EBook Loan Changes

By Anne L. RSS Tue, December 17, 2013

We are delighted that OverDrive ebook circulation continues to grow -- a 33% increase in use over this same time a year ago-- and we anticipate continued growth. This great increase comes at a time when the Free Library's materials budget is flat and some popular ebook titles have long waits.  To ensure everyone has more access we will be changing two aspects of our Overdrive ebook policy shortly:

  • The loan period will now be 14 days for all OverDrive formats.  If there are no holds on your item, you can renew it (or put a hold on it); and you can still return items before they are due. 
  • The number of OverDrive items that can be checked out at the same time will be six (6). 

 We hope this makes it possible for more customers to have access to ebooks.

Thank you for being a valued customer of the Free Library  of Philadelphia. 


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This is a good step--and I also think slightly reducing the number of ebooks/audiobooks to have out at one time would help the effort. Also, regarding the audiobooks, I think it would be good to let people know that the mp3 format allows for return of the book ahead of time, if the person is finished with it. I recently took out a WMA book and soon realized I hated it, but I couldn't release it back. Now that I know about this, I avoid the WMA format.
Amy - South Philly
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A major library issue in Philadelphia and elsewhere is insufficient money for e-books and other content. Librarians and patrons may want to check out commentary at http://librarycity.org/?p=9450. Per capita, America's public libraries can spend only around $4.20 annually on content, according to IMLS. Extrapolating from recent Pew survey results, it appears that Hispanics, African-Americans and poor people would especially benefit from a national digital library endowment and well-stocked national digital libraries integrated with local systems. Yes, the endowment could help address library-related digital divide issues, as the BiblioTech project is doing in the San Antonio area. No, by itself, the endowment would not end the funding crisis. But it would help. Meanwhile my sympathy to librarians and patrons victimized by the current austerity mania. The endowment plan deals with this complication by suggesting that interested members of the super rich could donate to get the endowment started. It should, however, be public to assure maximum responsiveness and transparency. The Gates Foundation, considering resources available, has been an abysmal under-performer as a supporter of public libraries. Let's hope that Bill Gates can show some open-mindedness here and support the endowment concept. David Rothman Cofounder and Editor-Publisher LibraryCity.org
David Rothman - Alexandria, VA
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In the long run, I'm sure as a regular user I will appreciate these changes. Planning out my holds fewer months in advance will be great, I'm sure. That being said, making this change with NO notice was bad form. There isn't even a notice on the Overdrive page. If I hadn't called the library on the change I would never have found this page. So, why am I upset. I have been waiting for months for two books in a series. I'm reading book 1 now. Book 2 became available as I expected yesterday and I have 3 weeks to read it. Perfect. Unexpectedly, book 3 became available today. In the past I could adjust and be able read the book in time, but that was with 21 days. Now, I only have 14 days to read it. There are 8 people in line behind me so renewing isn't an option. So, my choice is to hold onto the book and try to rush through it or go back on the waiting list for weeks. Thanks. Where is the consideration for the people that have waited and waited. Where is the communication?
Sara Schubert
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dislike. I pay above and beyond the $50 a year membership fee, as I am outside of Philly. To not be told ahead of time that the number of ebooks we can check out would be drastically reduced is ridiculous. I will not be renewing.
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just a tip for people like me who run into problems of having many books on hold come available at the same time without time to read them all (especially with only a 14 day loan period!): if you turn your Kindle on airplane mode before the first book expires, you won't lose access to downloaded books until you connect to a network again. I believe this works for Nook as well. A little work-around for those of us who are understanding but disappointed in the new policy.
Annalise - Utah
Thursday, December 19, 2013

This policy change is regrettable,because now I'm forced to read at a faster pace and can no longer enjoy reading the books, that I find relaxing. What ever happened to keeping hour reads informed about these major changes in the lending period. Very dissatisfied.
D - Philadelphia
Friday, December 20, 2013

