Titles at fingertips: Gauteng’s OverDrive platform allows library members to borrow e-books to read on their computers and digital devices. Picture: SUPPLIED
Titles at fingertips: Gauteng’s OverDrive platform allows library members to borrow e-books to read on their computers and digital devices. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Gauteng Provincial Library Service’s subscription to international e-book lending platform OverDrive promises to be a boon for local readers and publishers. The platform allows library members to borrow e-books to read on their computers and digital devices for up to 14 days.

Readers can also recommend titles that are not already on the platform.

"You don’t have to worry about returning the book because it will return itself.

"And you can become part of the team that buys books because you also have the opportunity to recommend the titles that should be bought on OverDrive," says library official Tsakane Chauke.

Gauteng’s OverDrive subscription is part of the National Library of SA’s Mzansi Libraries On-Line.

The three-year project was launched in August 2015 with the goal of fostering an information-rich society using the internet as a vehicle.

Globally, OverDrive has more than 30,000 libraries in 40 countries subscribed to its platform. It offers e-books, audiobooks and videos. Chauke says more than 10,000 people registered in Gauteng since its launch in 2016.

OverDrive caters mainly for leisure readers, says Chauke. Readers looking for prescribed works or academic books will be disappointed. Popular authors include thriller writers James Patterson and Jassy Mackenzie, and nonfiction authors like Thandeka Gqubule and DJ Sbu. Books that critically examine former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure are also popular, particularly Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers and Adriaan Basson’s Zuma Exposed.

For OverDrive to reach more library users, the government will have to push the marketing pedal. The strategy is to train the librarians, Chauke says, and they have to market the service to library users.

It costs only R30 a year for membership of the Gauteng Provincial Library Service, yet many people prefer to pay nothing and pirate books. It takes a few seconds for Google to find a free download of The President’s Keepers, but reading such a version of the book means no royalties accrue to the author.

Pauw says he was fine with people pirating his work, but his publisher, NB Publishers, disagreed and warned about the dangers of bootlegging. "Piracy hurts this courageous author, who has put everything on the line to ensure SA knows the truth this book tells," NB Publishers said in 2017.

Penguin Random House SA’s local titles are available on OverDrive and marketing manager Amanda van Rhyn says the platform has huge benefits. "Working with a wholesaler such as OverDrive increases our reach. They supply digital libraries and e-book retailers around the world that we might otherwise not reach and it minimises the ongoing administration such as sales reporting and invoicing."

Chauke says the publishing agreements are made between OverDrive and the publishers involved. All the government does is facilitate the process. "We refer authors to OverDrive, and they prepare the contracts."

Another exciting programme for Gauteng’s library members is the planned provision of the digital newsstand PressReader.

Users will be able to read thousands of local and international newspapers and magazines at no cost. But they will have to wait a while: that deal still has to kick in.

"We haven’t done all the legalities with PressReader from our side yet," Chauke says.

• To sample OverDrive, click here.  

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