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Rhody Radio episode transcription has been been made possible by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


All About E-Books!

Lauren: [00:00:00] You're listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online. [music] Hi, I'm your host, Lauren Walker from the Rhody Radio Crew and Coventry Public Library. Today I'm joined by Lisa Sallee, assistant director at Ocean State Libraries or OSL, Julie Holden, assistant Director at Cranston Public Library, and Kiki Butler, head of Adult Services at Coventry Public Library, all of whom work extensively with the Ocean State Libraries' eZone. They're here today to talk about the eZone, answer some frequently asked questions, and talk about the e-book legislation that is currently before the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Everyone knows who you are. Could you all introduce yourselves and tell us what your role is as far as your work with the eZone?

Lisa: My name is Lisa Sallee and I'm the Assistant Director at Ocean State Libraries, the Public Library Consortium here in Rhode Island. My work with eZone began in 2005 when I was not even at Ocean State Libraries. My library director in Jamestown was one of 11 libraries who started using digital libraries. In 2007 the entire Ocean State libraries decided to contract with Overdrive to present a digital public library to all Rhode Island public library patrons. Since 2007 I've been responsible for helping to maintain the website, helping libraries purchase, helping manage a budget for the eZone.

Julie: My name is Julie Holden, and besides being the assistant director at the Cranston Public Library, I am the past president of the Rhode Island Library Association. During my term as [00:02:00] president for the Rhode Island Library Association, I worked on some legislation to help control or combat some of the unfair pricing and terms that we have been given from the publishers in the e-book marketplace, and so that's what I'm currently working on today.

Kiki: Hi, so I'm Kiki Butler. I am the head of Adult Services at Coventry Public Library. Currently, I am the eZone chair or chair of the eZone Committee. I've also been a selector. I'm buying the books that we put in there, or one of the librarians buying the books anyway for the last three or four years.

Lauren: Great. To start off, just in case anyone listening has never heard of the eZone, does anyone want to give a little introduction to what it is? The eZone and the Libby app?

Lisa: I can do that. This is Lisa. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, the way the Rhode Island eZone started, started with a group of libraries that were early adopters of downloading audiobooks so that patrons could listen to audiobooks on their devices, and quickly grew into e-books as well. This is a site that every library card holder in the state has access to for downloading either e-books or audiobooks.

Lauren: This next question or first question sort of, is from Jessica Wilson, reference librarian at the Robert Beverly Hale branch of the South Kingstown Public Library. She says, "My most frequently asked eZone question is how to sign up for it. This may start when patrons say in passing that they got an e-book from Amazon. I'm surprised how often people don't know they can download books and audiobooks for free with their library card, so I first describe the eZone. If they have their device with them, I help them sign up." Does someone want to tell our listeners [00:04:00] how to sign up for the Libby app?

Kiki: Sure. I actually do that quite a bit. I would tell you first you want to pick a device. A lot of people choose a phone or a tablet to use I think anyway. Tablet is for actually reading books. I use my phone for audiobooks because I want to listen in the car. It's actually pretty simple. You go to either Google Play Store or the App Store if you have Apple products, and just search "Libby by Overdrive" and it'll come right up, and obviously just install it. Once you get in there and open the app, you're going to need to search for your library. I actually think the easiest way to do that is to put in the zip code, but you can also type out the library if you'd prefer.

Then it's going to say something like Ocean State Library's eZone, and then it'll have something like Coventry Public Library or Princeton Public Library, and then it'll start listing addresses. It'll even have specific branches if you're in one of the bigger towns that has multiple branches. Just select a library and then you'll want to put in your library card and your PIN. If you don't know your PIN, I would either go to your local library or you can try calling them and seeing how they can help you go and reset your PIN so that you can use that. Once you've done those things, you should be in and good to go and start looking around to borrow.

Lauren: Nice. This might be a good opportunity to mention that at the time of this recording, we are coming up on a migration to a new library system, which basically means all Ocean State libraries will be getting a whole new library system. It does change a couple things on the patron end, but one thing that applies to using Libby is your PIN will change. That's something that you can just ask your library about or they'll probably already give you information about it. We're all trying to get information out now. [00:06:00] Don't be concerned. When you go to log in, it'll give you a prompt and it'll help you reset your PIN or it'll help you figure out what the PIN is.

For those of us who have been using the eZone for a while, we used to access it on the Overdrive app. Why did we have to switch from Overdrive to Libby and what is the difference between Overdrive and Libby?

