Based in Cleveland, Ohio, OverDrive has worked exclusively to distribute digital content since 1986, becoming one of the first companies to be involved in supplying digital content to libraries, first with audio and then with e-books. Its digital distribution platform now has more than 3.3 million titles, and OverDrive has relationships with 5,000 publishers and 34,000 libraries, schools, retailers, and OEMs. As OverDrive continues to grow, it has also expanded into digital content in Spanish.
At the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) last December, PW spoke with Steve Rosato, the business development executive, and Elissa Miller, a digital library adviser, about OverDrive’s presence at FIL. This was not the first year that OverDrive attended FIL, but it was the first year that it had its own booth. Rosato and Miller explained that their purpose at FIL was trifold: first, to meet with libraries from Latin America that are considering a digital platform; second, to speak with some of their current U.S. clients that were visiting the fair; and finally, to acquire Spanish-language content from publishers.
What are you looking to accomplish at FIL?
EM: What we really want to accomplish is to grow and augment our Spanish catalogue, which already has over 55,000 titles. As you know, the strength of our business comes from offering titles not just from the big publishers but also from the midsize and smaller publishers, which often have material that reflects some of the new literary trends, particularly in children’s literature. Those are the publishers that we really want to reach, because it helps us to meet the needs of librarians from Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina, as well as our U.S. clients that have to provide for the needs of their culturally diverse communities.
You mentioned that OverDrive currently offers 55,000 titles in Spanish. From which publishers do most of these titles come from?
EM: Much of the catalogue comes from the large multinational publishers such as Planeta, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, and Fondo de Cultura Económica. We are also working through Libranda, an e-book distribution platform of books in Spanish that aggregates many of the publishers—400 publishers—from Spain and Latin America; so through them we have books from publishers such as Ediciones B and Salamandra, as well as many from the midsize and smaller publishers. For example, this year we added children’s titles from Fondo de Cultura Económica’s and Grupo SM.
What are some of the smaller and midsize publishers that are available on OverDrive?
EM: One is Editorial Pax from Mexico. Although not a small press, it is an independent press, and it will be doing its entire digital content through IPG, which is fabulous for us and for our catalogue, because we work with IPG. We are also working to obtain more digital books from Colombia, Argentina, and Chile.
What is the biggest pushback you have gotten from publishers in Latin America?
SR: I wouldn’t say we get pushback. Once we sit down with publishers and explain how it works, [doing business with OverDrive] becomes a no-brainer. We are just a different sales channel that a publisher otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Really, the challenge is getting in front of the right person when they are ready to hear the message—then the response is, “Why wouldn’t we do this?”
EM: Many are not digitally ready, but they are moving toward that. [Distributing e-books and digital audio to libraries] is also not in the usual frame of distribution that they would use—[using OverDrive] is just a much more seamless distribution, and there is no exclusivity.
SR: This is something that OverDrive initially overcame about 10 years ago: the fear among publishers that digital would cannibalize print or that library sales would cannibalize their retail sales. Now publishers realize that all of this can coexist.
EM: Sometimes publishers from Latin America think that their titles are too local—national—and that a book like that would not appeal to a U.S. audience. For example, a book from Chile—the publisher might think that it will only appeal to Chilean readers, but many times publishers are surprised to learn that Hispanics in the U.S. read writers not only from their countries of origin but from all over Latin America and Spain. Readers are also looking to read a more diverse group of writers. What we can provide to publishers is visibility for titles that might have a niche audience in countries other than their own.
What is OverDrive’s goal when it comes to books in Spanish?
SR: Our goal isn’t necessarily about reaching a certain number of titles in Spanish. For us, it’s about servicing the libraries and their communities. That is the commitment of OverDrive—we really do make the reader’s needs our priority, and as long as we are taking care of the reader and meeting the requests of the libraries, we don’t need to be reactionary; we already have content in the pipeline to meet those needs.