Understandable change but annoying. I tend to borrow and start reading almost immediately but return books early when they dont grab me within 20 pages or so. This change means a slight alteration in my borrowing habits but until the city starts to pay attention to Library patrons the underfunding will continue. Sad that our great social infrastructure has come to this. Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave.
Gtnsteve - Gtn
Friday, December 20, 2013

I'm an avid consumer of books in a variety of formats, often reading several concurrently. I have been very frustrated by the long waits for digital material, and also by having several long-awaited items become available at the same time. However, the "fix" of having a shorter loan period will be even more frustrating! Surely another approach might work, including giving priority to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania borrowers, though I suspect that might not go over well with the bean counters.
Mim - Phila
Friday, December 20, 2013

Thank you, all, for your comments about this Overdrive change. Apologies to Sara and others who are unhappy with the short notice. Our intention in reducing the number of holds and shortening the loan period was to get ebooks into your hands more quickly, and to better serve all.
Lynn W., Free Library Materials Management - Philadelphia
Friday, December 20, 2013

Have always liked borrowing ebooks from this library because I was allowed to borrow more books than I can from CPL in Chicago and was even willing to pay an annual fee for the use. Now I will have to rethink this decision. As with others, I am upset that you couldn't let us know. I only found out because some books came due at the same time before I could return others and I received a error that I had reached my limit. Bad form not letting people know in advance.
Pat - Chicago, IL
Friday, December 20, 2013

I agree that They should have sent a message some weeks in advance of such change to avoid any misunderstanding. Nevertheless, because of budget constraints and to avoid excessive delays in the holds, in my opinion, the three alternatives are to increase the membership fees, to reduce the number of titles in the library or to reduce the number of titles to check out. I support the library decisión because I believe that reading more than three books simultaneously is the exception. Regards and merry christmas and happy new year to all.
Jose M. - Spain
Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 14 day loan period is too short. Many of the books I read are quite large and completing them within that time frame will not be possible. Having to get in a queue to renew will really be disruptive. It could result in a gap of several weeks. Whenever I complete a book, I return it ahead of time.I agree with the reduction in the number of books allowed. I would prefer waiting for a book and having 21 days to read it.
Cathleen Jenner - Philadelphia
Saturday, December 21, 2013

As an out-of-stater, I am grateful to be allowed membership in the Free Philly Library and consider the annual fee money well spent. I do have a number of books on hold right now, a few of them will probably be available at the same time. I will try to get them read within the 14 day timeframe and thank Annalise from Utah for the tip to leave my Nook on airplane mode. I customarily use that setting but have not tried accessing a book after the expiration date. Long-term, I will have to re-think management of my "hold" list. I may have to wait longer for some of the books, but typically I can always find another book I want to read in the digital library or (gasp!) a real book in my shelves at home while waiting. I do wish an email had been sent to the patrons, or even a notification on your FB page. I only discovered the blog a few days ago and reading about the decrease in lending period was the first item I found.
Jody Hamilton - NH
Saturday, December 21, 2013

I echo the comments about the lack of notice. Why was no notice given to patrons? I think we're entitled to an explanation.
Tonya Murphy - Michigan
Saturday, December 21, 2013

I just happened to log on and thought I should check the blog. Glad I did or I would not have known about the changes. I too think some type of notice should have been given.
Sandra - Western pa
Saturday, December 21, 2013

Just noticed the change and really think the 14 day period is too short. I would rather see the number reduced further and let the 21 day period stand. Please reconsider.
Don - Central PA
Saturday, December 21, 2013

I agree with Don. Lower the number of ebooks that can be borrowed (maybe 4), and keep the 21 day loan time. Please reconsider!
Lisa - Schuykill County PA
Sunday, December 22, 2013

I also think its too short and frankly the limit of just 6 bugs me because I read more books than 6 a day. I hate having only 14 days because sometimes I get real busy and don't have time to read. The one book I have on hold had 30 people ahead of me and now its under five. I guess this means I need to keep one free slot always. Please change it back! I don't like having to rush through my books
Teresa Joiner - West Pa
Sunday, December 22, 2013

I agree that the lack of notice was unfortunate. The 14 day time limit will be a challenge as well. This service has been wonderful, and I hope it will continue.
VF - Phila
Monday, December 23, 2013

