The Free Library of Philadelphia no longer offers paid-access cards

FLP_fee_card

It may be the first example of fallout from Macmillan’s ebook embargo and other traditional publishers tightening of licensing for ebooks and audiobooks. Today, The Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) sent an email to out-of-area fee card patrons letting them know that they will no longer be offing paid-access cards, effective November 1, 2019.

Here is the email I received:

Dear Customer:

In order to focus its efforts and resources on customers in its direct service area, the Free Library will no longer offer paid-access cards.

Your paid-access card will remain valid and usable for the duration of the term for which you paid. At the end of that term, you will no longer be able to access the Free Library’s resources, and you will be unable to renew your card for a further term.

Thank you for your understanding!

Several thing things stand out about this email. Note the words “In order to focus its efforts and resources on customers in its direct service area”. Also note the date, November 1st, which is the day Macmillan’s new ebook terms take effect for libraries. Interestingly, the change was NOT mentioned in the library’s community newsletter for November.

I have to admit, I expected that we would start seeing this happen. Macmillan’s embargo, along with publishers ending perpetual licencing for ebooks and audiobooks is artificially creating a scarcity for these materials. In order for libraries to ensure that residents in their local communities have access to materials, libraries are going to have to make hard decisions about the number of patrons their budgets allow them to serve. It makes sense that libraries will act to ensure access to the taxpayers who are directly funding services. (I just did not expect this to happen quite this soon!)

This is going to make it difficult for users such as myself who rely on paid access cards to supplement local libraries that have poor ebook selections and long waiting lists. A few numbers for comparison: My city library offers a total of 1,891 ebook and audiobook titles in its Overdrive collection. The Free Library of Philadelphia, on the other hand, offers 24,000 digital titles in its Overdrive collection. In 2018, The FLP loaned 449,547 eBooks (adult and children’s) and 69,208
digital audiobooks. (Note that the FLP annual report does not break out fee card access numbers separately.)

This change by the FLP will probably impact a large number of ebook library patrons. Back in 2007-2008 when the first generation Kindles became popular, the Free Library was one of the first libraries to offer ebooks to non-residents. KIndle users spread the word and the library became a very popular option for avid readers, especially among seniors and those who need the font scaling options that ebooks provide.

If you haven’t already, please visit the ALA’s #ebooksforall site to learn more about what publishers are doing to prevent libraries from offering ebook access for everyone and sign the ALA’s petition while you are there. There will be a lot more stories like this in the future unless we act to make sure that ebooks are freely available in libraries.

How to see the books you’ve read on Kindle Unlimited (Updated)

One of the most popular posts on this blog is one that I wrote in 2016 on how to see the books you’ve read in Kindle Unlimited. Recently, Amazon has been making some changes to its Kindle Unlimited program that affect the way you find the books you’ve previously read in KU.

Before this change, you found the books you had previously read under the “Manage Your Content and Devices” link under Your Account tab.Now, that method only shows you the books you currently have borrowed from Kindle Unlimited. You can no longer see previously borrowed titles here.

Now, you can only see the lists of books you have previously borrowed on your “Your Memberships & Subscriptions” page.

UPDATE: The original method is working again. The method that follows is an alternative method for accessing the books you’ve read.

Getting to the page:

Please note: Amazon uses dynamic pages for their website and frequently tests new designs, so all customers do not always see the same site. It will also vary depending on whether you are browsing the web on a desktop, laptop, tablet, ir phone or whether you use the Amazon Shopping app. Therefore, I am posting several different ways ways to find the Kindle Unlimited history lists.

So far, I have found several ways to get to the page where you can see your borrowed books.:

From your account:

Method one:

Click on Your Account, the choose “Your Memberships & Subscriptions” link under your account tab. If you do not see any subscriptions, click on the arrow in the section that say “Don’t see your subscription? Take me to my…”. Choose “Kindle Unlimited.” This works on the Amazon Mobile shopping App and the web browser on mobile and on a desktop.

Method two:

On the right side of the menu bar, mouseover or click your name and account. Choose “Your Kindle Unlimited” under the tab. This works on a desktop

Other desktop methods:

Directly: If you are logged in to your Amazon account, you can get there directly via https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/ku/ku-central.