Lisa: Overdrive is the company that created the Overdrive app. Overdrive is the company that sells us the books, and Overdrive app was what we've been using for many years to download the books and the audiobooks. Now they've come out with Libby which they say is an easier interface for the patrons. It provides things that patrons and library staff wanted in an app to make it easier for the patrons to navigate.

Lauren: I know there was a little bit of a learning curve when I first switched, but I actually do like Libby a lot better now. Once I got the hang of it, I like it.

Julie: One thing I did want to bring up too is that you don't always have to use the app to use the eZone or download a book, you can actually read books right on your browser. If you have a laptop and you wanted to download a cookbook, you can just do that right from the site. Open up the book right on your laptop and start cooking if that's what you were thinking of doing. You don't always have to use a phone or a tablet to use the products on the eZone.

Lauren: Oh, that's a good point. How can people access that through their browser?

Julie: We have a URL, it's, and you can log in the same way you would normally log into your library account.

Lauren: Great. This is a question that we get asked a lot in Coventry. Can you use Libby on a Kindle?

Kiki: If you have a Kindle Paperwhite, you are going to want to go and do just what Julie was just talking about, with the going to the website, and then you're [00:08:00] going to actually have to send it to your Kindle. Some of the older ones you would actually go ahead and you just hook it up with your cord up to the actual computer itself and download it that way onto the paperwhite. If it's a really old one, maybe that, otherwise you would actually be able to send it to your Kindle. You just want to make sure you've chosen something with a Kindle edition. Then actually as a preference, you can limit too when you're searching in Libby or online.

If you have a Kindle Fire, it is not in Amazon apps. There is somewhere where Amazon and Overdrive are not coming to terms, so it's not in there, but Overdrive has put up a webpage on their site that does have instructions for how to bypass Amazon and put it on there anyway. I have done this on my own Kindle Fire, and it does work and it works just as well as it does to the one that I've put on my phone. I haven't had any problems. It even seems to sync between the two.

Lauren: That's great. This is a very common question that I think we all get asked and it's a key issue, I think, with the eZone. Why is there a return option if the e-books automatically return when they're due?

Lisa: I can answer that. On most popular titles or even titles that are not super popular, there is a waitlist. If you return the item when you're done reading it, it can move to the next patron waiting for it more quickly. When we purchase licenses for the eZone, we purchase, generally speaking, a license that can be used by one patron at a time. It's very helpful when you finish reading or listening to a book to return it to the library so that it moves the line along more quickly. It's also probably something to note especially with a lot of newer titles and very popular [00:10:00] titles, it's not an option for us to buy it that way either.

Lauren: It's kind of a be-kind rewind, but it's be kind return?

Lisa: Yes, that's true.

Lauren: If you're waiting for something, just think, if that person who has it who already finished it would just return it early, then you could get it right away. Pay it forward.

Julie: Then you can check out another book because you've returned your book.

Lauren: Yes. Why can we only have four items on hold?

Lisa: I will try to answer that question as well. The publishers have made the cost of the licenses for these books in many cases, in most cases, prohibitively expensive. They are often factors more expensive than it is for the physical format, whether it's a CD book, which people are not using so much anymore, or whether it's a physical book. If we have 800 holds on a popular title, a Colleen Hoover title, for example, we really cannot afford to purchase enough licenses to get that down to a reasonable wait.

Every day I look at lists of books that have a ratio of holds of 6:1 or more, 13:1 or more. A 13:1 wait gets near the better part of a year. It gets to be about nine months. When you're placing holds that seem to us the purchasers, we need to purchase more licenses for this. It's our way of asking patrons to just be very specific about the holds that they want, and then otherwise maybe use a wishlist for other items.

Lauren: When you say 13:1, you mean 13 people are waiting for the one copy.

Lisa: Exactly.

Lauren: [00:12:00] The wait is so long because the average person checks it out for three weeks. Then it's like each, that's 13 times 3 to be waiting for that book if you're the last [laughs] person in line for it?

Lisa: Yes. It's not only 13 times 3, but when a hold is delivered to a patron, they have 72 hours to check it out. They also have the opportunity to pass it on and have it redelivered after that goes to somebody else and then gets returned. It can actually become much longer.

Lauren: Limiting the hold makes it so that the waitlist isn't so long for everyone waiting for these titles?

Lisa: Yes.

