by Marc Saltzman)
Tablets and ebook readers offer a number of advantages over its paper-based brethren: carry hundreds of books on something thinner than most magazines; it's possible to shop anywhere and anytime; you can adjust the font size and style to your liking; and dictionary definitions are a tap away.
Plus, digital books are often cheaper than soft- and hardcover versions. Sue Monk Kidd's Invention of Wings, for example, costs about $17 for the physical book at Barnes & Noble, but roughly $12 for the ebook.
But, guess what? You can borrow ebooks and audiobooks, for free, from your local library. The best part? No more late fees, and you can stay at home in your jammies.
As long as you have your library card and the newly updated OverDrive Media Console app installed on your favorite reading device, you're in business.
Note: While reviewed on an iPad, the free OverDrive app is also available on other iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch), as well as Android, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Windows Phone, Blackberry PlayBook, Mac and Windows. Also be aware, libraries often offer other ways to borrow books, some of which require computer software before syncing the ebook to a tablet or ebook reader via a USB cable. OverDrive is just, well, easier, plus it supports audiobooks, too.
To get going, you first download and install the app from your favorite app store (or go to omc.overdrive.com and click on your platform of choice). Once installed, you'll be prompted to create an Adobe ID, if you don't already have one, and authorize it to work with OverDrive.
Next, inside the OverDrive app, tap the section titled "Add a library" and either search by name or city, or browse for library by country and state (listed alphabetically). Once you've selected your library of choice, you can access its official website within the OverDrive app; if you're not taken to your library's ebook section, you may need to select it manually with your fingertip.
According to OverDrive, there are more than 22,000 libraries supported worldwide.
You'll be prompted to enter your library card number, and perhaps a PIN – by default, it's the last four digits of your home telephone number (in my experience) -- and you might want to check off to remember for your library to remember your info for future visits.
The last step is to borrow books or audiobooks, but be aware selection will vary by library and availability. Yes, even though these are digital files, there's not an infinite number of them. If the book you want is available, you can download it immediately via Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity, and start reading it on your device (or hearing it, if it's an audiobook). You'll see the day it expires, which means you won't have access to it after that – but you can stay warm at home and not worry about racing to the library to drop it off in time.
If the book you want isn't available, you can place a hold on it and you'll be notified via email when it's available. You can also create "wish lists" for your own reference.
Reading an ebook inside of OverDrive should be a familiar experience to anyone who's ever read an ebook before. You'll tap "Bookshelf" to see what you've got to read or listen to, with a thumbnail image of the front cover. As you'd expect, you flip pages with your finger, you can adjust font size and style, adjust the background color, access table of contents, place a virtual bookmark and get a dictionary definition on a word.
Because OverDrive supports "cloud" syncing, you can install OverDrive on any number of devices you own, and always have access to your collection and bookmarked pages. Note: OverDrive Media Console must be installed on all devices and you'll need to be signed in with the same Adobe ID on all devices. This feature is called OverDrive One.
As you can see, borrowing books or audiobooks from your local library might seem like a daunting task but OverDrive makes it a simple process. While it doesn't take too long, the only tedious part is creating and authorizing an Adobe account, choosing a library and typing in your card number. After that, it's smooth sailing.
Not only you can start reading and listening to timeless classics and the latest books – including New York Times bestsellers – but it won't cost you anything and there's no need to schlep to a library to borrow and back again to return it.