Those of us with a library card now have another means of easily accessing the local library’s free eBook and audiobook collection. OverDrive, a long-time manager of eBook collections for libraries, recently released their new Android app Libby.
For the uninitiated, a library card can get you a lot more than a dog-eared copy of The Girl on the Train these days. Most public libraries have long since entered the digital age and provide patrons with the convenience of eBooks and audiobooks at the same free price. It is worth noting, though, that not all library networks are the same, and many publishers place restrictions that can hinder use of some devices. As with all systems dependent on copyright, the complexity can make things a bit confusing.
If you’re interested in availing yourself of your local library’s selection you’ll have to use whichever provider they have, but it’s likely to be OverDrive, the largest of these library networks. They are contracted to oversee eBook rentals for some 27,000 libraries with 11,000 in the US. There are other means of accessing library eBooks, though. If your library isn't part of the OverDrive network Hoopla Digital and 3M’s cloudLibrary also provide similar services for other libraries and have their own apps as well.
For those in the OverDrive network there are plenty of means of accessing their books outside their sanctioned apps, but wading through some of the various DRM restrictions to actually get them on your device can be a long process. Some libraries and publishers allow for remote delivery to Kindle devices and apps on Android devices, others don’t or require a computer and their software, it gets tiresome. With that to consider, having OverDrive’s own Libby means all of OverDrive’s books can be easily and conveniently accessed, and all that saved time can be spent reading.
The app entered beta for iOS and Android devices late last year. After a short delay it seems it’s finally ready for the masses. It’s pretty well polished, but those with an OverDrive account will note that they aren’t able to sign-in just yet as they could in OverDrive’s older app (that feature is expected in a future version), and text annotation also isn’t yet supported. The app prompts you to add your local library at launch, and automatically detects your area (although it may not be entirely accurate). From there you select your library, enter your card information, and you can start checking out books immediately.
Navigation is intuitive, and the app has a nicely minimal design, even if it doesn't entirely follow material guidelines. Overall it’s a pretty solid reader with a focus on ease of use and audiobook functionality. OverDrive’s older, audiobook-free, and self titled app might have more visual options, but Libby is simple, elegant, and a breeze to set up. And, the books are free.