Insight into Victorian Public Library Experience with Downloadables

Its Day 11 of the 30 blog posts in 30 days challenge and as promised, here’s my notes from yesterday’s seminar.

Insight into Victorian Public Library Experience with Downloadables – Thursday 10th June 2010 101m-4pm

Kenneth Harris – Port Phillip Library

They have recently implemented Wave Sound eaudio downloads.

Not many choices in terms of vendors.

They use IP addresses for inhouse downloading. External was organised through referring URL, with authentication provided by the library itself.  Clunky but it works.

Raised awareness through high level links in the catalogue, which link back to the referrer page. Unfortunately you have to login to the catalogue first to get authenticated, so it then has a quick link to the ebooks from the account page.

Once you have logged in, you have to create a Clipper account. Once that is done, you don’t need to authenticate a second time.

Marc records are part of the sub. Links are displayed to everyone – so they needed to be changed to the link to ebooks info.

Took a while to upload the records (588) – took some fiddling and lots of discussion to get it right.

Stats can be retrieved on use, including popular titles, users, checkouts and renewals, activity by subject and more.

Have a 10 item limit for users.

In 6 weeks, they have had 245 accesses 197 checkouts ad 48 renewals.  95 User accounts have been created.

What they’ve learnt so far:
– not much they didn’t already know
– problems with DRM – macs cant play wma files (1/3 of files are wma)
– public PCs can’t  download the wma files due to an issue with DRM and PC deployment
– WMA files wont play on your car stereo
– users find it difficult to locate files they can download
– if it takes more than couple of minutes, people give up
– needs to be improvement in catalogue and subscription integration
– authentication should be done by the vendor, done off the library catalogue login (not by the library)

Marketing – didn’t tell people it was coming. When it came, they used a screensaver on their catalogue PCs, Wavesound provided brochures and posters and want to come and talk to users and staff about the product. Have to promote more – difficult at this time due to RFID project in process.

Authentication: after initial authentication with library card, and setup Clipper account, they can go to straight in to the Clipper page. When they setup, it refers to Port Phillip, so that’s where the account is based and Port Phillip’s limits etc apply.

EZ Proxy authentication is available, but only if it is done by the library. Don’t offer SIP2. However, they may be able to connect using WebFeat, which is what Port Phillip has – but will still be adding extra steps.

Stats don’t show where people come from to get there – whether its from the catalogue or direct from the website (once the account has been created).

Knowing what they know now, they still believe that they made the right choice. A major reason for going with them was that there were no extra software requirements. Works on a yearly contract – they start with a base library and get an extra supply of titles each month. You can opt to choose titles or let them be chosen for you. You have the option to change titles.

Loan period is 3 weeks and can be renewed. Up to 10 titles at a time. Files disappear at the end of the loan period. Can’t return early.

Its a totally separate loan system to the LMS. All statistics are kept separately. Could happen in the future if we get SIP2 connections with our ebook providers.

All the products run using an online store model like Amazon.

No limit on simultaneous users. Fees based on population.

Wavesound has both ebook and eaudio, but Port Phillip only has eaudio.

As login is based on username and password, can’t tell age, where joined etc, etc.

Jennifer Khan, Greg Evans and Tony Brooks from Melbourne Library Service
Melbourne has had Overdrive eaudio books for 12 months.

Have introduced downloadable audio first not ebooks – due to degree of uncertainty in ebook market. Used a staged approach. As there are a limited field of vendors, decided to go with Overdrive because of their proven track record and a good market share. Overdrive provide professional and free marketing support and a very slick product.

Once they signed up, they sorted out policy definitions such as circulation, connection and IP issues, membership exceptions and different card types, which was all pretty straightforward with good technical vendor support. Got access to a development site for testing.

Support from local rep was not good, so dealt mainly with the US via email and teleconferences (6pm there to 9am here).

Greg had already introduced it at ACT, so had great experience to begin with.

Collection management:  never handed it over to Overdrive but eaudio content has been limited. Shifting market makes things very difficult as titles can change with changing publishers agreements.  However, users have taken to them with great enthusiasm.

Overdrive have a number of specialists – Collections, IT and marketing and the support is fantastic. Did a user survey to gauge interest and find out what they would be interested in. Got a lot of people provide email addresses and become their testers and feedbackers.

Marketing – lots of support from Overdrive. Library branding throughout. Got media engagement. Day after it was written up in the Green guide, everything went out. Had to buy more titles. Have about 400 titles now.

Have concluded that they will need to use more eaudio vendors. Next challenge is how to create a seamless interface to all the content being provided by these different vendors.

Vendor training to staff user group was very complex – consisting of a teleconference from the US which was very thorough but over the top. Too much information delivered. Had a overarching marketing emphasis however, rather than technical/user experience. Once completed, they played with the product some more.

Cascading information to general staff was simplified to customer needs and
was compulsory for all staff. They quickly learned what issues may be encountered in a real environment, the key features and bugs and then
redesigned the training again for the public.

Training public was easier as they were all keyed up and ready to go by the time they launched, the integration with LMS was seamless. Public sessions were very well attended – running 2-3 sessions a day for 2 weeks – many people brought own laptops. They also did some individual follow up with special need users and they are getting constant feedback and making minor changes as they go.

Needed a lot of patience throughout the launch process, to help get people on board. Overdrive provides a help service, where individual issues can be addressed – has a 4 hour turn around.

Interface is seamless with the Melbourne website. Although the Overdrive site is external, it looks like the Melbourne website. Overdrive has 2 to 1 WMA to MP3 format. WMA files can be downloaded to a PC however and then transferred to an iPod, during which it gets reformatted to a iPod readable.