I feel 14 days for a loan is too short. It is not predictable when your hold is available...this week I received notice that 3 of my holds could be borrowed....I'm a fast reader but it will be difficult to finish 3 books in 2 weeks. Please go back to the usual 21 day policy.
Diane - Phila
Monday, December 23, 2013

As an out of stater, I have gladly paid my fee for access to your library. The new lending period is way too short. Please reconsider, or, I too, will need to reconsider whether this is a worthy investment.
dpw - New Rochelle
Monday, December 23, 2013

Please go back to 21 days. I echo the issues raised by others.
Fran - Hershey
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I do understand the problems of expanding growth. But I wholeheartedly agree with the other patrons. 14 days is entirely too short a time frame to read a book. Especially if you must check out a few books in a very short interval. Reducing the numbers of products that can be checked out is acceptable. But perhaps a limited (5-7 day) renewal would be a better approach. I really do not relish waiting weeks to finish a book especially if I'm close to finishing. Also better inform all clients that books & mp3 audios can be returned when finished. Also find a way to return WMA's early.
Tam - Philly
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I agree with other comments. You have our email address, we should have been notified of the change. I am not a fast reader but am always reading or listening to at least 2 books at a time. 14 days is not often long enough for me to finish reading the books I borrow. Please reconsider returning borrowing time to 21 days.
BB - Milford, PA
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Agree completely with what has been said: no issues with reducing the number of items checked out at a time, but 14 days is too short. Really crushed by this change - if I can't finish a book in time and have to wait weeks to borrow it again, I suspect most books will unfortunately go unfinished.
Julie - Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Woe! These changes are terrible!!! I don't have time to sit down & read a book in a few days. 14 days is WAY, WAY, WAY too short. The 6 book limit really stinks for when I go on vacation. I'm so disappointed in how these things are changing. When a book gets checked out at our local library, they give 4 weeks. I was pushing to get things read in 21 days sometimes. PLEASE reconsider this!
hjf - Burnham
Thursday, December 26, 2013

I can probably adjust to the 6 book limit, but only having 14 days will be tough. Not happy about that change. I'm sure I will lose books without having finished them. 😒
Sharon S - Philadelphia
Thursday, December 26, 2013

I really appreciate being able to use this library and all of the help that I have gotten from the folks there. I was just wondering if there is some way to let people decide through their options whether they can check out fewer books for a longer time, such as 4 books for 21 days if they are a slow reader. Or, maybe 8 books for 14 days if they are a faster reader. These numbers are just examples. Thanks, and happy reading. Ray
Ray - Madison, GA
Saturday, December 28, 2013

I have no problem with the lower limit of books borrowed and for the most part only borrow one at time. I usually always return them well before the 21 days previously allowed. No matter what changes you make, I am just greatful for the availability of the books and for your service. It's amazing how people will always find something to complain about.
Cynde - Conneaut Lake
Sunday, December 29, 2013

I'm ok with the 6 book limit since I would only rarely exceed that and always return books as soon as I'm done with them, usually within a week. Sometimes with series books I would like the extra time so I can read them in order (since usually they don't come off hold in the correct order). I know that whereas I would often borrow a hold as soon as I got the email, I'll now tend to wait almost the whole 72 hours if I'm not ready for the book in order to extend my time to finish another book first. Those extra couple of days might make the difference, even though it means others on hold might have to wait longer. OTOH, having the shorter lending time means that when I'm 30th on a hold list I won't have to wait quite as long to get the book. Perhaps the library might look at book length in setting up exceptions to the 14 day rule. A 300-400 page book might be ok for two weeks but a 800-1000 page book is going to create a hardship for most readers to complete in two weeks and going back on hold behind dozens of people isn't really an option either. As one person mentioned, perhaps a single renewal option of an extra few days immediately even if there are others on hold would allow readers to decide if they can really finish the book in that short extra time or if they should just let it go and put themselves back at the bottom of the holds list to finish the book when it again becomes available. Another suggestion (although I don't know how practical it is for Overdrive to implement) might be to allow someone to request to be temporarily passed over on the hold list if they know it's not a good time to borrow the book. Basically it could let someone else ahead in line without having to get bumped to the end of the line. That might help solve the series book issue where the later book in the series comes off hold first.
Ellen - Reading PA
Monday, December 30, 2013

