Over the last two months I’ve been loving working with the Apple experts we’ve hired to help us write brilliant ‘How To’ content on our new premium site – iExpert News.
It was in my work with them that they told me about this incredible App for all book lovers.
We leave the detailed tips and guides on getting more from your iPhone and iPad mostly to them, but we always all get involved in the monthly App round-up.
The idea is that we cover 5 absolute must-have apps every month and last week our experts told me about ‘OverDrive‘ – which I’d never heard about before.
Well, I installed it on Friday night and decided to tell you all about it today rather than wait for next month’s iExpert newsletter.
It’s that good!
What is OverDrive?
Overdrive is an App that brings you eBooks and audiobooks (and even films) from your local library, straight to your iPhone and iPad (and even your Mac).
It’s a genius idea.
You need to have a membership of a library in order to borrow books, and it does take a little bit of setting up.
But, once you’re set up, you probably won’t need to buy books anymore!
And here’s the best bit – OverDrive is free to download and there is no charge for borrowing eBooks.
There isn’t even a late fee for not returning them (like with your physical library) since the App deletes all the eBooks you’ve borrowed automatically at the end of your loan period.
What is available to download isn’t going to be the same as the Kindle Store. What you get is whatever book selection your local library has made available electronically. So, that depends on where you are and how proactive your library has been.
My local library comes under a London-wide arrangement which offers more than 20,000 eBooks through the App – including most of the bestsellers and non-fiction books in which I’m interested.
Libraries from all over the world are involved so you should be in luck finding a library in your area that you can become a member of and access through the App. You can, in fact, be a member of more than one library to get access to more eBooks.
And, of course, many libraries these days will let you set up a membership online so you might well not need to ever actually visit your local library if you don’t want to!
The set-up is a bit of a fiddle because you need to have that library membership in order to get to the books. And, you’ll need your library card number and a PIN for that library membership in most cases.
However, once you have that at hand, setting up the App isn’t that difficult.
Reading eBooks on an iPad or iPad Mini is then very simple and the App works brilliantly as an e-reader. The App also syncs across your devices, so I have already found that I am reading on my iPad Mini but listening to audiobooks in the car from my iPhone.
All for free!
Setting up OverDrive
1. Download the App!
First things first, you’ll obviously need to download OverDrive from the App Store (by the way, I did this process entirely on my iPad Mini).
Then you need to set up an OverDrive account within the App – you can’t actually download any eBooks until you’ve done this.
It is the creation of your account that activates the software within OverDrive that prevents users from making copies of the books – i.e. what makes it a library rather than a book store!
You can sign up using your library card (which you’ll need shortly anyway) using your Facebook account or for a dedicated OverDrive account. I set up a dedicated OverDrive account and had to verify by clicking on a link in an email that Overdrive sent me.
2. Find Your Library
Next you need to find a library that is supported in OverDrive and of which you are (or can become) a member.
OverDrive works with thousands of libraries all over the world and these are grouped in the App by country – so I found it best to browse through all those in London as searching for my local library didn’t turn it up.
That was because, in my case, the London libraries are listed by the local government area not by the name of the library! So, dig around in the browsing section. You might not find a small local library in any event and might find you have to join a larger one that serves your area.
This is the hurdle that some people complain about in reviews of the App in the App Store.
I think that’s unfair since clearly OverDrive are adding lots of libraries worldwide – and, once you’re set up, you’re getting a library in your iPad!
It’s worth the effort!
Once you’ve found your library you’ll need to have your library card number and a PIN from that membership and enter them in to add that library to your OverDrive account. Of course, if your local library isn’t listed, you’ll need to find one that you can join and go through that membership process before you can complete this!
3. Search for eBooks
My library is in an area of London called Brent. They are part of a London wide online library service called ‘London Libraries Consortium’. (I didn’t know any of this before I used the App on Friday – you might learn a lot about your local library service as you set this up too!)
The App now shows me this library service as the main page of the App and I can search the large grey menu for eBooks by genre and the menu on the left gives me further options and a search box.
Once I have found a book I want to borrow, I simply click through using the ‘More’ text and am offered the option to ‘Borrow’.
You can only borrow an eBook once you have registered your library membership details. In addition, most libraries implement the same lending rules through OverDrive as they do for physical books. So, oddly, some eBooks might not be available and you’ll have to put them on ‘Hold’ for when they are returned by another reader.
This is a little annoying as a library could offer as many copies as they wanted (as they are digital) but I suspect it has something to do with copyright issues.
Anyway, if the book you want is available and as long as you are within the lending rules of your library (mine allows up to 5 books for 21 days per book) you just click ‘Borrow’ and it is downloaded to the App.
If it’s not available and you put it on ‘Hold’ you’ll get an email via the App when it becomes available.
4. Read and Enjoy
Once your eBook is downloaded to the App, the reading experience is very like a Kindle or iBooks.
Each page is displayed as per the original text and you can swipe back and forth through the pages.. The menu allows you to click through to chapters and you have some other options such as sharing to Facebook or changing the font.
If you have opted for an audiobook, it’s worth checking the ‘Settings’ in the OverDrive menu to make sure you can sync between your devices. That way you can pick up listening at the point you left off on another device. Of course, each device will need the OverDrive App installed.
More Apps and How To’s
I love this App so much that after only a few days using it I had to write about it and spread the word. And, if you’re an avid reader like me, I know you’ll love it too.