Public libraries are an incredibly valuable community resource that sometimes get taken for granted. As we transition from print to digital media formats, libraries have been forced to defend their relevance — both to the community and their funders. The Overdrive app is a way you can support your local library while checking out top quality ebooks and audiobooks to your favorite mobile device or web browser, for free.
The Overdrive ebook app connects with your account at your local public library, and lets you download top ebooks and audiobooks for free. It’s a little confusing because you need an Overdrive account and an account at your local library, but just follow their getting started guide and you’ll be up and running in no time.
I’ve been using it for just a short time, but already I’ve been enjoying surfing all the great new titles available at my library, creating a wish list, downloading the ones I want, and putting a hold on the ones that’re checked out.
I feel a lot freer browsing here than I do in the Kindle or Google Play stores, since there is ABSOLUTELY NO COST for trying a book, realizing I don’t like it, and putting it back. That low-stakes experience makes it so much more fun to load up a bunch of titles and take my time to explore which ones appeal to me.
I also view using this app as an act of political expression — a stand against commercializing books so they’re only available to those who can pay the cover price. Libraries have a proud history of democratizing access to information for people of any social class. That’s a tradition that is threatened as more people succumb to the Google-, Apple-, and Amazon-created illusion that we can only access books on our devices by buying them through their ebook stores. To the extent that my actions can help support my local library, I’d rather get my media this way.
I wanted to make sure that my local library gets some kind of “credit” when I check out a book. Their funding has been cut back lately, so all the libraries in Oakland now have these weird, irregular hours. My hope was that, by using this service, I could help my library show its funders that it’s serving our community and help justify more funding to the library.
I asked my local librarian about this today, and he said that when you take out books from Overdrive, you’re really searching your local library’s catalog and checking it out from them, so they can track all those check-outs and prove how many community members they’re serving. Overdrive just makes it easier to do all that on mobile. He seemed excited that I’m using it.
He did say, though, that Oakland Public Library has some ebooks and audiobooks that are not available through Overdrive (they maintain their own separate stock of titles they can serve up), and that I should search the library catalog directly sometimes to make sure I’m not missing anything.
Yes, pretty much any platform you can imagine is covered. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Chromebook, Windows Phone, Windows 8, Kindle Fire HD, and NOOK® HD/HD+.
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