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Your public library in the cloud(s)

Julia Champtaloup By Julia Champtaloup Published on September 2, 2016

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I have fond memories of trips to my local library. The smell of the books and the quiet atmosphere were always comforting. How divine it was, visiting on a Saturday afternoon, browsing the stacks and discovering a new book. But now, as libraries face diminishing visitors, they are finding ways to join the digital age instead of fighting it. For those adapting to the digital book and reading on an iPad or Kindle - have your library card ready. You can wirelessly download electronic books from your local library using the Apple iPad or an Android tablet. The great global cloud now offers free eBooks and eAudiobooks.

OverDrive is a relatively new application that lets you borrow books wirelessly and download to the Kindle app on an iPad but you can also download to the Kindle or read in the OverDrive Library. You can also read them on the iPhone but that seems to be diverging a bit too much from what reading a book is all about. OverDrive also allows syncs your digital books across multiple devices, but figuring out how to do that is a challenge. The help section is useful and the company is working to streamline the process more and more. Still, the sight of a small digital bookshelf of free books laying on the proverbial bedside stand is pleasing.

Although local libraries pay for licenses to use each eBook, the book borrowing is free to local library members. Once downloaded, the digital books are treated like borrowed physical books, with limited borrowing periods, renewals and returns. All done online, of course. Those pesky overdue messages and late fees don’t apply because the books disappear off your digital bookshelf automatically on the due date unless you renew them. Downloads are limited to about 10 per device at one time, but if there is a book you aren’t going to read or finish you can return it early and promptly borrow another.

You would think there could be an infinite number of digital copies available but libraries set the number of titles that can be checked (and also because they are paying small license fees). And because there aren’t endless copies to borrow, you may have to wait for a book to be available or request a hold. In the case of a hold - it automatically comes into your inbox when it is available for you to download. How convenient.

OverDrive is now the largest distributor of eBooks for libraries. Libraries in many countries around the world are members and you can easily search for a library near you or specify your search. More and more libraries are coming on board using OverDrive and also buying more titles and several licenses for each title so they can have multiple copies of popular books for borrowing. As the uptake of the app increases, libraries expanding their eBook libraries. Because most public libraries in the US work with top publishers like Hachette, Macmillan, Random House and Simon & Schuster, you’ll find many of today’s popular books and bestsellers available through OverDrive.

All you need is a library card and you are ready to download a whole new world of reading. It is especially good for those quick read series or non-fiction research books. When researching, you can easily access the information you need and screenshot a page and print out for later reference. Cook books and travel guides are handy too. Download and print out useful pages. Even if you love buying hard copy books or digital books, it gets costly.

As we move quickly into the world of new technologies, we are all trying to keep up. With a new application like OverDrive (once mastered), technology can actually help us go back to enjoying some quiet reading on a Saturday afternoon, where ever we are and what ever we desire. 

Julia is a Sydney based writer covering sustainable living, innovation, books and art.

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