or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Potential, Realized

   December 4th, 2008

mp3 announcementThis is what it looks like when I shoot off my mouth too soon.

My last post was about how DRM downloadable audiobooks drastically limit the audiobook audience, and how an alternative for libraries is not readily available yet. Between then and now, my library's consortium's newsletter [pdf] came out, announcing that MP3 audiobooks are now available for download through our Overdrive subscription.

I know the Boston Public Library has been offering MP3 audiobooks through Overdrive for awhile, and I'm happy that we are now, too. The newsletter article [pdf] is worth reading if you're interested, but here are some highlights:

  • These MP3s work with Apple products, so iPod-people can now be like everyone else
  • There's a Mac version of the Overdrive Media Console, which is still necessary for checking the books out
  • The format is plainly indicated in the search result records, along with the type of media the file is compatible with (either MP3 or WMA): Overdrive search results
  • This paragraph also gives me hope:

    We do have 200 titles in the MP3 format. There are a broad variety of genres and subjects available, and we will continue to build the mp3 collection in each month’s OverDrive purchase. There are more "classics" than "hot titles" available in MP3 at this time; however, as the pop title publishers become more comfortable with mp3 access to more titles in the market should evolve.

Now the real test will be to see how our circulation stats change with this addition. Thanks to everyone who made this happen. If you're a library using Overdrive, I encourage you to contact them to see about offering MP3 audiobooks through your interface.

Yay for taking the boot off the car.

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8 Responses to “Potential, Realized”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Everyone’s circulation jumped for the Greater Phoenix Digital Library Consortium once mp3s were available. Most of the mp3s were checked out within a day of its release.

    There is actually four different ways you can hack the drm to get permanent check-outs too.

  2. april Says:

    Hey there..new reader here. I work at Deschutes Public Library in Central Oregon, and we hopped right on with the MP3s through Overdrive once they were available. Not thrilled with the limited selection, but that’ll grow (and the patrons are happy to check out whatever we can get.)

  3. laura Says:

    We’re a NetLibrary shop when it comes to audio books, and I’m looking forward to the supposed release of some titles as mp3s sometime in the near future. In the meantime, I point people to some other options. They’re mostly public domain and amateur, but they’re both free as in beer and free as in DRM free, and I like that I’m able to point people to that kind of content (and thus, perhaps, subtly make a point). It’s usually in the top 5 most popular pages on our site, and we get tons of people searching for “ipod + audiobook.” I don’t know if they’re happy with what they find, but there sure are a lot of them out there. I’m glad at least some content providers are taking notice.

  4. Amanda Says:

    Why is Overdrive rolling this out so slowly? Down in Texas we are still limited to WMA. In a military community with lots of inflow from other geographic areas, it is frustrating to tell people that it we are using the same service they are used to, but do not have the same capabilities!

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Amanda: I’m not sure what kind of back-end changes are required to support this, but I do know Overdrive is doing this roll-out in a controlled way. The Boston Library started offering mp3s months ago, and it was tough waiting for us to catch up – and it’s only 30 miles away.

  6. Mary Kyle Says:

    There is a severe limit to the mp3 audiobooks. Only older titles are available for iPods, it’s basically the ones that can be burned to CD. I work at PLCMC in North Carolina and we have both OverDrive and NetLibrary. I don’t have an iPod myself because of that. I supply my husband with nearly 60 hours of audio every week and we picked his player so he could use the 2 services the library had. We also have Audible books and a lot of podcasts to keep him with things to listen to all week. However, I have a Mac and had to do a dual boot just to keep getting his audiobooks since 2 sources are/were tied to Windows.

    I still wish that Audible would work with Libraries like OverDrive and NetLibrary. Their books all have DRM but are available in iTunes’ Fairplay and Windows WMA DRM schemes. Which you get depends on the software you use to download. They’ve had this for years and their file size is also a lot smaller, with the same or better quality. They were purchased by Amazon in the past year and I keep hoping they will offer audiobooks to libraries too.

  7. jessamyn west Says:

    I’ll be a lot more psyched when they have a full range of titles. For now, having to buy titles in both formats is still annoying as hell and is really giving ipod users a pretty small selection. Once MP3 titles are fully available, the next question is why anyone would get any other file format? I’ve been unimpressed with the way Overdrive has handled this, from the slow rollout to the way they graphically represent the difference between the file types. Why can’t they just say an MP3 plays on *anything* and a WMV file only plays in a window environment. Representing this with 12 graphics seems crazymaking from a UI perspective.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    Not having an iPod myself, I’m more pushing this because it’s a better way to serve patrons – or rather, a way to serve more patrons than before. But, almost two years into this service, I hardly ever hear from patrons trying to figure out why they can’t use Overdrive with an iPod anymore. I think because of the original model, be it the fault of Overdrive or Apple, iPod owners have just been conditioned to know that Overdrive is not something they can use.

    Now that they can, I’m planning on promoting this heavily, to get the iPodders to give Overdrive a second look. Hopefully, the increased visibility and use will be a driving force to get the MP3 format more widely-used with Overdrive and publishers. Counterproductive from a business standpoint, I know, but I also think that once people get a taste of MP3 files, they will not want to go back to WMAs.