Many public libraries on the US and around the world lend ebooks through OverDrive, 3M Cloud Library, and other services.
When it comes to fiction, OverDrive is the most used platform. OD offers apps for Android, Windows Phone, and iOS. It also lets you read in your web browser and works with most ereaders, including the Kindle (but only in the US).
Here's how you can read OverDrive ebooks.
First Things First
To start, you will need a library card for a library which is also an OverDrive partner. You can search for a local library through the OverDrive website.
Most libraries will only issue a library card to local residents, but a handful do issue cards to non-residents. You'll of course need to get a library ebook before checking out any ebooks, and for that you'll need to check with the library.
Once you have the library card (you may also need a pin or password), stop and ask yourself this:
Do you want to read on the Kindle or in your web browser, or do you want to read on OverDrive's apps?
I'm asking you this question now, because the steps you take will differ depending on your choice. You can read the errata section for more details as to why.
If I were you, I would use the Kindle. It's easier. But the choice is yours, and I will lay out both methods.
Sit down at your computer, and visit your library's digital branch on the OverDrive website. Mine looks like this:
Browse the page, and once you find an available ebook you like you can check it out using the library card number and pin.
Once you have the ebook in your account, you can read it in your web browser (with most titles) or send it to your Kindle.
If you have a Kindle account and you're in the US, you can read most OverDrive library ebooks on your Kindle. It is in fact easier to read on your Kindle than it is to read in Overdrive's own apps.
After you've checked out an ebook, select the option to download the Kindle ebook.
This will take you to Amazon.com and, after you log in, you'll be presented with a page where you can choose to send the ebook to your Kindle ereader, Fire tablet, or Kindle app.
If the option is available, that is less work than using OverDrive's apps. But if it's not, here's how to read the ebook on an OverDrive app.
Before you can read an ebook on an OverDrive app, you'll need to download and install an app. OD offers apps for 4 mobile devices:
I've just spent the past several hours struggling with the Android app, and according to OverDrive's website the basic procedure is the same across all the apps.
You'll need to set up an OverDrive account inside the app. You can either create a new account or log in with your Facebook credentials.
Once you've logged in, you'll be prompted to search for a library where you have a library card. Select it, and then log in to that library with your library card and pin.
The app will save the info, so you won't have to do this nonsense a second time.
Now that the ebook is checked out, find the ebook in your bookshelf. Press the download button, and choose the option to download the Epub ebook. Then confirm your choice. This should automatically send the book directly to your OverDrive app.
To find and read your ebook, open the sidebar menu and choose the bookshelf option. This will take you to a menu where you can see all of the ebooks downloaded to the device you're holding.
You can select one of the ebooks and it will open:
And now you can read the ebook!
Here are a few of the problems and quirks I've encountered.
- You might want to change the default checkout period from 7 days to 21 days. You can find this under the settings menu.
- The option to read on the Kindle is only available in the US, sorry.
- For some unknown reason, I can't check out an ebook in my web browser and read it in the OverDrive (Android) app.
- There's an option in the settings menu to exclude mature content from your search results, and another option to prevent mature covers from being shown.
- Here's the link to the OverDrive help pages.
image by Raymond Bryson