Overdrive – downloadable ebooks and audiobooks: now a part of our Networked School Community

Overdrive Logo

Image by South Carolina State Library via Flickr

I wrote this in March 2010.

We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file…

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

…Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

I don’t know how long it was after writing this post that I started reading about Overdrive,  a company providing an option for libraries to lend ebook and audiobook files that will stay on a device for a specified period and then return to the library’s collection for borrowing again. I do know that what I was reading held my interest. Here was a company doing what I had envisaged as possible.

What I did do was discuss Overdrive with our Library team and the school’s Technology committee. Every discussion I had was met with enthusiasm for the idea that our students and staff would be able to download ebooks and audiobooks to their computers and ereading and listening devices. But still, I hesitated. I asked myself questions like:

What if a better option presents itself?

Is it sensible to tie ourselves into platform delivery for ebooks and audiobooks?

Will this company become the frontrunner as an ebook/audiobook borrowing solution?

I think they were good questions, and I thought about them long and hard for at least 6 months. I looked out for other options, but nothing as fluid as Overdrive had presented itself. I was reluctant to tie us into a platform for delivery, but I did want to see our school library move into the ebook/audiobook arena in a serious way. We’re a 1:1 laptop school, and we have some voracious readers who absorb content at a rapid rate. I wanted to see us have an option that would allow a student sitting home at 7.30pm, thinking they might want to read a book, be able to sign into our system and download it to their device. I still don’t know if Overdrive will emerge as the frontrunner as the library ebook/audiobook solution. Nobody knows the answer to that question. Eventually, after more discussion with our library team, we decided to make what we think is going to be a significant and positive change for our library, and we subscribed to the service.

We began working with Overdrive in July 2011, and the system was launched with our staff at the end of the 2011 school year (that’s December in my hemisphere). We probably could have got things going earlier, but if your library is anything like mine, plenty of things get in the way, not the least of which was the work that was going into the development of the Information Fluency program I outlined in my Moving to a Networked School Community post recently. We also decided to begin working with Libguides at the same time (I’ll write another post about that soon) and that took up time as well.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts questions about how Overdrive works, their Frequently Asked Questions page is worth reading. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the system fees; I’ve found that’s what most people want to know first. Here’s the answer to that question (from their FAQ);

System Fees

How much does School Download Library cost?

Pricing for the School Download Library service starts at just $4,000 per year (including $2,000 worth of eBooks and/or audiobooks) for an individual school or a district of up to 2,000 students. For pricing for a larger district, please contact the OverDrive Sales Team at 216-573-6886 Ext. 4, or sales@overdrive.com.

Here’s what the Toorak College site looks like.

We were able to customise the header and were grateful to our Media Studies teacher who helped us come up with a design we were happy with . We’re using the same header for our Libguides site, but that is entitled ‘Library’ and not ‘Digital Collection’ (obviously!). The tab on the Digital Collection site for TC Library will take our students to the Libguides site. We had to make decisions about the look and feel of the site, and what terms we were going to use in the check out process of a book. We opted for using the term ‘My Cart’ for the check out process, because we thought it was a term commonly used on sites and would be familiar to students and staff, even if it does sound like they’re shopping. They are shopping, but the books coming to them are free!

There are some things you need to be mindful of. We are a dual platform school, supporting both Macs and PCs, but the vast majority of students in Yrs 5 – 8 have Mac computers. Many of the audiobooks that are available will not be available to download as an MP3 file on a Mac computer. The vast number available are WMA Audiobook files, and need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be transferred to an iPhone, iPod or iPad. We are going to set up and Overdrive Download Station in our school library to assist students who don’t have access to a PC at home.

Another thing to take note of is the fact that not everything published is available to add to your library content. Publishers make a decision to work with Overdrive, so you’re limited to publishers who have made that decision, and to the content they are offering for  purchase as a digital file. There isn’t a huge raft of Australian content, and hopefully we will see more titles make their way to their marketplace store in the future.

I’ve spent time over this holiday period downloading titles to my iPad via the app they have available in the iTunes store. It’s been incredibly easy. I even managed to impress my hard to impress daughter one morning when she said she’d like to read a book. I got the iPad, opened the app, accessed our library, found a title, added it to my cart, proceeded with checkout, and downloaded it then and there. Within a minute or two she had a book to read. She raised an impressed eyebrow at that one, and that’s no mean feat!

We are going to have to do quite a bit of work with our students when we return to school educating in them in how to use the platform. They’ll ‘get it’ easily, I have no doubt. They need to sign up to Adobe Digital Editions to use ebooks, and download the Overdrive Media Console to use audiobooks. I created a couple of screencasts to demonstrate the steps they need to follow on a computer and through an iPad, and they will be uploaded to our school intranet to help them out. We found a very helpful document created by Adelaide City Council City Libraries explaining the process of downloading audiobooks to PCs and Macs, and how to transfer these books to ereaders and other devices like iPods and iPads. Natalie, our wonderful Library Technician, morphed it to suit our library  - I hope the Adelaide City Council is OK with that!

Our budget has been designed this year to reflect purchases for a print and digital collection. We will still be purchasing printed fiction, and there will be duplication in our print and digital collections. Obviously we will need to monitor usage, and see what the adoption rate is like for the digital collection. It’s going to be interesting to see how things pan out.

I feel comfortable with the decision we have made to go down this path. We have made contact with other school libraries in Australia who have purchased Overdrive, and it’s been extremely helpful knowing that some advice from others in our country is only a phone call away. I’ve been pretty impressed with the support offered from the Overdrive team. Obviously they are in the United States, and the time zones aren’t all that friendly, but our questions are usually addressed in a 24 hr turnaround. They have provided promotional material using our Library header image, and we’ll be circulating that around    our Library and in classrooms on our return to school.

What it comes down to is that we are providing another avenue for our students to access fiction and non-fiction reading and listening material. This year is the National Year of Reading here in Australia, and we aim to do whatever we can to help our students discover the joy that can come from immersing yourself in a good book. We also see this as part of our Networked School Community model. We are providing our community with a way of accessing our collection from anywhere, at anytime. That’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things pan out as the year progresses.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Overdrive – downloadable ebooks and audiobooks: now a part of our Networked School Community

  1. Jenny,
    More on the Apple announcement:
    Apple announces education event Jan. 19 — iTextbooks coming? | VentureBeat
    https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/drt/si?p=CAEYqa6I-QQ&ut=AFAKxlQAAAAATw-lrV632cZ5dm1U8SYS9_6G85bV50YT

  2. Pingback: Overdrive access? | Handhelds in School Libraries NJ

  3. Pingback: eBooks, ePlatforms, digital books – for borrowing! | wonderbooks

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