I was expecting it, and sure enough it happened: my local library and all its branches is shut down until March 31—and very likely beyond. Here I sit with about 18 books checked out, some of which I can enthusiastically recommend. But how will our readers get to read them?
Overdrive to the rescue—sort of. I have heard of it, and I’ve noticed that my library offers certain books in electronic editions, but never bothered to download them. I don’t like reading on a screen and I don’t think it’s ideal for kids either. But if that’s the only way I can get hold of a book I really want to read, I’ll bite the bullet.
But first, I have questions. So I asked our two resident cyber experts (Hayley and Betsy) to help me out: Our Q&A might help our readers out, too (and if anyone has any wisdom to add, please comment!).
Janie: Overdrive is the only lending service I’ve heard of. Have you had experience with any others?
Hayley: I have had experience with RB Digital, too. It’s primarily audiobooks (though I remember some magazines, classic e-books, and miscellany). I believe it’s linked to Recorded Books, so the assortment was excellent with some great narrators.
Betsy: one of my local library systems uses Hoopla, too. I’ve checked out magazines via RB Digital, but I have yet to use Hoopla. I use Overdrive ALL the time for audiobooks, and I often check out e-books via Overdrive before a trip.
J: Can you borrow books only from libraries where you have a library card, or is it possible to borrow from other libraries too?
H: I believe there’s a way you can pay for a card in a neighboring library system and then use their resources. Betsy, I believe you do this?
B: Our area is a little funny in that one of the “Tri-Cities” doesn’t play well with others and has its own library system. I’m just across the line, so I use that smaller system for older titles (their budget, as you may imagine, isn’t as large), but I do pay to be part of the bigger system. The closest branch to me is actually in the bigger system, and their bigger budget means that’s where I get most of the newer titles. The two library systems use different electronic services; the smaller uses Hoopla and the bigger uses Overdrive. Overdrive has just switched to a new app called Libby. I haven’t switched over yet, but my understanding is that, as long as you’re actually a card holder, you can use as many library systems through that as you hold a card to.
J: So, theoretically you could purchase a card from the New York City public library, or Houston or L.A. or anyplace that has a large library. (I’ve noticed, though, that electronic editions are lent out as though they were physical books: one user at a time per copy.)
Is overdrive available on most tablets and phones?
H: Yes! It’s actually confusing since it’s on two platforms: Overdrive and Libby. Libby is more user friendly and simple, but I learned with Overdrive so I’ve stuck to that.
B: Same! (stuck to Overdrive) I regularly check out the kindle version of a book from the library and have it sent to my kindle (especially when I’m loading up my kindle for vacation!). We’re limited to 15 (or maybe 20?) e-books out at once, so my husband and I jockey for our vacation reads ;-). But I use overdrive on my phone for audiobooks, and we’ve used our tablets, too, when needed.
J: How do I get started?
H. First you need to set-up an account. I believe for RB digital I had to register first on my library website. Overdrive was long ago, but I think with your library card, you can directly set up an account through the app.
B: Yes—you need to know your library card number; since most require you to go through your library (and most library websites have an “electronic resources” page/link on their home page).
J: I patronize a large library, but their ebook selection seems rather small. What are the chances I’ll find a specific title (not at my library per se, but a typical midsize library)?
H It’s definitely more uncertain that your brick and stone library will have exactly what you’re looking for. Typically they have a good collection of classics and popular best-sellers. The middle-ground is more library dependent, but you can find some treasures.
B: I’ve had better luck simply browsing a category and looking for things that are interesting as opposed to looking for particular books. You CAN put e-resources on hold, though, so that’s a possibility. I’ve had a few issues with that (missing notifications and such), so I tend to just check in regularly on titles I’m interested in and pounce when they’re available.
J: Sounds like good advice. By the way, Betsy, my library uses Hoopla, so I checked the middle-grade section to see what they had under the category of recent additions. It seemed rather small—36 titles in all. But I recognized several of them. In fact, we had reviewed almost one third of them! (Are we on top of things, or what??)
Most libraries lend books for 3 weeks. How long do you get to borrow a book on Overdrive?
H: I believe I had the option of 3 weeks for my old Louisville Overdrive account. With my Wisconsin account though, I have the option of 2 weeks, or only 1 week. However, I can choose to renew my book and keep it longer, as long as no one else wants it.
B: We have three weeks on overdrive through our system. Interestingly, even though you can’t renew, I’ve found that it remembers my place in an audiobook, even if someone else checked it out and I had to wait a couple of weeks before getting it again. I just did that with To Kill a Mockingbird. Took me a total of 3 separate checkouts!
J: What other material are available besides books?
H: Overdrive, depending on the library, can have an excellent collection of audiobooks. It was through Overdrive that I was first introduced to P. G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle guided by Martin Jarvis’s excellent narration. I think there might be comic/graphic novel options and even movies occasionally, but I haven’t looked into those.
B: Oooh, movies, eh? That would be fun. As you’ve seen, I use it heavily for audiobooks. In fact, in my audiobook list at Christmas, I included the overdrive links, too! (in addition to audible.com links). Overdrive has some great narrators, and I’ve had no issues with their audio quality save for one recent listen, and it was short-lived.
J: Well, thanks for all that!
More at Redeemed Reader:
- Speaking of classics, Hayley has a great list of classics for all ages that may be unfamiliar to you. See if they’re available at your library through Overdrive, Libby or Hoopla!
- And how about some Favorite Audiobooks?
- If you or your teens have been intending to read Little Women (especially after seeing the latest movie), you can download a Kindle version for free at Project Gutenberg (other versions available, too–and many other titles).
- Enforced family time goes better with games! Remember Betsy’s list of Best Games for Book Lovers?
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