St. Lawrence County library users have access to downloadable e-books and audio books via Overdrive, a service we implemented in 2011 that allows users to read (or listen to) books on their mobile phones, tablets, Kindles, and dedicated e-reader devices. All you need is a device, a library card, and your PIN number to sign up for Overdrive or access your account.
Overdrive has recently added a new application (app) to their offerings – users now have a choice between the original Overdrive app and the new Libby app. Both apps are developed by Overdrive, provide users access to all of the e-books books in our catalog, and provide the basic features and functions necessary to read or listen to books, place holds, create wish lists, and manage accounts.
So, what’s the difference? At first tap – the Libby promotional video focuses on “One Tap” as their theme – there’s a world of difference. Libby is bright and modern, with a strong visual component that encourages users to tap and swipe throughout the app. Overdrive is more subdued in appearance, and sometimes requires the user to delve more deeply into the menus to make changes to search parameters, settings, and other functions.
Both apps allow users to store library card information for more than one library, but with Libby, you can be signed into multiple libraries simultaneously and switch seamlessly between them. Libby also allows users to input more than one card for each library, which may be useful for family members who share devices, yet wish to use their own library card to maximize checkout and hold limits.
Both apps allow users to download items for offline reading, select whether to download using mobile data or only wifi, or read in a browser to save space on your device.
All loans and holds are consolidated on a single shelf, which makes it easier to keep track of checkouts, loan periods, and what’s available to borrow. A new feature is the Activity tab which keeps track of your reading history, so if you tend to jump from one chapter or section of a book to another, the history remembers where you’ve been so you can return to a previous section. Positions, bookmarks, and notes are kept in sync across all devices.
What’s there not to like with the new Libby app? Not much, at first glance. The user interface is more friendly, and there’s a lot more to explore and learn for users who wish to take advantage of the improved and expanded features. For a bare-bones user, the system is intuitive and easy to navigate.
I tested the app, briefly, with my Android smart phone and my iPad. Both versions worked well and were similar, although, as with any app, the experience varies from platform to platform, and from phone to tablet. Upon initial set-up, the first library it chose for me was Morristown, based on cell towers, not GPS. It was easy enough to search for my home library and select Lisbon. As long as you select a library within the North Country Library System, your library card will provide the same access to the Overdrive catalog.
When I added a second library system (I have a card for the New York Public Library, which all residents of New York State are entitled to obtain), the app did as promised and consolidated my checkouts into one list. Switching between NCLS and NYPL was also easy. Downloading books was no different between apps after selecting the wi-fi only option. Having the app installed on two devices simultaneously was no problem and everything was updated as I switched between one device and the other.
I recruited my daughter (thank you, Abigail) to test the app as well, and to test its compatibility with her Kindle Fire. She installed Libby on her iPad and was immediately impressed with its user interface compared to the Overdrive app. With a few taps, her newly checked-out book appeared on her Kindle. Thus far, she prefers Libby and reports that it is considerably more feature-rich.
At this point in time, Overdrive reports that both apps – the original Overdrive and the newly-released Libby – will co-exist side-by-side on all three platforms: Android, Apple, and Windows. I suspect, however, that Libby will eventually replace Overdrive as the only choice. For now, e-book users can choose which app best suits their needs.
If you have questions about Overdrive, Libby, or how to access e-books with your NCLS library card, please stop by your local public library and let us know how we can assist you. If you don’t have a library card, you may obtain one at any public library. If you haven’t visited your local library recently, stop in and check us out!