top of page

Overdrive and Libraries

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Anonymous asked: hey I saw your thing about not being able to afford books and/ or get to the library, and I have some similar problems. I don't know if your library has this, but mine has an ebook lending library called Overdrive that has really helped me out. Ours usually at least will have some of the more popular books so I can read those for free. I'm not trying to be ablist or 'splainy, I just thought like if you weren't aware of the possibilities that it could maybe help you out! Again, sorry to bug!

Hi Nonnie!

I appreciate where you’re coming from. And I appreciate the attempt to help. Thank you.

I kind of mentioned it in passing in the post that Overdrive, while great, isn’t always an option.

I love Overdrive.

I used it to reread a bunch of my favorite regencies by Marion Chesney. But it doesn’t always work when you’re hunting for something more current. In a weird way, you’ve hit on something that literally affects both of us for different reasons.

Here’s why: Say that I want to check out a book on Overdrive. It means that the following has to occur…

A library has to have access to Overdrive. Not all do. It is expensive. The library Rose works at has access to it through a consortium… aka a bunch of libraries pooled their funds to get access to it. She lives in an area where that is possible. Parts of my state don’t have that luxury.

So if a library has access to Overdrive, there’s the second problem. The book has to be on Overdrive. A lot of books aren’t for a variety of reasons.

  • The big one is publishers being scared of losing sales. There’s whole publishing houses, including some of the big Five, that will not publish on Overdrive.

  • Authors/Publishers being afraid of piracy. This is a real and valid concern. The number of pirated books out there is always growing. And Overdrive is one place where pirates go.

  • Convenience… as an indie it is hard to get your book on Overdrive without jumping through a lot of hoops. Also for a lot of Indie/Small Pub books, going into Kindle Unlimited is how they make their money. Putting a book on Overdrive renders you ineligible for KU.

Assuming the book is on Overdrive. There are a few other caveats and considerations. The way Overdrive works is that most books only are allowed a preset number of e-book checkouts. And there are a set number of checkouts at time. For most books it’s one checkout at a time for a total of approximately 26 checkouts.

So to put into a real world scenario. Say you wanted to read “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang.  It’s the it book right now. Your local library may only have one copy. So can only have one check out at a time. For most books, there’s a hold list. Say that hold list is 30 people long. There is a strong likelihood that the people at the end of the list will not be able to check out the book unless the library buys another copy.  And if one of those people checks it out but doesn’t read it?  It still counts as one of the 26. And these copies are library system specific so you can’t get them through things like inter-library loan.

So why doesn’t the library buy more copies? Have an unlimited number of check outs? Etc.?  Overdrive books are more expensive. Based on what I see when I looked into putting our books into Overdrive it is about 2.5 times more expensive for a library to buy. So an ebook that costs $5 for a regular reader will cost $12.50 for a library that wants to buy it for Overdrive. That adds up. To get an unlimited license, libraries are looking at spending $80 and up per book. The sad truth is that they don’t do it for most genre fiction.  Hell, they don’t do it for most non-genre fiction. They can’t afford to. So when the check out limit is reached… well… that’s it.   

On top of that, the amount of books you can check out and how long you can have them for varies wildly between libraries.  Rose can check out 10 books at a time through the system she works at and 12 books at a time through the system where she lives.  One system has a max checkout length of 14 days while the other has 21.  Lark can only check out 3 at a time and 6 total per month, and her max checkout length is 7 days.  All of that depends on the deal your library has with Overdrive.

(Hilariously while researching the facts for this we discovered that the library Rose works at has The Kiss Quotient available for hold. While the library where she lives… which happens to be the largest library system in the U.S. New York Public Library doesn’t. It’s not even listed in Overdrive. Which means that NYPL likely has used up all of its checkouts.)

I’m really glad Overdrive exists. And I do use it. It just has a lot of limitations. And good luck finding romance on it… especially if you live in a district like mine which is really puritanical (complete with pearl clutching). Romance is seriously disparaged here. You might find Lisa Kleypas and Nora Roberts on Overdrive. But good luck with people like Alyssa Cole or Suzan Tisdale.

If you can use Overdrive, use it. Just be aware of the limitations. Here’s a really great article about it.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about Overdrive and why it’s great but limited.  LOL Even though it wasn’t your intention. 

P.S. this wasn’t bugging. ^_^

61 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page