Kindle Unlimited main page:  From the drop down menu in the upper left corner, choose Kindle E-Readers and Books>Kindle Unlimited. This takes you to the main KU page.

If you are not logged in or do not currently subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you will see the page to sign up.

If you are currently a member, you will see a slider with promotions:

Under the slider, you will see four links: Browse the catalog, Manage your titles, Frequently Asked Questions, and Gift Kindle Unlimited. Click on Manage your titles under the slider. This takes you to “Manage your Kindle Unlimited Membership” page where you will see info about your membership, payment and cancellation options, as well a your borrowed books

On my Chrome browser window, there is also a gray bar at the bottom of the window with “Your Kindle Unlimited titles”  on one side and “Manage Your Titles on the other. Click on the bar to go to the “Manage your Kindle Unlimited Membership” page.

This page will take you directly to the borrowed items page.

The Borrowed items page:

Under your borrowed items, you will see the number of total titles you currently have borrowed. Underneath are your options for showing Kindle Unlimited titles.

  • Show all, current or returned books.
  • Sort by Title (A-Z and Z-A), Author (A-Z and Z-A), and Borrow Date (Oldest -Newest and Newest-Oldest).

The page then shows the covers of the titles you’ve borrowed, the date borrowed or returned, and the the status. On the desktop, the “Read Now” button opens up the Kindle Cloud Browser for me to read on. (On my account, the cloud browser is already listed on my account as one of my devices.)

On my mobile app, I only see a large orange button saying “Return.”

Note that, according to one of my readers, if you have cancelled Kindle Unlimited at any time and re-subscribed, you will NOT see the titles from your previous subscription period.

Need more help?

Amazon is currently making a number of changes to Kindle Unlimited. Current changes include issues with gifting Kindle Unlimited and buying pre-paid subscriptions. I have seen pages related to the subscription service come and go, then return over the past few weeks. I suspect that these changes will continue and plan to discuss some of those changes in a followup post.

The main help page for Kindle limited is here, however, the help page has not seemed to address the most recent KU problems. You may also be able to find additional information on the official Amazon forums.

Kindle Unlimited features unlimited access to over a million titles, and includes audiobooks. Kindle Unlimited books can be read on any Kindle device, including apps, ereaders and tablets. From Amazon.com, it is available only in the United States. It is available internationally in select countries through the local, country-specific Amazon site.

National Library Week: Library Extension for Chrome

Since it is #NationalLibraryWeek, we are focusing this week on ebooks and libraries. While I check sales every day and do have subscriptions to both Scribd and Kindle Unlimited, I still manage to find quite a few books that are not available through either service in the format that I want, at a price that I am willing to pay.

For the past few months, I have been using the Library Extension for Chrome to help me find Library books. It is hands down the best tool I have found for helping me to find books from the library.

Library Extension is an extension for the Chrome browser that allows you to see library books as you shop on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes and Noble. The extension currently supports over 3200 libraries that use the OverDrive and 3M Cloud systems. It is currently free and you do not need to register or sign up for an account.

Here’s how it works. Once you install the browser extension, you can go into options on your browser and set up the libraries you want it to check (and, yes, you can add more than one library!). You can also choose to check for either physical book or ebooks. Here’s what that screen looks like:

(All three libraries shown are from the Mobileread.com list of libraries that loan digital materials to non-residents in yesterday’s post. I am currently checking out the Fairfax library collection.)

After installation, when you are browsing for a supported site for books, you will see the books available from the libraries that you have selected. You can also click on the hold button and go right to the library page for the book and place a hold. Here’s a picture where I searched for Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train:

Note a couple of things in the picture above: If you have the extension set for ebooks, it will return results for both audiobooks and ebooks if the library has both. Also note that one of the results that comes up for the Brooklyn Public Library is Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train / Summary. Because of the way the OverDrive System works, the extension may also show results for similar titles.

If you have your extension set for ebooks and a book is not available at your library, you will see a message that says that the book is not available as an ebook. This is message will also come up for Amazon exclusives like this month’s Beach Lawyer by Avery Duff or books that are in the Kindle Unlimited program.

