There I was sitting comfortably on Christmas Eve, successfully ignoring my in-laws by reading an eBook borrowed through OverDrive on my Kobo, when I saw this press release.
Now, I’m not knowledgeable enough in for-profit business ventures to know exactly if this is a good thing or a bad thing or if there are any red flags, but I do find it odd that OverDrive is being bought again after it was scooped up by Amazon competitor Rakuten in 2015. I find it odd, but certainly not alarming for OverDrive’s sustainability, since the company just expanded their staff and building a little over a year ago. But a quick peek at librarian social media circles seems to indicate that not many see this as a good thing, and I haven’t had an opportunity to ask my former OverDrive coworkers their thoughts, but here are the highlights of panic:
- The investment firm purchasing OverDrive, KKR, has ties to Macmillan and RBdigital, which could be bad news.
- This could affect Kobo’s OverDrive accessibility, which could be bad news (especially for me!). Currently, Kobo is the only eReader that allows a user to borrow OverDrive eBooks directly from the device, a feature that was easy to implement since both Kobo and OverDrive were Rakuten companies.
- This could positively affect OverDrive’s relationship with Amazon, since it will no longer be owned by a direct Amazon competitor (though I very much doubt this to be true, library eBooks still cut into sales as far as Amazon is concerned), but that could be good.
- For-profits are evil and they interfere in the mission of public libraries so no good will come of this, period.
I hardly take the latter stance, but it does concern me with all of the current strain and turbulence between libraries and publishers over eBooks this happens and shakes things up further, adding to the uncertainty. I worry for libraries, I worry for library patrons, I worry for my friends at OverDrive, but I hope for the best. I can say with confidence, though, that the people at OverDrive, though they are a for-profit enterprise, care for libraries and want to see them succeed, and I believe they would not agree to be sold to a company that would put library service at risk if they had a choice.