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Technology to Empower Library Control of E-book Lending

Smart Libraries Newsletter [August 2013]


E-book lending continues to dominate as one of the most urgent issues for public libraries. Business, legal, and technical issues all shape which e-book titles public libraries can acquire for their lending collections, the possible terms of a loan, and the interfaces through with patrons gain access to materials borrowed.

Business and legal limitations

On the legal and business front, publishers take varying positions on whether they will make their titles available for library lending and what restrictions might apply. Library-oriented e-book services, such as OverDrive, 3M Library Services, and Baker & Taylor, have ongoing negotiations with publishers to license as many titles as possible with the most attractive lending term. Libraries, in turn, subscribe to one or more of these e-book providers to assemble a collection of e-books that they can offer to their patrons. While these commercial services offer a large volume of material, many titles are not available, some may be subject to lending restrictions, and access to the content may persist only as long as the library continues to subscribe. Many libraries demand permanent ownership of e-books and access to titles not necessarily available through the aggregated e-book services.

Technical issues

On the technical front, the initial e-book lending arrangement generally involved providing a link from the library's website to the e-book provider's service, where patrons could use their local library credentials to borrow titles. In this approach, the e-book provider controls the patron experience in addition to what titles are available to the library to license. In the early phase of library e-book lending, borrowing an e-book was a complicated multistep process, especially for a first-time borrower since manual steps were needed to establish an account on the e-lending platform. In the last year, significant work has been done, primarily through partnerships between e-book lending providers and discovery or online catalog developers, to improve the user experience for e-book lending. Rather than linking patrons out to an external e-lending service, work is underway to bring that functionality into the library's online catalog or discovery interface. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) enable this functionality, providing the behind-the-scenes technical communications needed to conduct e-book lending transactions through the library's catalog instead of, or in addition to, the native interface of the e-book service. Smart Libraries Newsletter has reported on a number of these partnerships that bring e-book lending functionality into library catalogs and discovery interfaces. While these integration efforts greatly improve the patron experience in borrowing e-books, they do not address the business and legal issues, such as e-book ownership and availability.

The Douglas County model for e-book ownership and delivery

Another area of development in the e-book arena involves giving libraries the ability to locally manage e-books to supplement the offerings available from the commercial e-book services. The Douglas County Libraries have been an early proponent of this approach and have invested in developing technical infrastructure to acquire and securely manage e-books and make them available for loan to their patrons. This infrastructure would include a local installation of an application to store e-books with digital rights management capabilities such as Adobe Content Server, as well as interfaces to ingest acquired content and to enable patron lending. With this infrastructure in place, libraries can acquire e-books from sources beyond the offerings of the commercial e-book service providers and under more favorable terms. Ideally these terms would include permanent ownership of e-book titles rather than licenses of limited duration.

This model also allows libraries to easily acquire self-published e-books or even to become publishers for authors. The Douglas County Libraries in Colorado crafted an infrastructure to implement this model based on a combination of commercial components and open source software. Commercial components include Adobe Content Server for content storage and digital rights management of e-books and the libraries' SirsiDynix Horizon ILS. Another component of the environment manages book cover images that enhance record displays. The open source VuFind formed the basis of the patron interface, which was extended through local development to present functionality needed to support both print and e-book discovery and lending. Extensions to the VuFind software were created to interact with the local e-content servers and commercial e-book services in addition to its existing ILS interoperability. Other presentation tools were created, such as virtual “powerwalls,” which provide an interactive visual display to promote featured materials. This technical infrastructure allows the library to acquire its own e-book content in addition to that from aggregated e-book services, to simplify the e-book lending process, and to present a unified interface for its digital and physical holdings with the corresponding fulfillment actions.

