Why Can't I Find All the eBooks and Audiobooks I Want at the Free Library?

By Jamie W. RSS Fri, December 21, 2012

Let's say there's a hot new bestseller tearing up the New York Times list.  It's everywhere, in the libraries, the books stores, at fancy displays by the grocery store checkout line, everyone, it seems, on every train, every subway, every airplane, and in every doctor's waiting room is reading it. Naturally, your curiosity is piqued and you want to read it for yourself to see what all fuss is about.  So, you head on over to www.freelibrary.org, click the pink download media button on our homepage. You're brimming with hopes of quickly and easily checking out and downloading the ebook or audiobook version in your pajamas.  However, you are saddened to discover that there's a waiting list!  Why, you wonder, must I wait to checkout a digital item? 

The answer is simple: ebooks work just like print books.  The library buys a certain number of them based on their popularity and what our budget will allow (donate here, if you are so moved) and we can loan each copy to one person at a time.  The only exceptions are ebooks from our Freading ebook service which works a bit differently.  Learn more about Freading here.   

OK. So that seems reasonable enough, but let's say you're in your P.J.s looking for that special ebook and it seems that the library doesn't have it all?  "How could that be?" you wonder, "Do those librarians live under rocks?  In caves?" 

Of course not, in fact, only a few of us still live under rocks or in caves, and while the reasons we might not have your ebook or audiobook are complicated it boils down to this: the digital book industry is in transition and book publishers have not yet decided how to handle digital library lending.  In fact, a number of big publishers won't sell their ebooks to libraries at all!  Learn more about that here and here (UPDATE - 6/18/2013 - several publsihered have recently changed their stance towards libraries).  When it comes to audiobooks, publishers are generally more comfortable with library lending, but most only offer their titles to us in WMA format rather than in the more universally acceptable MP3 format. This means that most of our audiobooks will work if you download them to a PC, but for those of us who prefer to use our Macs or mobile devices like tablets, phones, Kindles, Nooks, or any other gadgets that play MP3s but is not WMA compatible, the selection is more limited. Learn more about audiobooks here

So, in the meantime, please know that we're advocating for your right to enjoy library material in any format you choose and we ask that you do the same for us.  Take action here

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I'd like more of the recent and best selling novels
Doreen Raudenbush - Old Zionsville
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is it possible also to see if smaller publishing houses are providing more accessible eBooks for loan than larger ones? For example, eLectio Publishing (http://www.electiopublishing.com) works hard to help libraries purchase and loan the works they publish.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hi Lindsey - Thanks for your comment. As a rule, libraries do not buy ebooks directly from publishers. We purchase from vendors and distributors. Publishers set the terms that work for them with the vendors and we make our purchasing decisions accordingly. Our vendors are always working to create partnerships with more publishers. If a new publisher wants to begin selling ebooks to libraries, their best bet is to work through one of the many library vendors in the market. There are several such vendors; two that the Free Library currently happens to use are Overdrive and Library Ideas. Hope this helps. Thanks.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Thursday, June 6, 2013

May I request an eBook be added to the collection? A HOUSE DIVIDED by Robert Whitlow
Sunday, November 22, 2015

I teach ESL and need lots of children's books, picture books, and juvenile books. I'm saddened to find only a few.
Jennifer - Pennsylvania
Monday, June 26, 2017