OverDrive Blames Kindle eBook Problem on Technical Snafu

If you've been checking ebooks out of your library over the past month, you may have noticed a certain problem with OverDrive. Numerous library patrons have been complaining on Amazon's forums and elsewhere that new titles which libraries are adding to their catalogs are not available to read on the Kindle.

From what I can tell, this is just a technical snafu.  I can explain why, although it might be a little boring.


Here's what I know:

OverDrive is having an issue with their system. It affects titles published since the beginning of the year, and it is impacting publishers both big (Macmillan, Harlequin, HarperCollins) and small (Overlook Press, Sourcebooks, and more).

Awareness of this problem is so widespread that I've had 3 different people raise the issue over the past couple days (Thanks, Anne, Mary, Phil!). I don't yet have a definitive answer for you, but I do have a few nuggets of information.

To start, It's safe to assume that this is not an action taken by the major publishers; this issue is also hitting smaller independent publishers. Also, _some_ newly published titles from the Big 5 are available to read on the Kindle (here, here, here).

But it's not clear what the issue is. Amazon isn't talking. I've queried them several times, with no response. (This would be frustrating if it weren't the norm.)

OverDrive isn't saying much publicly, but David Burleigh told me that "We’re aware of the situation and are working on it with Amazon.  When I have an update on resolution, I will share it with you."

Curiously, that's not quite what they're telling publishers. I don't know yet what OD has told libraries, but I have a publisher source who is affected by this and was told:

We are currently experiencing delays in the process that supports Kindle fulfillment.  We have escalated the issue with the appropriate parties at Amazon and are working to resolve as a matter of urgency.

My source wasn't aware of the issue until I brought it up.

So what's going on here?

At this point I really don't know, but in the absence of any new info my working hypothesis is that this really is a technical snafu. It's a wide-ranging and very embarrassing technical snafu, but I have no evidence at this time to disprove that claim.

I know that there is some speculation (paired with out of context quotes) going around that Amazon is abandoning library ebooks, but I would remind you that that speculation came from a source which also claimed only Big 5 titles were affected, and that no newly published Big 5 titles were available on the Kindle.

Neither claim is supported by the present facts. Some newly published titles are getting through OverDrive to the Kindle platform, including Big 5 titles.

Folks, as much as I would like to join the crazed speculation, all the information I have in my possession points to this being an actual technical snafu.

I do plan to follow up, but at this time I do not think there is much of a story here.

Until I have more information, may I suggest that you use this to read your library ebooks:


I know that is not very helpful (it is funny, though) but it does illustrate a point which I want to make.

Amazon and OverDrive have worked together to support library ebooks on the Kindle since September 2011, and I would expect it to continue. If Amazon did abandon library ebook support, they would be handing their competitors an advantage. Amazon would also be giving up on all that data on reading habits, and the chance to upsell a library ebook or related titles.

Frankly, Amazon benefits from their deal with OD to such a degree that I expect one to buy the other, not for them to break up.

images by Raymond Brysonorinoko42

About Nate Hoffelder (11473 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

4 Comments on OverDrive Blames Kindle eBook Problem on Technical Snafu

  1. Thanks, Nate. I appreciate your efforts. Technical snafu is way better than vile conspiracy. It is good to know the sky is not falling. In the meantime, there are a load of Overdrive books on my wish list which are all in Kindle format, and then there is my own ever growing TBR pile.

  2. Hi. I would just like to point out that it is true that there is no book released by the Big 5 since Feb 1st available in Overdrive in Kindle format, but they are available in ePub or Overdrive formats. You can verify this by simply looking through Overdrive’s own list of available books. (https://www.overdrive.com/publishers/) New release Kindle editions are fine, for the most part, up until the end of Jan (notice all of your examples are Jan releases) and then nothing for Feb.

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