Other library implementations

Other libraries have replicated this model, with some variation in the technical components. The Marmot Library Network, a consortium of academic and public libraries in Colorado, have implemented an environment based on the Douglas County Libraries model using their shared Millennium ILS. Marmot collaborates with DCL in the VuFind software development. The Califa Library Group and the Contra Costa County Libraries have developed an e-book environment, branded as Enki Library (, based on the DCL model, but further extended for simultaneous support of multiple integrated library systems required for a consortial implementation.

Bibliotheca's aborted e-book venture

There has also been interest in commercial implementations of the DCL e-book model. At the ALA Annual Conference 2012 Bibliotheca, a global supplier of RFID products for libraries, announced that it intended to enter the e-book arena with products and services based on the DCL model. This move was reminiscent of its key rival in self-service and RFID products, 3M Library Systems, which had launched the 3M Cloud Library and has since grown to become a major competitor of OverDrive in the e-book arena. The company hired two key personnel from Douglas County Libraries, Monique Sendze and Jordana Vincent, to lead its new e-book efforts (see July 2012 Smart Libraries Newsletter for more details). Bibliotheca's foray into the e-book was short lived. Sendze has since returned to her former position at the Douglas County Libraries and Vincent took a position with the Arapaho County Library system also in Colorado. There was no trace of the e-book program at Bibliotheca booth at this year's ALA Annual Conference.

OdiloTID offers commercial e-book environment consistent with DCL model

A company from the international arena has developed an e-book lending platform that provides a comprehensive commercial implementation quite consistent with the Douglas County Libraries model. OdiloTID, based in Cartagena, Spain, was established in 2011 specifically to develop and market technologies in support of library e-book lending. Building on a 30-year heritage of involvement in providing automation services to libraries through its antecedent organization, OdiloTID has developed a new platform called OdiloTK. Based on cloud technologies delivered through software as a service, Odilo TK gives libraries the ability to manage local e-book collections, to work with external e-book lending providers, and to present a patron interface that handles both print and e-book lending. Libraries can use the ILS provided by OdiloTID or it will integrate with their existing systems. The company focuses on delivering its products using cloud technologies as software as a service.

OdiloTK has been adopted by multiple libraries in Spain, and the company is actively involved in expanding its reach in Latin America, the Middle East, and in the United States. The Douglas County Libraries have been working informally with OdiloTID for the last two years, evaluating its capabilities versus its locally developed infrastructure. Jamie LaRue, director of Douglas County Libraries, reports that while no contract has yet been executed, there is a common vision: “Douglas County Libraries and Odilo represents a partnership between innovators. We hope to link up our first wave experience with the North American e-book market to OdiloTID's multinational experience. The goal is code that puts libraries back in the driver seat.”

OdiloTK technology and architecture

OdiloTID has developed a comprehensive environment that includes components for e-book selection and procurement, e-content management, a comprehensive patron interface, and traditional ILS option. In addition to e-books, OdiloTK can also provide access to other forms of multimedia content, including streaming video and audiobooks.

While OdiloTID exposes a fully functional set of APIs to provide flexibility to libraries in the way they use the platform, it is not released as open source software. All the APIs are implemented as RESTful Web services over HTTPS using JSON for data exchange. Some of the APIs exposed for OdiloTK include:

  • Authentication (Login / Logout)
  • Update (synchronize a bibliographic record)
  • Get_Record (retrieve a bibliographic record)
  • Search (submit a query to the catalog)
  • Get_Loanables (list items potentially available)
  • Get_Available (list items currently available for loan)
  • Get_SocialData (retrieve patron record data)
  • Get_Historical_Loans (list items previously charged)
  • Get_Active_Loans (list items currently charged to patron)
  • New_Loan (check out an e-book to the patron)
  • Return_Loan (release an item on loan)
  • New_Reserve (place a new hold an on item)
  • Get_Reserves (list the current items on hold)
  • Remove_Reserve (remove a hold previously placed on an item)

OdiloTID emphasizes that it provides technology to manage and enable access and is not a content provider and sees advantages in the separation of these roles. Its business model does not include receiving any portion of what libraries might pay to publishers or authors for content.

