Libraries might get cloud ebook lending with OverDrive acquisition

It looks like the 3M Cloud Library has made the excecutives over at OverDrive a little nervous.  Yesterday, OverDrive announced that they had acquired the Australian ebook company, is a cloud-based platform for distributing, selling, and reading ebooks in Australia.  In other words, they do almost exactly the same thing as 3M’s Cloud Library does.

OverDrive has pretty much been the only ebook technology platform for libraries for a very long time.  3M has a history of providing various technologies to libraries so they decided to try and go after OverDrive by providing an ebook lending platform for libraries.

They didn’t just try to copy OverDrive’s functionality and put a 3M logo on it though.  Instead, they decided to use the latest buzzword and implemented a cloud spin on ebook lending.

The idea is that all of a library’s ebooks reside in “the cloud” and that a user that checks one out can access it on just about every device or browser out there.  Since the ebook is in “the cloud”, the user just needs to login and they can then read their ebook.  This removes painful DRM which results in a much better end-user experience.

The trick to a library in the cloud is what happens when a user isn’t connected to the internet.  Virtually every device out there caches the book locally into a DRM-protected container.  This is all done in a very pain-free manner.  Ebooks are stored as apps on Apple and Android devices and are stored locally for most popular browsers as well.

The big problem with is that you cannot store ebooks offline on Kindle devices.  This is a gigantic problem that 3M’s Cloud Library has as well.  3M knows clearly realizes how big an issue it is as they have been reported to be working with Amazon to add Kindle compatibility.

OverDrive’s decision to acquire was clearly a strategic move to make sure they don’t lose their strangehold on the ebook market at public libraries.  Many libraries expressed great interest in 3M’s Cloud Library.  Now OverDrive will have a competitive cloud offering that I’m sure they will be happy to migrate existing libraries to.