Topeka — Kansans who prefer their library books to be electronic rather than paper might not be able to check out their choices for at least a month because of a contract dispute between the state and its former e-book provider.
Overdrive, a Cleveland-based global distributor of downloadable content, wanted to impose a 700 percent price increase on Kansas over three years and relinquish ownership of the e-books it bought for statewide use, state librarian Jo Budler said.
"I was really confused and alarmed by that," Budler said.
The state contends that the contract with Overdrive refers to "content purchased," which means it owns the e-books, rather than only having license to loan them to library users.
Budler said she sent letters to 161 publishers requesting approval for the state to transfer its titles to a new service. About half have said yes; the rest have yet to reply, The Wichita Eagle reported.
The state's contract with Overdrive will end Dec. 5 and the state will have a new contract with 3M that will start in the first quarter of 2012, Budler said. E-books might not be available in public libraries in Kansas between the end of the Overdrive contract and the beginning of the 3M contract.
Meanwhile, the state is promoting other e-book sources, particularly those with content that are on the public domain because their copyrights have expired.
"I think people are really anxious to read on their e-readers," Budler said. "So we want to give them some alternatives while we get our new servers up."
E-books continue to grow in popularity at Kansas public libraries. Library patrons have checked out 294,000 e-books from state libraries this year, compared with nearly 146,000 e-books in 2009.
The state spent more than $28,000 on e-books in 2010. But it stopped buying e-books when it became clear that Overdrive wouldn't allow the state to transfer content to another provider. The state library's budget has been cut by 28 percent in the past four years.
"We just didn't want to throw good money after bad," Budler said. "If they were going to keep our content, we didn't want to buy more."