However, you do need to download an Overdrive media console to access the content.

ebooks next – would be easy to go with Overdrive as DRM is less problematic and they have a great range of titles, a nice interface and great support. Checked out different options and have gone with Overdrive.

Issues for ebooks included limited reader functionality and availability, in a market where there is a huge range of devices. Sony ebook readers and Nooks will play the content, but not available here yet.

However, users are fascinated with mobile devices and readers. May yet lend some of the older generation ebook readers that they own, with pre-loaded content. They area also considering the options of bookstores vs vendors and online sellers. iPhone app is also now available for Overdrive. Have been advised to go with ePub format with ebooks.

Issues: format issues – ie WMA vs MP3, licensing vs ownership – different models and some vendors let you own the book, DRM and access to content and limited Oz content. Overdrive is licensing, Bolinda is ownership.

Check out BLIO? – downloads the software with the content and can be played on any device. May be major DRM issues so getting content from publishers may be difficult.

Success factors: critical mass strategy, group of early adopters, DRM minimal vendor, concurrent users, Marc records, ease of circulation, availability of stats, review and user group.

Lot of success due to holistic approach – collections, IT and marketing working together with staff. Staff are enthusiastic and the service has had great use and feedback from users.

Overdrive – one copy one user model. If you want more users, then have to purchase more copies.

Authentication – user is presented with a login screen – uses SIP2 to library system. Overdrive manages the user account, SIP2 is only used to verify that it is a valid user. If you login to catalogue, you still have to login to Overdrive.

Offer optional load periods – one or two weeks. Items cant be checked in, you have to wait for it to expire. Some titles are available in a single file – many titles are in multiple files to download (like CD based audio books). Can download progressively over your loan period.

User stats – have not done much as yet.  Will now look at it now that they are 12 months down the track.

User Experience panel

I was then on a panel of three committee members, who used the Overdrive and Wavesound services as brand new users, using a PC, a Mac and an iPhone (that was me). We are still compiling experiences and hope to add more. If you are interested in the report thus far, let me know and I’ll get a copy out.

Vendor presentations

The early part of the afternoon was taken up with presentations from Wave Sound, NetLibrary – newly purchased by Ebsco, and Bolinda. The first and last only offer eaudio at this time, NetLibrary does both. Overdrive does not have an Australian based rep at this time. Each vendor gave a short marketing spiel and then demonstrated the user interface and answered questions relating to the IT structure of their product.

Vendor panel

We finished the day with a panel involving the vendors answering questions from the attendees. They were:

Will you be offering streaming content now or in the future?  Not yet, but its on the radar for all of them.

Can you see a future where all content is device neutral?  Yes, but no timeline though, everything is changing so fast and at different rates. Eaudio market is much more mature than the ebook market, which is why its much more device adaptable.

What do you mean by fully accessible?  Bolinda downloads can be used by all – including screen readers. Files can be played on most devices – they are all MP3. All titles are remastered into chapters with logical breaks.

What do you mean by exclusive rights?  Why exclusivity?  Lots of money is involved in purchasing rights and publishers aim to get the best possible deals for their content. There are licences for print, audio and downloadable. Not all arrangements are exclusive.  Rights are for a certain length of time, somewhere between 5 and 10 years.  Also depends on the model – purchase model means you have it forever, subscription model means you only have it whilst you have the sub and the vendor has the rights.

Will we end up getting this content from multiple vendors? Yes, the issue then becomes how to make the whole process seamless so that the users experience one process. Library processes are changing. Moving from print to digital including how we join and access collections. Is getting to the point where the whole interaction that users have with the library will be totally digital. Collections offered are different, but so are our users. So we will have to pick and choose from vendors.

Is reciprocal borrowing available? It is through Overdrive in the US, where you can borrow between different libraries. Publishers much prefer consortium purchase, rather than reciprocal borrowing.  Ebsco does consortial arrangements, as does Wavesound. Bolinda does not do consortia, because they believe they are affordable and give each library service flexibility.

Do you have plans to intergrate with LMS’s? Definitely on Ebsco’s radar. Libraries would like to have all their account information in one location, so they can check all their holds, all their loans etc, in the one setup. Bolinda says it can be done because the technology is available.  Importing this data back into our circulation modules for statistical purposes is a lot more problematic. Bolinda has established Web Services with Aurora and SirsiDynix LMSs. In discussions with other vendors, but have confirmed that they will be establishing a SIP2 connection with Civica. This will also require an extra software install at both ends to help improve security.

Do you have any thoughts on offering other media for download?  eg. Film, games, media etc. Bolinda is already looking to do this. Not Wavesound, but Ebsco will look at this as well.

Are there any plans to integrate back into social media platforms? Ebscohost has a module EIT – which has an array of tools with widgets etc, that can be inserted into a range of tools. Bolinda is looking at it. Wavesound works on Ebsco’s platform so they have access to the same tools as Net Library, through Ebsco.


The day was well received and well attended with about 50 people coming from over half of Victoria’s public library services, most for the whole day and some from quite a distance away. As an organiser and attendee I was very pleased, not only with how the day ran, but from what I got out of it. I feel much better prepared for when we venture into the world of downloadable eaudio, which will be soon.


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  1. Once again a really thorough and useful description of what you learned a conference. If I had the funds, I’d employ you as my personal conference go-er proxy…

  2. If people had the funds, I’d seriously consider doing it…………………… 🙂

    • Janine Kimberley on June 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Fascinating Michelle, personally, I can’t wait until we have this facility – it takes forever to convert audio cd books onto my ipod. And e-readers are the fastest growing product category at the moment, we should be the innovators, not the followers. Will follow this with interest!

  1. […] the downloadables seminar I attended on Thursday, we talked around users and how it is quite likely that in the not too […]

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