Posted on May 24, 2016 at 6:00 am
Confession #1: I love books.
I’ve had a book (or three) in my hand, in my backpack, or on my nightstand since the time I figured out letters combined to make words.
Confession #2: I’m fairly new to eBooks.
Seems contradictory, right? Even though I’ve had a Kindle for a few years, I have been slow to download eBooks. Before working at the Library District, I had read a few free e-titles, but that’s it.
Confession #3: Give me a bargain and I’ll give you a smile.
If I’m going to spend money on a book, I want the physical thing in my hands—a new hardcover with a shiny dust jacket or a compact paperback with a crackable spine. Don’t get me started on that new book smell. I simply have a hard time opening my wallet for a digital book.
So when I learned about OverDrive and that it was a direct source to tons of free eBooks, I jumped at the opportunity to indulge my book habit. All I needed was my library card. Added benefit: I don’t need to try to cram another book in my already-full bookshelves, avoiding the exasperated looks from my spouse.
In the two months that I’ve been working at the library, I’ve checked out an eBook with lots of pictures for my 4-yr-old and six titles for myself. I don’t see my new habit of 3+ eBooks per month stopping any time soon.
Confession #4: Knowledge is my drug.
I get bored somewhat easily. This may be a character trait (flaw?) of nearly every writer I’ve ever met. One way to curb the boredom is to discover something new. So I cornered Cheryl Zobel, Adult Collection Development Librarian and one of our OverDrive specialists, to learn its ins and outs.
First and foremost, our library members really like eBooks and audiobooks. In 2015, OverDrive checkouts totaled 374,040 eBooks and audiobooks, up almost 19% from 2014. Plus at the current rate of OverDrive checkouts, 2016 will easily top the numbers of 2015.
Did I mention that I love a bargain? I’ve seen the prices of eBooks and audiobooks at Amazon, usually around $10-15 for a new, popular title. So you can understand why my jaw dropped to the floor when I learned that the library pays 5–10 times more. The explanation can get fairly technical about the delivery platform, automated digital holds, and automated expiration dates, but the biggest takeaway seems to be that the publishers set the pricing and the terms. In some cases the library doesn’t own the eBook or audiobook permanently, but on a metered basis, meaning we have it for a certain number of checkouts or a certain length of time. Talk about sticker shock!
I think more than anything, this knowledge helped me understand the complexities going on behind the scenes in library collections. I appreciate even more the work and library funding needed to offer eBooks and audiobooks.
Confession #5: Thoughtful technology makes me purr.
I may be slow to adopt technology, but once I find something I love I’m a loyal fan. OverDrive has an app for just about every platform: Android, Apple, Windows, Kindle and Chromebook. And it is directly accessible from the Digital Library in a browser. So you can check out a title online any day at any time without going into the library. Easy technology is easy to love.
Confession #6: Search filters rock my world.
I learned a lot about search filters when I was working on research projects at my university library. They give you power to pinpoint a resource. Who doesn’t like to find exactly what they’re looking for? With OverDrive, you can search for titles in multiple ways: by genre, author, age range for kids and so on.
So I’ve read nearly every Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich (confession 6.5?), but it wasn’t until I was looking for a new one that I ran across Evanovich’s Lizzy and Diesel series. With the click of a button I had it checked out in OverDrive and happily reading all night long.
Confession #7: Want an opinion? I’ve got one!
Another very cool feature in OverDrive is the “Add titles you can recommend” button at the bottom of each page of titles. With this suggestion feature, you can suggest up to 5 titles to the library every 90 days. “Suggestions are great,” Cheryl said, “because it gives me insights to what our readers like to read.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, it is impossible (logistically and fiscally) to purchase every reader’s suggestions. So far the library has been able to purchase about 30–50% of what members have been suggesting. Cheryl uses a mix of art and science to help with the process. The science: OverDrive’s technology can filter titles by amount of reader use at other libraries and, for brand new titles, what libraries are buying. The art of selecting titles is in building a diverse collection. This means that the library may not have every Jack Reacher novel as an eBook, but the collections team does focus on having a mix of print books, eBooks and audiobooks for all members to enjoy in their favorite formats.
Your challenge (should you choose to accept it)
I’m issuing you (and everyone you know) a challenge to try out OverDrive. Even without an eReader device, you can read and listen on your computer or smartphone.
Worried that you won’t find something you’ll like? The Library District currently has 51,437 titles available through OverDrive. I bet you will find more than one that you’ll love.