eBooks How-To

Publishers & Library eBooks

If you are wondering why you can't find that bestseller in the library's eBook collection, you can ask two questions: Is the publisher even allowing libraries to buy their eBooks, and if so, how much more are they charging libraries vs. the individual consumer? Many publishers seem to believe, falsely, that library eBook lending cuts into their business.

According to the American Library Association's "Frequently asked questions regarding e-books and U.S. libraries," the Big Five publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) control roughly two-thirds of the U.S. consumer book market.

  • Hachette** did not begin offering eBook titles to libraries until May 1, 2013. The initial price is three times the print edition (this drops to 1.5 times the print edition after one year).
  • HarperCollins has always offered eBooks to libraries but in February 2011, it imposed a limit of 26 check-outs per title. A library must re-purchase the title if more check-outs are needed.
  • Macmillan didn't begin offering eBook titles to stand-alone libraries until January of 2013 (and then only a small number of them), and it wasn't until September of 2014 that their terms of service made titles available to library consortia. What is available can be lent out for two years or 52 check-outs, whichever comes first.
  • Penguin Random House merged in July, 2013. Penguin eBooks are now available with a one-year expiration date. Random House has always offered eBooks to libraries but in March, 2012, they dramatically increased prices to libraries over what consumers pay.
  • Simon and Schuster (PDF) agreed to extend its pilot program to all libraries on June 26, 2014. Each title that a library pays for is usable for one year from date of "purchase." "The library can offer an unlimited number of checkouts during the one-year term for which it has purchased a copy, although each copy may only be checked out by one user at a time."

**Note that, because of Hachette's terms of service to consortia, and because Selco denied our request to enroll in the OverDrive Advantage program, Hachette titles are not available to us. In summary: From the Big 5 publishers, we can only offer you eBooks from HarperCollins (with a 26-checkout limit), Penguin Random House (with expiration date or inflated pricing), Simon and Schuster (with an expiration date), and now Macmillan (with expiration date/checkout limit).


Also note that neither the library, nor you as a consumer, actually purchase and own an eBook. We, and you, purchase a license to access the content of the eBook. See the ALA site for more information.

eBook Pricing

The fact that all of the "Big 5" publishers are making at least some titles available to at least some libraries, with inflated pricing and/or other restrictions, is an 'improvement' over where we have been in recent years. View more recent history on eBook availability and pricing.


And, ironically, the selection we offer you via your public library is better than the selection you will find via paid subscription eBook services, according to this August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, "Why the Public Library Beats Amazon-for Now."

We think that publishers need to work harder with librarians to start making eBooks more accessible to the people we both serve - you, the reader!

Library eBooks: What is Available

With your Owatonna Public Library (OPL) card you can check out books from the Selco regional public library system's collection of current and popular fiction and nonfiction, including books for children and teens. These are available through OverDrive, which enables you to borrow eBooks with your library card just as you do other materials. (eAudiobooks are also available through OverDrive.)

View the main Help menu for the Selco OverDrive collection.


  • If it is a color tablet (Kindle Fire, Fire, HD, etc.), we recommend that you install the OverDrive application (app). You will search for, check out, download, and read (or listen to) library eBooks and eAudio through the app.
  • If it is an eInk (black and white) reader, follow the instructions. You will begin the process in the Selco eBook collection and finish the checkout process in your Amazon account. Note that only Kindle format eBooks are available with this method, meaning that eAudiobooks (MP3s) are not available.

iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch

You will install the OverDrive app and use it to search for, check out, download, and read (or listen to) library eBooks and eAudiobooks.


  • If it is a color tablet (Nook HD, HD+, etc.), we recommend that you install the OverDrive app. You will search for, check out, download, and read (or listen to) library eBooks and eAudio through the app.
  • If it is an eInk (black and white reader, follow these instructions. You will install free software (Adobe Digital Editions) on your home computer. Once you have checked out an eBook from the Selco collection, you will download it into ADE, and use ADE to transfer the title to your device via the USB cable for your Nook.

Android Tablet or Device

You will install the OverDrive app and use it to search for, check out, download, and read (or listen to) library eBooks and eAudiobooks.

OPL Mobile App

See more information regarding the OPL Mobile application.

More eBook Collections

eBooks Minnesota is a collection for readers of all ages featuring content from independent Minnesota publishers and including some of Minnesota's best literature and nonfiction. Access any book in the collection at any time, regardless of how many other readers are using the book! This online e-book collection is available to all Minnesotans. Access through the website, or you can download free apps for your Apple and Android devices, and your Kindle Fire HD. For more information see the user guide (PDF).

Some eBooks are also available through our statewide ELM (Electronic Library for Minnesota) subscription. These are mostly academic and out-of-copyright titles, and the subscription does not include the ability to download to a portable device.

Privacy & the Amazon Kindle eBook Format

Librarians care about your privacy. We simply don't track what individuals are reading, and won't tell others about it either. Therefore we want you to note that when you borrow the Kindle format eBooks, you finish the process by connecting with your Amazon account. At that point we librarians no longer have any control over protecting your records. We aren't accusing Amazon of nefarious acts, and it won't stop us personally from borrowing Kindle eBooks, but you can be sure that at the very least Amazon will use your borrowing record to try to sell things to you.