To be honest, I know way more than I want to about OverDrive. As the point of contact for both patron and staff training on the e-books and audiobook download service, it’s my business to know how it works inside and out.
Thanks to the recent redesign of OverDrive’s website and checkout procedure, I just redid our websites help pages and all of the library’s brochures on the subject. BrochureS, you may ask? Yes. Six of them (PDF):
- Mobile Devices (including Kindle Fire and Nook Color)
- Non-Fire Kindles
- Black and White Nooks and Non-Kindle E-Readers
- Sony Reader Wi-Fi
- OverDrive READ
Why? Because the process of setting up the software and getting an item to your device varies widely depending on which device you are using. Oh, and now you can read e-books in a browser, too – but only about 60% of the available titles. If you want to use Internet Explorer to view them, you’ll need to install a plug-in. And if you want to download to a black and white Kindle, you can use wi-fi. Unless the title was published by Penguin, then you need to transfer it via USB. Yes, and that audiobook you want will only work if you are using a PC to transfer to WMA compatible device and SURPRISE!! your phone can do almost anything but read a WMA file. And yes, that mp3 will work on your iPod, but you need to change your iTunes settings first. The exceptions to the rules are maddening!! It makes it seem as if there are no rules and all of this is some cruel tech joke we’re playing to test the limits of our patrons’ patience. If I’m this frustrated, I can’t imagine how non-techies must feel. Actually, I can. Because some have yelled at me as if it was my fault the process was this complicated.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I don’t blame OverDrive, necessarily. It has to be hard to make a product compatible with every device there is. Haggling with the publishers can’t be easy, either. I could blame the publishers for not making their audiobooks available in mp3 format or imposing restrictions on Amazon users, but the rational side of me knows they are running scared that e-publishing will be the downfall of the their industry. We saw what happened with the music industry, right? Change is scary all around.
As a techie, you may assume I am a consumer of e-books, but I’m not. Perhaps if I traveled more I would take advantage of an e-reader to lighten my packing load. Or, if my car had an aux jack I might download audiobooks to my phone and plug in. I have tried reading e-books on my phone, and I just don’t find it convenient. It’s not the font size, because that can be changed. Perhaps it is the time it takes to load each page. Or maybe that’s just one trick too many for this old dog. I’m not certain. What I do know is given a choice, I would always choose the physical book. One advantage of library e-books – no mysterious smears on the pages (is that a booger?!?) or funky smells emanating from the books.
Even though I am not an e-book consumer, I definitely have opinions about the different e-readers. Among the black-and-white e-readers, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is my favorite. It is very intuitive, combining the ease of using an OverDrive app with the features of an e-ink reader (lower energy usage, readable in the sun, etc.). It has a browser, but not one I’d want to use extensively. Among color units/tablets, I am partial to Android devices. iOS (iPhone/iPad) is a close second, but only because of the higher price point and the fact that I am more familiar with Android from my experience with my phone. These are powerful tablets with apps that are designed to be intuitive. While I like the Kindle Fire, the issue that takes it out of the running for me is the fact that you can download the app and use that to download ePub format to read withing the app or you can use the website and download Kindle format. And if you download the Kindle format from within the app, you can’t read it in the app. Patrons find this confusing, and I think that learning this process is already confusing enough! That said, it looks like this is here to stay, unless publishers can successfully freeze libraries out of the market (like I’m sure they have wanted to do ever since the creation of the First Sale Doctrine).
I just want to take a moment and thank everyone who has helped make Connect 2 U a success. A big thank you goes out to Michael Stephens for offering our library the opportunity to participate in this program. His team of students from San Jose State University has done a fantastic job of creating modules and responding to participants! Thanks also go to Evelyn, our fearless leader, for supporting the program and providing incentives to make it that much more rewarding to participate. I am also proud of the staff at the East Greenbush Community Library for sticking with the program week after week, despite increasing demands on their time in the library. It is my sincere hope that everyone walked away from this experience with something valuable, whether it was a tool or skill that will help library staff in their jobs or insight into how to train a group of people at varying levels of technological comfort. This has been a wonderful experience – thank you!