Ebooks: They’re Not Just for Quarantine Anymore

Since Maxwell won’t have in person programs till at least January, I’m going to start presenting Tech Programs as blog posts.

Today’s post is an introduction to OverDrive, one of our vendors for electronic titles.

Since Maxwell won’t have in person programs till at least January, I’m going to start presenting Tech Programs as blog posts. Rather than having a big, “hour-long” post (as it were) once a month, though, I’ll post a briefer, more focused post every other Thursday.

Today’s post is an introduction to OverDrive, one of our vendors for ebooks, audiobooks, and other electronic material. On September 10 I’ll have a post on hoopla, the other vendor.

During the shutdown, many library patrons gained a certain appreciation for the availability of ebooks through Maxwell. While holding a glowing device to read is certainly not the same experience as holding and paging through a book in ink on paper, when we were unable to circulate those meatspace books, it was good to still be able to read their texts electronically.

Even in normal times, though, ebooks have some advantages that can make them the first choice on occasion:

  • You can adjust the size of the print or even the typeface itself for your own optimal comfort. This can be useful if, for example, the book you want to read isn’t available in large print or if you find certain typefaces harder to read.
  • Their marginal weight and volume are 0. That is, you can carry as many as you like on your device without increasing the weight of your device or how full your bags are at all. This is quite useful when taking a trip out of town.
  • Continuing the travel theme, they return themselves on the due date, so you don’t have to worry about staying too long at the beach, at the pyramids, or atop K2 with library books in your pack.

The best way to start with ebooks is to browse the collections. Here are links to OverDrive and hoopla:

For today’s post I’ll look at OverDrive. I’ll cover hoopla 2 weeks from now.

When you go to the OverDrive site, you see something you’re probably familiar with at tangible libraries: a display of new and popular books and audiobooks arranged in various groups. Here are the titles of the current browsing collections:

  • 19th Amendment 100 Year Anniversary
  • Guides to Antiracism
  • YA Books That Broke Our Heart
  • Keep Calm & Carry On: Kids Picks for Tough Times
  • Best of 2020 So Far
  • Books Written by Black Authors
  • Coping with Stress & Anxiety
  • Pride 2020
  • I’m Bored! Kids Activity Books
  • What are OCPL Patrons Reading?

Notice that across the top of each cover image there’s either an orange bar showing that the item is available or a white bar showing that there’s a wait list for it.

Banners reading 'Available' and 'Wait List'

Back at the top of the page is where to find the tools you can use to look for books & audio books.

The Subjects link takes you to a page listing several fiction genres and a number of categories of nonfiction. Collections drops down to show you links to the 4 types of collections in OverDrive: ebooks, audiobooks, videos, and magazines. Kindle Books is useful if you have a Kindle; Kindles use Amazon’s proprietary format for ebooks and can’t use other formats, so it can be convenient to limit your search to titles that have a Kindle version. Lastly, Search drops down a search box where you can type in something to search on (often an author’s name or a specific title, but keywords or phrases related to what you’re looking for also work).

If you like some titles you find and want to check them out, you’ll need some way to read them on your device. For mobile devices or Windows machines, getting the app you need (Libby) and setting it up is pretty straightforward. Go to the appropriate “store,” …

install, … and start the app. Libby will guide you through the setup process (you’ll need the barcode from the back of your library card and your PIN), and then you’ll be able to check things out and read/watch/listen to them.

On a Mac or Linux machine, you can still use OverDrive, but there isn’t a version of Libby that runs natively. The most straightforward way to read things is to read them in your web browser.