Libraries are increasingly interested in purchasing and lending ebooks to their patrons.¹ When you purchase a physical book from a retailer that sale is governed by copyright and therefore, the First Sale rule applies. The First Sale rule says that once someone has purchased a copyrighted work, like a book, they are free to distribute it through sale or lending, thus used book stores and libraries are legal under the First Sale rule.
Confusingly, the purchase of ebooks do not follow the same rules. When you purchase an ebook, you are being governed by a contract, not copyright law. The contract for an ebook purchase usually contains language about “non-commercial, personal use only.” This restricts the purchaser from donating that ebook to the library or lending it to a friend to read.²
Despite the restrictions described above, there is no reason why an author or avid reader should not be able to purchase a book for a library. Indeed, the OverDrive lending program, which allows libraries in the MHLS system to lend ebooks to readers, writes and maintains contracts with publishers which set out the rules for distributing ebooks to library patrons lawfully.
In the next section we will cover how a person can make a donation to let the library lend an ebook.
Authors have ultimate control over their work under US law (unless they pass their right to someone else through a contract). If you are the author of a work that is not available in the OverDrive collection, apply for your work to be added to the ContentReserve site. From there, the library can purchase the book and be reimbursed by your or your publisher as one donation strategy.
Saugerties Public Library also maintains a collection of Kindle Books to circulate on Kindle Paperwhite ereaders. As an author, you could reimburse the Library for purchase of your Kindle Book format ebook as an alternate donation strategy.
If you are a private person interested in donating a new title to be added to the OverDrive collection, contact the library to set up authorization and purchase of a title through OverDrive for the system. If you are interested in seeing what books are available to purchase check out the OverDrive Title Catalog. Make sure the system doesn’t have a copy in our MHLS OverDrive Catalog.
Please be assured that trained professionals are using tested collection development strategies to construct our OverDrive ebook and audiobook collection. Kindle Book purchases can also be reimbursed for the Library as a donation.
¹Check out the American Library Association’s eBooks & Digital Content page for the latest on this trend.
²This section taken from an article published in American Libraries Magazine’s website on 10/17/12.