Is there room in the library e-book field for a competitor to Overdrive? Wired reports that tape and media manufacturer 3M thinks so, and is launching a library e-book lending initiative called the 3M Cloud Library with 40 publishers (including Random House, HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Wiley) and over 100,000 titles. (Last year we covered 3M’s investment in the txtr e-book company and its plans to create a library program.)
The biggest difference to the Overdrive model is that it will also be producing its own e-ink e-reader devices that libraries can buy and lend out to patrons with the books loaded on-board.
Wired reports that the 3M readers are compatible with Nook e-readers, which probably means that it uses EPUB and the standard Adobe DRM that goes with it. There will also be apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and OS X devices, and the brochure (PDF) indicates it will feature the same sort of last-place-you-read tracking across multiple devices as Amazon. The system will feature touchscreen kiosks, and also allow readers to check out titles over the web.
It isn’t clear whether consumers can buy their own 3M e-reader units or they’re library-purchase-and-check-out only. I would tend to suspect the latter, since that way 3M won’t have to worry about competing directly in an already-saturated direct-to-consumer market. (And if it’s compatible with the Nook, patrons who want their own e-readers can just buy that instead.) Besides, 3M is probably more comfortable working with libraries directly—it has been providing a variety of physical-book-related services for libraries for 40 years.