In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen New Zealand public libraries announcing plans for the imminent launch of ebook lending services.

What’s great to see is that there will be two initiatives, each with a different approach.  Between them, they will let libraries, their patrons, and the publisher and author rights holders try out different models and approaches to ebook borrowing.

The two initiatives are:

1. About 40 library regions have signed up with OverDrive, the US service provider that currently leads the market in public library lending. Their service is scheduled to roll out in September.  In addition to these regional consortia, OverDrive has deals with the major metropolitan libraries in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

2. A local initiative developed by library and educational book supplier Wheelers launches a trial next month of its homegrown ebook lending service with Tauranga and Hamilton library districts.

One of the key differences between the two services will be whether patrons pay to borrow some of the titles or borrow all titles for free. Currently, OverDrive doesn’t support the option of charging rentals for some titles while the Wheelers’ service does.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of offering a choice of lending models with both free and paid access.  This has the potential to get the widest range of ebooks available to libraries’ patrons and to help libraries to provide a high quality ebook service without the money having to come from other needed services. And it gives publishers and authors more options to accommodate ebook lending in the wider ebook eco-system.

Wheelers service will offer this from the start and its libraries are expecting to have an advantage over the OverDrive service by offering popular new titles that are usually withheld by publishers from the free OverDrive service or offered under terms that many libraries see as unacceptable. (I’m not so sure, however, about the other expected benefit to libraries from the Wheelers model, namely that they should own the ebook files in perpetuity rather than licensing them: I think there will be resistance from many publishers and authors to this proposed term).

Read this informative post from Sally Pewhairangi’s Finding Heroes blog in which she interviews Paul Nielsen from Hauraki District about the OverDrive service, and the innovative Jill Best from Tauranga about the forthcoming Wheelers system.