Lauren: You mentioned making a wishlist. How can you do that on Libby? I know it's a little different from the old app.

Kiki: They don't have a wish list in Libby, what they did instead were tags. When you first switched over Libby, you can actually go and synchronize your shelf. It is an action that you can actually take in there, and it will actually import the old wish list. I got to keep mine. I was very excited. I didn't want it to go away. You can have a lot more types of tags, it's not just one list. You can make a list of all the mystery books you're looking to read and all the history books that you're looking to read, and they can be their own lists. When you go in, you can be like, "I want history," or "I'm looking for something just light and fun. I'm going to go look in my fiction list."

It does give you a little bit more ability to parcel it out a little, but it does work mostly the same. It also does actually automatically start a list of the things you've checked out. It makes a tag for those. It does give you that list, which may be helpful for some people who later on are going to be like, "What did I read? What was that book?" As they tell somebody about it and want to recommend it, but they can't remember who the author was.

Lauren: [00:14:00] You go in, and I think for when I first did it, you can set up a tag. You can make a tag say anything you want. I set one up that just says Wishlist, but like you said, you could do fiction wish list or whatever. You could do emojis so you don't have to call it anything specific, just to keep track of what you want to read.

Kiki: They can have all sorts of categories. You can have ones for kids' books for stuff your kids are looking for.

Lauren: Using that for our listeners is a great way to keep track of things that you want to read, but maybe you already have your four holds and you're like, "Oh no, how do I know that I want to read this other thing? I can't place it on hold." Just put it on your wish list. As you can tell, I basically live on Libby. I almost exclusively listen to audiobooks. I know that when you're browsing or searching, there's the Available Now option, which will show you titles with no wait, that you can borrow right now. What is the skip-the-line option? How does that work?

Kiki: You can get lucky if we have purchased a lucky day copy occasionally. We do try and buy those for a lot of more popular titles. Those are only seven days, but you might get to skip hundreds of people if you can get it. You just have to apply yourself and get it done in seven days. Those are good for seven days. There's no holds on them. There's no waiting to fill the hold. You may only have one at a time.

Lauren: When you're searching or browsing, it's up at the top there is like Available Now. Skip the Line is sometimes an option and then other things. I think there's New. There's different tags up at the top that you can click on to search things.

?Kiki: Cool.

Lauren: I know we talked about this a little bit, but why are the waits so long for popular titles?

Lisa: The waits are long because the licenses are prohibitively expensive. An example of this [00:16:00] would be the Stephen King book, Fairy Tale. That is sold to us as a license one at a time, it's $130 for that license. In 24 months, it disappears from our system. In theory, $130 for 24 months, if every patron that checks that out checks that out for three weeks, you're talking about getting maybe 17 checkouts a year, maybe 35 in two years. In its peak, that title probably had hundreds and hundreds of holds.

We just cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars on licenses that will all be gone in a few years, will all be consumed in a few years. We have decided to limit either by number of licenses or by how much we are spending for a given license in a title so that we can make access to all sorts of materials for patrons.

Kiki: That Fairy Tale one, actually, that's the audiobook of that. It's also probably really, I think, really interesting to note. If you go buy that on CD, it costs nowhere near $130.

Lauren: Oh, I think I purchased that on CD for our library, and it was maybe $50 for a really popular title. The book on CD usually isn't more than that, and the physical book, I think, is even less.

Kiki: The physical book on a hardcover is usually running between $27.35, and the license for two years now on eZone sometimes it's $60, $70, $80.

Lauren: For the e-book, you mean?

Kiki: For the e-book license, and it's for two years. It is a substantial amount more than just a hardcover copy of it, too.

Lauren Then, we spend $30 on [00:18:00] a hardcover book and we have that until it falls apart, in theory. That's such a difference when you compare it to spending over $100 on something that you only get for two years and will only be read by 30 people.

Kiki: One time, I think, when I was trying to figure and parse this out a little, I was going and looking and I think I picked a random title and I looked at it, and I was like, "Honestly, to get this to an acceptable level where you got it in a month or two," we would have had to have spent $4,000 just to bump it up to that area. It's just one title. We already had a bunch of copies because it'd been out for a little bit.

Lauren: If anyone out there is wondering, that's why the waits are so long, but like we said, you can make it a little bit easier by having less holds or using the wishlist instead or returning early, all little things we can do. I think that leads perfectly into my next question. I know that there's some e-book legislation that was introduced to the Rhode Island General Assembly at the beginning of March 2023. Can you tell our listeners what the purpose of the legislation is and let us know where it currently stands?

