One example of how unliberal our society has become today I think is "imagine libraries being invented today: media industry would scream piracy"! Those libraries that today experiment with e-books pay ridiculous prices per loan to do so. It's yet another angle where I think it's evident that the copyright lobby is losing perspective and society has lost the compromise struck once over copyright.
That's actually a pretty great insight. If you think of the library as a potential piracy haven, you might even consider going as far as calling them a storefront of The Pirate Bay if libraries were invented today.
What are the economics of Overdrive or the other e-book lending systems? From what I saw in googling, it's something like $10-100k/yr to be a member institution (depending on size), plus access fees of a few thousand per month, plus per-item acquisition costs (much less than physical media; maybe $1.00 for a book?).
That's expensive only because no one actually uses the online lending service, since rich/tech people value convenience, and the people for whom a $9.99 ebook is a big enough expense to warrant the inferior search, wait, etc. are probably not technology early adopters (or can't afford a $79 Kindle).
It might make sense in a school library environment, though. Or, with sufficient assistance in setting it up, audiobooks for the reading-impaired (a helpful librarian, or an audio-only UI to search/download books).