If you get too many “This title does not appear to be available as an ebook” results for books that you know are available in your public library, you may have encountered a bug or a catalog change and should contact Library Extension’s support team. The team is absolutely fantastic at responding quickly and resolving issues!

Here are a few of the things I do that may help you get more out of the browser extension:

  • I create wishlists for each library I use. This allows me to put a book on a list for a particular library so that I can easily find it later when I am read to read it.
  • I also use the extension to compare the number of copies available at each library to see which library is likely to have the shorter hold time.
  • I check libraries to see if they have an entire series before I start reading, It is a great tool for checking if all the books in the series are available before you commit to the series.
  • I have also added libraries that I am interested in to the extension as a way to see if they have enough of the titles I am interested in before I pay an out-of-area fee. It is a way to “try before you buy”.

Library extension is currently available only for Chrome. A Firefox version is under development. For more information, you can visit libraryextension.com.

Have you tried Library Extension? What did you think?

National Library Week: The shifting landscape of the digital library

Given the high prices of e-books, the ability to borrow digital materials is a lifesaver, particularly for those on a budget. There are many sites which offer free editions of public domain books, but other than a paid subscription service, for newer books, public libraries are the easiest way to read without paying the high prices publishers are demanding for newer ebooks.

Since library borrows of ebooks are up, it would seem like ebook readers agree. In 2016 alone, OverDrive, one of the leading distributors of digital materials to libraries, announced a total of  196 million borrows worldwide. According to OverDrive, there were 49 libraries surpassed over 1 million borrows each. However since there are a number of digital distributors to libraries, that also means that’s there is not one central source (that I could find, anyway) that has recent numbers for total digital borrows from libraries.

While the ability to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies and more from the library without leaving your house is definitely convenient, one of the unfortunate realities is that, for a number of reasons, all library experiences are not identical.Depending on your library, their vendors, your preferred device and format choices (Mobi or ePub, audiobook or ebook), the digital library experience can vary considerably.

There are number of library distributors who distribute digital materials to libraries. OverDrive is probably one of the biggest and best known to many patrons, but there are others like 3M cloud and Axis 360. Some, like Hoopla, offer a mixed variety of digital content.There are also a number of vendors that specialize in specific types of content (such as One Click digital for audiobooks, Freegal for music, Zinio and Flipster  for magazines).

Different libraries may use different vendors and/or combination of vendors. That means each library may offer a unique combination of materials and services.

Cost is usually a huge factor in which services libraries offer. For ebooks, publishers charge libraries more than they do individuals to license materials. The pricing structure also varies from service to service. Services like OverDrive use the One Copy/One User lending model. The library can only loan out a finite number of ebooks at one time, depending on how many licenses they have purchased for a particular title.

It is becoming increasingly common to hear stories about libraries changing distributors in order to try to keep cost down. Just this week, the Auburn, Alabama Public Library announced that it is moving from Overdrive to 3M Cloud. Because it is affiliated with book publishers, 3M Cloud offers its services at lower price than OverDrive. The problem is that 3M Cloud content does not work with e-ink Kindles, leaving Kindle readers out in the cold unless they read on their Fire tablet.

Unlike OverDrive, Hoopla allows for simultaneous usage, meaning patrons do not have to wait for a popular title. Because of cost, however, most libraries have a limit on how many Hoopla items can be checked out in a given month. As this article on the CLEVNET library consortium in Ohio  shows, some libraries have had to reduce the number of items available to patrons because of the costs. Like 3M Clud, Hoopla only works on phones and tablets, not on e-ink devices like the Kindle.

The bottom line is, the amount of money available to your library system will determine what your library can offer on the digital front. The best resource for checking what your local library offers is their website. Most libraries list their digital services on their website.

While more ebooks than ever are being offered by local libraries, I still get email from people frustrated that their library does not have a large enough selection of ebooks or titles in a particular genre. While services like the Digital Public Library of America, The Internet Archive and the Open Library have come a long way towards making material available, we are still a long way away from a true national digital public library that can be accessed by everyone.

If you happen to live in a district that either has a small ebook selection or not enough titles in the genres you prefer to read, you may have some options. You may want to check with your library to see if they have reciprocal privileges with other libraries in the county or the state where you live. There are some libraries that offer non-resident cards online or via email for a fee. (There is a list here on Mobileread.com.) The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Public Library are both popular with avid ebook readers and the fee for each is a modest $50.