Besides the issue of no direct notice of the policy change, the change from 21 days to 14 days is ill-considered. E-reading patrons should have been consulted as to how they actually use the service, and I do mean service, when they select their reading material and queue their books. When selecting books that are not available there is no indication at selection time how long before a particular book will be available, so I select several at one time. Later, in my "Holds" list I can see where I am in the queue. As others have said, quite often several come due at the same time. Now with the limit of 6 books I must select the book(s) that I want most and let another one or two lapse and then re-hold them. Not well thought out in terms of how this would work in the real world.
Laura - Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I'm so thankful for the services provided by the e-libraries. You have saved me hundreds of dollars because I don't have to purchase paper books or e books. I don't have to find time to physically go to a library. Shorter time and fewer books have the turn around time for the best sellers much quicker. Thank you and Happy New Year!
Nancy - PA
Wednesday, January 1, 2014

As a citizen of Philadelphia, I can understand why the change was needed. I truly believe the rate for out of town patrons should go up to help with these costs. When the program for out of town patrons started it was because of the college students and visitors. Not because we have a world class library and cheap out of town rates for ebook users. To say your $50.00 is not well spent here... go to your own library and see what the fee is or go to the bookstore and price out the books your are borrowing. Your 14day borrowing are much more than $50.00. As a resident, I have complained to my Council person to have the non resident rate raised, and two hold lists kept by the library. I should get bumped to the top of the list. I live here, pay all of my taxes and I shop here. This is my library. I have also donated to my library and fought to keep my local branch open. I am grateful that the borrowing timeframes have been reduced and not the rate you are able to add new books. Thank you for all you do on the shoestring budget you have. Yours, Denise
Denise - Holmesburg
Monday, January 6, 2014

14 days is not long enough for lengthy books. I would gladly opt for a 3 book hold, AS LONG AS I COULD STILL TAKE A BOOK OUT FOR 3 WEEKS IF NEEDED!
Barbara - Fairmount
Monday, January 6, 2014

Montgomery County, PA, MCLINC has not even added any new eBooks since September or October! I'm thankful for what I can get in the other nearby counties. I've had a few books out from Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware County, and Chester County during this time period. (Thanks, Pennsylvania Access!) None of these other counties have three-week lending periods for eBooks, nor do two out-of-state systems where I have library privileges: Mercer County, NJ (where I work), and Montgomery County, MD (where I own property). In fact, Chester County's lending period is only 7 days! (I think the others all have 14 days.)
rslitman - Abington, Mont. Co.
Sunday, January 12, 2014

Following up on my previous comment. It is now almost 2 months since this policy went into place. As I expected, my hold list has stabilized. Unfortunately I have to checkout books multiple times to finish reading them. The result is my checkout times are now 4 weeks instead of 3. I have two examples - the audiobook version of Atlas Shrugged. It is more than 63 hours long. At that length I have to listen to 4.5+hours of content every day to finish the book in 14 days. I don't have that kind of time. I don't know anyone that does. My second example is the Laurell K. Hamilton books that are 5 in one. It is 2,424 pages. I would have to read more than 173 pages a day to read the book in 14 days. Again, who has the time? There are many books I want to read like Dune, but I would have to read part and then wait for the 11 people on the waiting list to finish their 2 weeks to finish reading. With the 3 copies of Dune, that will be 2 months. I'd have to re-read what I'd read because of the delay.
Sara Schubert - Philadelphia
Saturday, February 8, 2014

I somehow must agree with other comments. 14 days is too short for me but I know people who can do faster than I do. 4 weeks is far better option.
garonna - New York
Monday, February 10, 2014

14 days is way too short in many cases!
Bryan Humphreys - Phoenix
Monday, June 13, 2016

All good news !
Nan Grove
Sunday, November 27, 2022