, in reality, were available to schools.


After a several emails of complaint, I was contacted by Karen Estrovich, OverDrive’s Director of Collection Development. I shared with her my view that OverDrive’s marketing to K-12 schools was deceptive at best, fraudulent at worst, and that I would do my part to inform library media specialists in schools of our experience with OverDrive. This blog post is my first step. Karen Estrovich assured me that they would clean up their marketing website to schools so there would be no confusion as to which titles are actually available; however, this has yet to be done. I will be monitoring this website closely.


OverDrive has offered us credit toward the purchase of additional digital content to compensate for our time and frustration dealing with this issue; however, this promised credit has yet to show up in our account.

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Comment by Will DeLamater on January 11, 2017 at 8:51am

Hi John, some of the conversations about the use of Kindles in schools today have brought up the question of Overdrive again. Would you be willing to update your review of Overdrive so that folks looking at it in 2017 can benefit from your experience?

Thanks so much,

Will

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