Julie: Sure. I can talk about that. This is Julie. We really, really wish we didn't have to tell our patrons to monitor what they're checking out of the library or limit their holds or limit how many things they can check out. We would love for everyone to just be able to enjoy our e-books as much as they want, put as many holds as they want, and download as much as they want. Unfortunately, we no longer can afford the terms of the publishers. In March of 2020, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to introduce e-book legislation as a way to try to bring this issue to the forefront of people's minds about how the pricing and the terms of the library e-books was [00:20:00] becoming unsustainable.

We have a lot of legislators who used the eZone, they love Libby, they download books all the time. Warwick Senator, actually Mark McKinney is the one who introduced the first e-book bill. That was right when COVID happened in March of 2020, so everything shut down, so that killed it for that session. Every year since then, we have reintroduced a version of an e-book bill. Just like other states, Maryland joined us. Massachusetts has introduced a bill. Connecticut, several other states including Hawaii have tried different versions of e-book bills to try to solve this issue.

The Maryland e-book legislation went to court and it was struck down as being unconstitutional because it was against the copyright act. We're still fighting for the correct language to get some relief for e-book pricing and terms. We have a lot of people at the State House who support us and we're just looking for the right magic combination of legislation that will make this happen for us so that we can afford more e-books for our users, not have to worry so much about the holds list and the thousands and thousands of dollars we're spending on library copies of digital e-books and audiobooks.

Lauren Walker: Is there anything that our listeners can do to get involved and support this legislation?

Julie: I would say contact your local rep and senator. We have a bill in the House of Representatives, we have a bill in the Senate and people are involved. I'd love for people to call their state rep and state senator and just say that you support the e-book legislation.

Lauren Walker: Great. Seems pretty easy to do. Is there anything else that any of you want our listeners to know that we haven't mentioned yet?

Kiki Butler: [00:22:00] I would echo what Julie said. As a librarian, it's painful to consider limiting our patrons to four holds and eight checkouts in eZone when in the physical format I believe they can have 25 holds and 100 checkouts. What has happened here is we realized that we're asked to basically pay for books for a certain period of time and so we are always looking at how long will we have the book for. We do still have some perpetual licenses and the chances to purchase those. The other thing I guess we could also suggest is that if you have a hold and you've read it in some other format, do cancel the hold because that again, it's very helpful to help us spend the money where we need to spend it and not spend it where we don't need to spend it.

We just want everybody to know that it is painful to have to be so restrictive with this. I think New York Public Library used to allow for 12 holds and 12 checkouts before the pandemic because e-books became so popular during the pandemic. They immediately went to three and three and they've never gone back.

Lauren Walker: Wow.

Kiki Butler: I feel good that we reduced a little bit but not to that extreme.

Julie Holden: Actually, our library colleagues in Connecticut have this really fun analogy. Imagine if the Department of Transportation purchased some asphalt, laid it down on the road, and then after two years it disappeared. That's basically what we're doing, we're purchasing things that disappear at the same high prices over and over again and it is unsustainable.

Lauren: Just to clarify what you said about canceling holds, so say you put something on hold and it was taking too long, so you decided to just check out the book instead and you've read the physical book to go in and cancel that hold instead of just leaving it in the ether.

Kiki Butler: Absolutely.

Lauren: [00:24:00] Yes, that's a good idea. There's also always on the front of your politicians and your government. Also, if you don't feel comfortable getting involved in the new legislation, you could always advocate for just library funding in general because I don't know a librarian out there that wouldn't take the extra funding and try and provide at least some sort of extra services to their town. Absolutely. That's what we're all about. Well, thank you all for taking the time to talk with me about this. I hope we get some new eZone users and I hope the current eZone users out there come away from this episode knowing a little bit more about this great resource.

Thank you for listening. If you have any more questions about the eZone or the Libby app, or if you'd like help signing up, contact your local reference librarian. This episode was recorded at the Warwick Radio Studios in Warwick Public Library. Warwick Radio is the voice of Warwick Rhode Island with news and stories about the city's people, businesses, and one-of-a-kind culture. Tune in to Warwick Radio on Amazon Music, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, iHeart, and Spotify.

Rhody Radio is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the book and brought to you by library staff and community members all around the ocean state. This episode was made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.

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[00:25:57] [END OF AUDIO]

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