Changes to Unlimited Titles from RBDigital

Recently some checked-out digital audiobooks were removed from CALS patron accounts even though the due date for those titles had not passed. We want to apologize for this inconvenience if it affected you and want to let you know it came as an unpleasant surprise to us as well.

CALS purchases e-books and digital audiobooks from Overdrive. The titles we purchase allow only one user at a time to check out a purchased copy, exactly the way checkouts of physical items work. In addition, most of these copies disappear from our collection after a set period of time or when the copy has been used a specific number of times. Once that happens, we decide whether we want to purchase that copy again. This is a metered use license. Prices for digital copies range from $50 to $100 per copy; digital materials are considerably more expensive than physical materials.

In 2018, CALS subscribed to a service from RBdigital which provided access to approximately 30,000 digital audiobook titles and allowed an unlimited number of patrons to check out each title. This is an unlimited use license, which is very rare for e-books and digital audiobooks.

With either option, CALS never owns the items like we do when we purchase physical items, instead we are purchasing access to the titles. And the content owner can revoke that access, which means we no longer have a title which once was included in our digital collection. They can even revoke access to checked out titles, which is unfortunately what some of our patrons experienced on January 1, 2021.

In 2020, RBdigital was purchased by the same company that owns Overdrive. Very quickly thereafter they let us know that our RBdigital digital audiobooks would be moved into Overdrive, but they would no longer offer the unlimited use license service that RBdigital offered. CALS notified users of this change because once our subscription period for that service came to an end, CALS would need to either purchase copies of those 30,000 titles, or we would lose access to them. The subscription ended on Dec 31, 2020.

We purchased as many of the titles as we could, focusing on those which were checked out most frequently.

We also assumed that the removal of the titles would work like it does when a metered use title is no longer available. The last user (or current user) will have access to the material until the due date and once it has been checked in the item will no longer be available for checkout. But this is not what happened. Instead, Overdrive removed the titles even if they were checked out to our patrons. This has resulted in some patrons having their digital audiobooks disappear from their checked-out items, even though the item was not due. We apologize for this inconvenience and will be sending a complaint to Overdrive. If a title you were listening to is no longer available for checkout, please suggest it as a title we should purchase using the older Overdrive app (the Libby app doesn’t support requesting purchases) or the Overdrive web site here.

If you have questions or need assistance, please call us at 918-3000 or send us an email to calsinfo@cals.org.