I personally have cards at both The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Public Library. My local library has very limited options for digital materials. The city library has reciprocal privileges with our county library, but those privileges don’t include access to the county’s fantastic selection of digital materials and even paid out-of-area cards there do not include digital lending . My only choice for a wider selection is to pay for a card somewhere else.

So how about you? What’s your experience been borrowing ebooks from your library?

As we continue #NationalLibraryWeek discussions, tomorrow, we’ll discuss tools for library reading strategies. 🙂

It is National Library Week!

This week, April 9-15, is National Library Week. This year’s theme is Libraries Transform. The theme celebrates the shifting focus of libraries. The modern library is no longer just about having books, periodicals, or music music available for patrons; modern libraries are increasingly more about doing things for and with people and a greater role as a community shared space.

The official hashtags for the week are #NationalLibraryWeek and #LibrariesTransform. There are also official “I Love Libraries” accounts to follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Just a few of the highlight events for the National Library Week:

Monday, April 10, 2017, the Top Ten List of Most Challenged Books for 2016 will be released in the ALA 2017 State of America’s Library Report.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 is National Library Workers Day, a day to celebrate the contributions of library workers.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 is National Bookmobile Day. The days celebrates bookmobiles and the community outreach done by the awesome professionals who work with bookmobile programs.

Thursday, April 13, 2017 is Take Action for Libraries Day. Libraries will be asking for help to save federal funding for libraries.

During the entire week, there is also an Expert in the Library Promotion. Give a shout out on social media and let the world know what your librarian is an expert in. Use the “hashtag #expertinthelibrary and  and post between Saturday, April 8 at noon CT and Saturday, April 15 at noon CT for a chance to win the $100 Visa gift card.” (More details here.)

You and find graphics, details and more information at the I Love Libraries and ALA websites.

Here on the Ebook Evangelist, we’ll be celebrating with a series of posts focusing on libraries and ebooks. 🙂

Can you use your Kindle for library books?

Library BooksThere was an interesting thread this morning on Amazon’s Kindle forums concerning library use and e-ink Kindles. According to the opening post, “Many libraries are switching to 3M Cloud and using Axis 360 ditching Overdrive.”

The poster’s complaint is relevant because the 3M Cloud is not compatible with e-ink Kindles, only the Kindle Fire.  At at the bottom of 3m’s list of compatible devices, it says:

The 3M Cloud Library is not currently supported by Amazon. If you would like compatibility with your Kindle device not indicated above, please contact kindle-feedback@amazon.com.

However, the forum posts go on to point out that the problem with 3M is not Amazon’s. It goes on to note that 3M was created as a partnership between Penguin. the New York Public Library and 3M with the intention of creating a system that didn’t support the Kindle.  (Nate from the Digital Reader wrote an article about this back in 2012.)

Both Axis 360 and 3M are said to be cheaper for libraries than current Overdrive prices. It seems that some libraries use Overdrive along with one of the other systems, while other libraries are choosing with one over the other. For libraries who switch to 3M or Axis 360, patrons with an e-ink Kindle are left out in the cold.

Understandably, avid library users who own e-these unsupported devices aren’t happy.

Obviously, 3M and Axis 360 have been available for quite some time now. This thread made me wonder if library patrons are starting to see their libraries shift to other e-book providers.

Does anyone have any experience with this? What is your library using to lend ebooks? Have they changed systems? Please share in the comments. 🙂

Daily Links : A new Harry Potter story

From Lifehacker, Spot a boring Kindle Book by looking at popular highlights.

JK Rowling post a new Harry Potter background story on Pottermore, from The Digital Reader

From Teleread, Almost a year with Scribd. Has anything changed with my reading?

Whispersync comes to the UK with 10 freebies, from The Ebook Reader.

From ReadWrite, In exposing followers, Medium fails readers.

As part of Amazon’s Daily Deals, there are 12 award winning Sci-fi deals,  including books by Octavia Butler, Harlan Ellison and John Brunner for only $1.99 each.

Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news.