App of the Week: OverDrive

Title: OverDrive Media Console
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod
Cost: Free

The ability to download and read e-books’  from libraries is obviously a good thing and sometimes, in my travels around the Internet, seems like something that everyone is already doing.’ ‘  But the actual practice of helping our patrons download e-books onto their devices is pretty new in my library and I can imagine this must be the case for other libraries as well.’  The process here’  is pretty clunky.’  Clunky or no, the OverDrive Media Console is the app you need to get started reading library e-books on your iPhone.

The app itself is easy.’  When you open it up you see a list of the books you have checked out.’  You can click on a book and start reading.

The table of contents is full of links,’  so you can easily navigate to the beginning of any chapter. Turning the page is just a swipe to the left.’  You can bookmark a page by touching the top right corner and save multiple bookmarks for finding passages easily later.’  When you open OverDrive again, after closing it in the middle of a book,’  it opens back up to the page where you left off.

Along the top of the screen you can control screen brightness and text size and access the navigation menu, which shows you the book’s expiration date and links to chapters and your bookmarks. ‘ Along the bottom you can quickly skip through the pages. Touch the text to exit these menus and you see a plain page, with the bookmark option at the top right, page number at the bottom right, and a note of how many pages left in the chapter at the bottom left.’  This is helpful for navigation, and also because sometimes you want to have a sense of where you are in a book, and how much is left.

While navigating the app is easy, getting it set up takes some time.’  When you open OverDrive for the first time, you will be asked to make an Adobe Editions account.’  I went through the process of entering my email and making up a password only to find that I couldn’t log in because I already had an account.’  It was frustrating to navigate to my email to reset my password and then go back to OverDrive and log in.’  I can see this being a frustration for teen users, and other library patrons as well.

After setting up an Adobe Editions account, the next challenge is to find yourself an e-book.’  I am not very familiar with this process in library systems other than my own, but since my library system’s digital catalog is powered by OverDrive, yours is probably similar.’  You can do a number of different searches,’  or you can browse by genres or formats.’  Being aware of what formats are available is important, because OverDrive for the iPhone and other Mac devices does not support certain formats.’  It does support Adobe E-Pub books, PDF books, and MP3 audiobooks.’  OverDrive’s website has an extensive guide about which devices support which formats here.

The next tricky thing is finding a book that is actually available to check out.’  While various classics that are in the public domain are always available as e-books in OverDrive, ‘  new releases are harder to come by.’  So far in my library system, there is usually only one copy of each e-book, or e-audiobook.’  It can be difficult to find available titles, and waiting lists can take a long time.’  This is something that will be remedied’  as more titles and copies are added to the collection, but for now, it is another potential’  frustration.’  You’ll note the book that I checked out for the sake of practice is the second it its series (Midnighters by Scott Westerfeld).’  The first book in the series was already checked out.

My library just purchased a number of e-book titles that are on the summer reading lists for our local high schools.’  Making these available to our teens is great for a number of reasons:’  e-books are portable, good for summer trips, the bookmarking feature could be very useful for preparing for assignments, and they are an alternate format for when print copies are out.’  But the complexity of getting an e-book onto a portable device is going to be a deterrent.’  I feel like teens may lose interest before they even get their first e-book downloaded.

I don’t have any immediate solutions for this.’  The world of e-books in libraries’  is going to continue to change and hopefully improve in terms of ease of use.’  In the meantime, I’m taking it on a case by case basis.’  I have yet to have a case of helping a teen get an e-book on his or her device.’  Maybe they are doing this from home.’  Maybe they are not doing this at all.’  Perhaps I will learn more as I promote our summer reading offerings.

How are things with e-books, OverDrive, and teens in your library?

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