Ebooks – Use Your Library Card to Simply Download for Free

February 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Now you can wirelessly download electronic books from your local library using the Apple iPad or an Android tablet.  Last week, OverDrive Inc. (the largest distributor of eBooks for libraries) released OverDrive Media Console for the iPad, a free app from Apple’s App Store. With the app, you can now borrow eBooks for reading on the go with a tablet.

You can already borrow an eBook from a library using an eReader, including the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble Nook, but you’ll need a PC and a USB cable for downloading and synching. Amazon’s Kindle doesn’t allow borrowing eBooks from libraries. 

Good News:  Digital bookstore apps like Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBooks and the Barnes & Noble Nook app charge around $10 a book. Local libraries pay for licenses to each eBook just like they pay for each physical book. Lending periods vary among libraries, from seven to 21 days, and some libraries let patrons set due dates. Fines or late fees are nonexistent because digital access to the books expires on a set due date, at which point titles lock up and users are prompted to delete the titles.

Bad News:  There’s a major downside to borrowing digital books. If the book you want is checked out, you still have to wait until someone returns it to borrow it. OverDrive’s licenses allow one book copy per person, so several people can’t simultaneously borrow the same eBook. Libraries can buy several licenses for a title so they can have multiple copies of popular books for borrowing.

Book Selections:  According to fiscal records, OverDrive titles total about 11,000 eBooks and only a portion of those were in the EPUB format, which is the only format that works with the Android, iPhone and the iPad apps. Smaller libraries have even fewer eBooks from which to choose. Users can’t borrow digital content from libraries where they don’t have library cards.

OverDrive doesn’t enable synchronizing of material across multiple devices, like Amazon’s Kindle app does with Whispersync. So if I download a book on my iPad in the OverDrive app, we can’t open that book on an Android phone or desktop using OverDrive.

OverDrive serves more than 13,000 libraries with a catalog of 400,000 titles from 1,000 publishers, but it’s possible your library may not use this system (check OverDrive.com for participating libraries). Overdrive Inc. plans an app for the BlackBerry by June and hopes to enable wireless downloads on other devices in the future.


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