Friday, February 25, 2011

From the Library to Your iPad - Via OverDrive

I downloaded the OverDrive Media Console software to my iPad tonight so that I could download e-books directly to my iPad from my public library system.  In the past, I've checked out e-books for my Sony Reader, but that involves first having to download to my PC for a secondary transfer of the e-books to the Reader.  OverDrive for iPad sounds so much simpler...I thought.

First problem encountered: how to make the Harris County Public Library system "save" so that I don't have to search for it every time I start the software?  After much trial and error, I find that I don't have to save, but I do have to log-in at each new start with my 14-digit library card number (a number I use so often that I have somehow committed it to memory).

Second problem encountered: there are very, very few books available these days; each choice requires the book to be placed on hold for later notification from the library when it becomes available.  Since the system only has one or two copies of each book, that could take months.

Third problem encountered: when I finally found a nonfiction book called Orange Is the New Black that was actually available (about a woman who was sent to prison for a crime she had committed in her youth, some ten years earlier), I got the title all the way to "checkout," pushed download, and was told that I needed to authorize my iPad through the Adobe website in order to use their software to complete the download.

Fourth problem encountered: after finally remembering my sign-in and pass word (set up months earlier to authorize the Sony Reader), I finally got the iPad authorized, and the book downloaded.

Fifth problem encountered: opening the book - not nearly as simple or intuitive a process as one might imagine, but I finally got there.

So now I have a 375-page book on loan to my iPad for 14 days, after which time the file will self-corrupt and become unreadable.  Isn't technology great?

By the way, I just heard today that some publishers are building "self-destruction" software into the e-books they SELL to libraries.  HarperCollins, for instance, kills the library e-books after they have been checked out just 26 times, the theory being that a physical copy of a book only lasts through 26 checkouts and the library needs to buy a new copy at that point - electronic blips or not.  I have to believe that a physical book is good for more than 26 reads.  The real number can't be 26, can it?

I suspect that I will eventually grow to love the OverDrive software, but getting it set-up and functioning has cost me almost an hour of valuable time tonight.  I already like the larger iPad screen so much that my Sony Reader is looking more and more like an antique destined to spend the rest of its life in the closet.  I do have some suggestions for enhancements to the software, however, if anyone at OverDrive is listening.

P.S.  This same app is good for checking out audio books from your local library but I haven't tried that function yet.


  1. I've just spent a good portion of the day keeping tabs of various publisher and library blogs discussing HarperCollins. And getting angrier and angrier. It took me a bit to realize, too, that this doesn't just affect OverDrive customers, but everybody - something I will be asking our Acquisitions people to consider the next time we're looking at e-book packages through NetLibrary or other vendors.

    No, 26 is definitely NOT the average number of checkouts before a book is too worn out and must be replaced. Libraries mend their books - except in extreme circumstances (mold, bodily fluids, damage that causes the actual text of the book to be unreadable, damage that reduces page margins so much that the book cannot be rebound, etc.), books, even paperbacks, might last for 50-200 checkouts.

  2. Have fun with OverDrive, by the way - I miss having access to it. Sorry the setup was such a pain. I've never used OverDrive for e-books, but I LOVED it for downloadable audio books. I wasn't pleased that I was forced to check out a book for three weeks and couldn't "return" it before the end of that time - this, and the 10-item total checkout limit, led me to make a conscious decision to not check out shorter young adult and juvenile fiction. My mom tells me, though, that library users at that library can now choose shorter checkout periods if they wish, so I guess it's a little better.

  3. It seems that publishers are becoming very greedy about e-books. They restrict their flexibility no matter that they keep raising the prices - I still say that I should be able to use an e-book exactly the way I use a physical book. I should be able to copy it to all the devices I own that display e-books and I should be able to loan them to friends.

    Now, along comes HarperCollins with this insane plan to limit the number of times a library copy can be read. It is already difficult to get libraries enough copies of e-books because publishers want to limit the number of copies they keep on the "shelves." The queues are already outrageously long...this will make it worse and will discourage libraries from even buying e-books.

    Are publishers trying to kill the goose that laid all those e-book golden eggs for them? Fools, if so.

  4. This business with publishers limiting e-book checkouts is causing outrage all across the library world.

    The more that I've read about it the more I understand why I can rarely find something available that I would want to read on my ereader at my library's website.

    It seems that neither Simon and Schuster nor Macmillan allow ebooks sales to libraries! Who knew?

    On a lighter note, I'm feeling your pain with the ipad ap and overdrive. If you feel like having a laugh, I blogged about my downloading experiences at my blog.