OdiloTID has created a variety of components related to e-book lending and library management, as follows.

OdiloTK provides the infrastructure for the management and access of e-books, including those locally managed or acquired from external providers. OdiloTK is based on multiple components to provide a comprehensive environment for libraries to manage and provide access to their print and digital collections. OdiloTK makes use of Adobe Content Server technology, which also finds use in other major e-book platforms, such as those from OverDrive, 3M Library Services, and is what libraries such as DCL have implemented. Through a set of APIs, OdiloTK is also able to interoperate with other e-book platforms from other providers, such as OverDrive or 3M. For the functionality related to print materials, OdiloTK can include the company's own OdiloTT, or can integrated with an existing ILS that the library may have in place.

OdiloPlace serves as a digital purchasing component of the e-book environment, enabling libraries to select and purchase content available from the catalog of titles made available by OdiloTID and to develop their own local catalog of content that they acquire through direct negotiations with publishers or authors. Nubereader is e-book reading software that operates as an HTML5 application that will run on any device with a web browser, including desktop or laptop computers, tablets, or smartphones. This browser-based e-book reader enables patrons to borrow e-books without the need to download and install an app.

OdiloTT is a comprehensive suite of components that provides traditional ILS functionality delivered through software as a service without the need for local servers. Its capabilities include cataloging, circulation, reports, statistics and an online catalog with Web 2.0 capabilities such as user supplied comments and tags. This new generation product, launched in May 2013, replaces earlier integrated library systems that the company has supported, including OdiloGB and Biblio 3000. OdiloTT is designed to fully integrate with its other components to give libraries the ability to manage the print and digital content that comprise their collections through a single platform.

Established internationally, new US entrant Some of the libraries currently using OdiloTK include:

  • the Cervantes Institute, a network of 45 libraries distributed throughout the world
  • Dibam, the national public library system of around 450 public libraries in Chile
  • Valencia University
  • The Ministry of the Economy in Spain
  • The Congress of the government of Spain

While the OdiloTID is relatively well established in Spain and Latin America, it has not yet signed any customers in the United States. Its products seem consistent with the DCL model of e-book service, which may strengthen its appeal. Through its ongoing collaboration with the Douglas County Libraries, OdiloTID is focusing its development efforts on enhancing OdiloTK to ensure full compliance with the principles of the ReadersFirst initiative ( and to fulfill the requirements of DCL and other library organizations that seek to follow its e-book lending model.

OdiloTID company background

Though founded relatively recently, OdiloTID builds on more than 30 years of experience of providing technology and services to libraries through an antecedent organization. OdiloTID was founded in November 2011 as a spin-off company of 3000 Informatica, a company founded in 1981 with involvement in a wide range of IT products and services for public and private sector organizations, including products for libraries. Prior to the creation of OdiloTID, 3000 Informatica was a player in the ILS market in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Following the separation, OdiloTID operates entirely independently and under separate ownership.

OdiloTID also offers products for archives which have different automation needs than libraries. OdiloA3W provides automation functionality for archives through a fully Web-based interface. Libraries have flexibility in the configuration of its data models. Data can be imported through the OAI-PMH or Web services. The company also offers a document management product called OdiloGD, and OdiloDD a digital repository and preservation platform.

OdiloTID is based in Cartagena, in the province of Murcia in Spain, with another office in Madrid. Offices in Miami, Florida and Mexico City market and support its products in the Americas. The company is active in Chile and Mexico, and is pursuing other international markets including the United States and the Middle East. OdiloTID primarily focuses on library-oriented e-book technologies.

Executive leadership of the company includes Lourdes Gutiérrez, its Executive Director, and Rodrigo Rodriguez, its President for America and Middle East. The company is privately owned. For more information on OdiloTID see:

View Citation
Publication Year:2013
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 33 Number 08
Issue:August 2013
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:18273
Last Update:2022-12-05 15:33:42
Date Created:2013-08-22 09:37:53