Answered By: Stephen Spohn
Last Updated: Sep 02, 2015     Views: 3328

Why Are We Doing This?


We often receive questions from public library staff regarding Axis 360 vs. Overdrive.  They’d like to know why we chose Axis 360, when they now have both Axis 360 and Overdrive and what the future may hold.


This is a tricky question, but one that deserves a thoughtful response.  I’ll do my best!


1) Why are we doing this?

Commonwealth eBook Collections was born from a call to action from Massachusetts libraries.  In 2012 at the MLS Spring Meeting – Resource Sharing Unbound – libraries called MLS and Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to action.  What we heard:

  • Prices are too high.
  • Terms are too restrictive.
  • Overdrive is too cumbersome for users (at that time).
  • We can do better.

We took those messages to heart, and, to make a long story short, this program began after a pilot program to explore our options.

Commonwealth eBook Collections is about:

  • Building a statewide shared collection that respects the strong tradition of resource sharing in Massachusetts libraries
  • Fighting for a great user experience with eBooks across all platforms.
  • Advocating in the marketplace for better terms, better pricing and new opportunities to strengthen the position of libraries.
  • Introducing healthy competition into a marketplace that is dominated by just a handful of key players.
  • Collaborating with other major consortia to speak with an even louder voice.

Already, we have seen some important changes in the marketplace.  Content from the Big Five publishers is now available to Commonwealth eBook Collections participants in the shared collection (including some content that is not yet available in Overdrive shared collections at the time I write this).  We’ve also noticed the effect of increased competition in the marketplace with increased attention from vendors to building more user-friendly interfaces.


2) Why Axis 360?

Let’s admit first that Axis 360 has some work to do.  We work closely with Baker & Taylor to keep them moving in the right direction and have solid working relationships with key leaders in their organization to make sure that the voices of Massachusetts libraries are heard loudly and clearly.  Shortly after I publish this, Axis 360 2.0 will be released which includes a number of enhancements that bring Axis 360 closer in line with the user experience our public libraries expect.  Following that, a series of follow-up enhancements are planned throughout the remainder of 2015.  We have a direct line to Axis 360 developers and will shortly provide Baker & Taylor feedback on its development roadmap to align it most closely with our needs.  We have every indication that they will take us very seriously.

During the pilot phase, an RFP was issued.  Axis 360 was the best option for us in comparison to the other RFP responses we received.  One of the defining factors that put Axis 360 at the top of the list was its hard work on ADA accessibility.  Overdrive did not submit a response and is not pursuing business with statewide consortia anymore.


3) What about Overdrive?

Commonwealth eBook Collections is a supplement to existing eBook subscriptions at this time.  Within the next year or so, we expect that Axis 360 will achieve a level of user experience that makes it more competitive among Overdrive and similar products.  At that time, the automated resource sharing networks may decide to consider their options, but the decision is theirs (and their respective members).

We also must recognize that most MLS members do not have Overdrive or a similar product for bestsellers.


4) More than Axis 360 and Overdrive…

This program is so much more than finding the best product for popular content.  Through Commonwealth eBook Collections, we have a stronger voice and are attracting positive attention from publishers in the marketplace.  This year, several exciting things are happening that wouldn’t be possible without the support of Massachusetts libraries for this program:

  • Library Comicon – a working concept now in partnership with BiblioLabs (BiblioBoard Library & Creator) and two graphic novel publishers – Dark Horse and Valiant – who are excited to work directly with libraries.
  • SELF-e and Indie Massachusetts – growing efforts to expand the services of Massachusetts libraries to their local author communities that provide formal mechanisms for self-published authors to vet and share their works.
  • Creator Institutes – focused training sessions to empower libraries to showcase local content
  • Publisher Forums – strategic discussions between publishers and libraries in Massachusetts to discuss the hard questions of pricing and terms and to explore new opportunities.  Let’s find the “win-win.”
  • Community Reads – an exploration of community reads with hot bestsellers in the hopes to create a plan with reasonable pricing for libraries for the future.
  • And more!

Comments (5)

  1. Axis 360 is simply unusable on Android devices, and from what I understand the experience on iOS isn't all that much better. It is unstable when it is accessible at all, and is a buggy mess the rest of the time. Please do not drop Overdrive in favor of this, at least in its current incarnation. I guess I could live with not being able to read on my Kindle Touch, but for heaven's sake please at least ensure that the software that is in place works as advertised. Overdrive does. Kindle does. Axis 360 does not.
    by James C. on Feb 07, 2017.
  2. Hi James,

    All we’ve heard recently is how stable Axis 360 has been for a while now, so your comment is quite alarming! Android is a tricky development environment for all app developers that varies by device, carrier, etc. Can you please tell me the following about your device so we can guide the app developers to troubleshoot and fix whatever is causing the instabilities that you’re seeing?

    Device (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Note 4)
    Carrier (e.g. Verizon Wireless)
    Axis 360 app build (e.g. v.3.4.1) - click on about to find version

    Thanks so much for your help and for giving it a go! As I’m sure you read in that FAQ post, we are working hard to make a difference for all libraries. And, we appreciate your help in building a better future!

    All my best,
    by Steve Spohn on Feb 08, 2017.
  3. I find the Axis 360 app to be extremely stable on iOS, so perhaps the above comment was based on older experience, prior to modifications. Our patrons love Axis 360, especially compared to Overdrive. Overdrive tends to make a lot of ill-considered changes. You just get people used to it, then something changes and it doesn't look the same or work the same way. Apparently Overdrive gets a lot of negative feedback about that, so then they make another change shortly afterwards, some of which is meant to address the problems the first change made. Axis 360 is clean, consistent and reliable. The user experience for our patrons has been much better with Axis 360.

    Also, I recently noticed that I was 31 of 86 holds for a new eBook through CLAMS' Overdrive collection, so I checked to see if it was available on Axis 360. It was and I downloaded it right away. I realize that will change as more libraries join, and as more member libraries start promoting CEC to patrons, but for now I often find titles of interest that are available immediately on Axis 360, where I have to place a hold on anything I'm interested in reading in our network's Overdrive collection.

    Keep up the good work!
    by Ginny Hewitt on Apr 11, 2017.
  4. I am also finding axis 360 very unstable lately...(and occasionally in the past). But consistently for the past month I receive an error code and cannot no mater what, download or play or even peruse my library. I travel a lot for work and DEPEND on my audible library books. There is not an email or any support to speak of, only canned answers that do NOT give any help. I suppose I will head back to the books on CD aisle of my library instead, probably not the worse thing- but Cant you get it together? At least give us a way to email or trouble shoot that has actual answers...
    by Gucci4 on Aug 10, 2018.
  5. Sorry you missed the news from your library, but Axis 360 is no longer a part of the program. We've switched. Please do check in with your library. They are your first line of support for anything library related in Massachusetts, and they can help you get started with OverDrive or other ebook products that will best meet your needs. Our primary function is to serve the libraries, so we do not assert ourselves between them and their users. They have been there to serve you all along. Reach out. They're wonderful!
    by Stephen Spohn on Aug 11, 2018.