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OverDrive—the leading supplier of popular e-books for America’s public libraries—should sell itself to its library customers or at least think about it if they are willing and able to buy.
In Rockford, Illinois, a much-needed controversy rages about the local library system’s spending almost a quarter of this year’s $1.2 million acquisitions budget on e-content from OverDrive. Will the nonelite suffer in a recession-battered city of 153,000 with high rates of poverty and joblessness? How many low-income people own e-readers, and can 50 or 100 loaner Kindles really do the trick?
But what about a related question—whether a private company should lord it over our nation’s e-libraries in the first place? Why not sell OverDrive to our public libraries, then, if they can find the financing? O maybe to a nonprofit run on their behalf, with librarians and educators setting the direction and with capable, truly involved business people advising them? Such a transaction would allow OverDrive founder and CEO Steve Potash to leave a memorable legacy to the American people while still reaping financial rewards. In one leap we could be truly on our way toward a well-stocked national digital library system for all Americans.