Borrowing Library e-Books On Kindle Using Overdrive

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I’m a pretty regular user of my local library, usually with 3-4 books out each month (with only 1-2 completely read + a few bucks in late fees). I bought a Kindle a few months ago* and was happy to hear that I can now borrow e-books from my library onto it. Overdrive runs the digital media portion of my local library system, and also runs it for many others. Previously, the DRM software restrictions made it impossible to get onto a Kindle. You can run a search for a branch close to you on

Unfortunately, so far I haven’t been impressed. The titles are very limited, and usually my city only has one copy of each. I’m still hopeful that a lower cost for distribution means it will this system more popular. Maybe libraries can even get a cut by offering a link to the book for sale. Here are a few stats:

  • Lending period: 21 days for me, which is the same as physical books. You can electronically return the book earlier if you like.
  • No late fees. The book is automatically removed from your Kindle device when time is up. You’ll get an e-mail warning, but this also means you can’t just keep it an extra day or two to finish up for $.50 in late fees. Poof!
  • Maximum checkouts allowed at one time: For me, this is 10. Plenty.

I do like not having to drive to the library, of course. Finally, for more free reading material, I now use Instapaper to transfer all long web articles (like Boomerang) to read on Kindle. Much less eye strain. My most recent clipping? The famous 1979 Businessweek article The Death of Equities.

* By the way, I would definitely go for the $30 savings for “special offers” Kindle version. I would honestly have paid the same price as without ads (but don’t tell Jeff Bezos that). The ads are not intrusive to the reading experience at all, and and the coupons offered regularly save me money. You can view a list of all previously offered discounts here. It seems like every month I either get a Kindle book for $1 or something like $5 off any $10 Amazon purchase.

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  1. “Previously, the DRM software restrictions made it impossible to get onto a Kindle. ”

    Well, actually it was easy to do, but technically against the library’s rules. I like reading library e-books much more now that Kindle is officially supported.

  2. Agreed with Dan – we were putting library books on our kindle, anyway. BUT, so much nicer and a little easier to do it on the up and up.

    I have been using a nook for about a year and have personally found that at my own library, older books are hard to come by, but newer books are well stocked. For example, I was going to buy the latest Game of Thrones ebook when they hype died down and I found a sale, but accidentally saw they had 10 copies at the library. I had to wait a month or two for it, but was actually able to read it in 3 weeks. (My primary complaint is that ebooks can not be renewed at my library!!! But I am a fast reader, and have dealt with it. Certainly gives me extra motivation – I have not read this much in years. Decades).

    Since our library started offering kindle books, they seem to be offering the same exact titles for nook and kindle. So, though my initial impression was that selection was not that great, as a user I have seen the selection increase VERY rapidly. & I know it is same for kindle since my spouse has a kindle. I just don’t know how our own library compares to others.

  3. It’s nice that the Kindle format is finally an option for library users. However, I sincerely doubt we will see the price of ebooks come down any time soon for *libraries*. A fairly large library system usually buys enough books that they can get a good discount for many titles. In our library’s case, it’s often around 40%. However, this doesn’t apply to ebooks. Ebooks often cost more than list price for libraries and in the case of Overdrive, many libraries don’t own the copies but rather are leasing them from Overdrive until they decide not to renew their subscription. Harper Collins, which, as I understand it, was one of the few that offered some discount for library borrowing, decided to implement at 26 checkout limit for ebooks ( Their fear was that since electronic copies are not subject to the wear and tear of physical books, that libraries can use one copy forever and not have to replace it.

    While I can understand some of the publishers’ concerns, it drives me nuts that they are using the setup of digital lending to restrict the number of times a book can be lent without giving us any of the native benefits of a digital format such as multiple patrons checking it out at the same time. Of course, publishers seem to be fighting ebooks in all arenas, not just the library world, so maybe they’ll ease up on libraries once they come to peace with ebooks in general.

  4. I don’t know if anyone cares, but Kindle owners can only download Kindle ebooks. Owners of other devices, such as the Nook, Kobo, IPad, etc., can download ebooks of many kinds, except Kindle ebooks. It’s shaping up as a battle of Amazon against the world. Amazon is big, but the world usually wins this kind of war in the end. In the meantime, though, Amazon is using its below cost prices to wipe out bricks and mortar bookstores, both chain and independent. This may actually reverse itself eventually when Amazon has to open its own “showrooms”, sort of like the Apple stores. Personally, I don’t like Jeff Bezos to have that much power all to himself.

  5. Please help! I did a search on overdrive and neither the county public library or our local university library showed up under name, town, or zip code- is there some other trick to this?

  6. One thing that can help on selection for those who live in or near large metropolitan areas – most libraries in those areas have reciprocal agreements with each other, so if you have a library card with one, you can get a library card with the others. I live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and have gotten library accounts with a number of different library systems in the area.

    Mary – have you tried looking at your library’s website to see if they have signed up? Not everyone has, but things change, too – originally I had to use the tip I mentioned above to have access to ANY ebooks, because my local library didn’t offer eBooks, but I looked recently and found they now do.

  7. For those not in the know. From the thread at SD: “You can now subscribe to the special offers if you have a Kindle w/o special offers. Go to the “Manage my Kindle” page on Amazon. View the Special Offers column next to your Kindle, and click “edit” to change from Unsubscribed to Subscribed.”

  8. I used to work in the library, but I believe in this day and age the concept of the library as a physical building should be replaced by the library as a service. The amount thus saved on wages, building maintenance, theft and wear of books could be more than enough for most library systems to buy the rights to the entire Amazon ebook collection (if publishers allow) and even give each low-income patron a free Kindle!

  9. My library Kindle books are for a max of 14 days 🙁

  10. I just bought my Kindle about 3 weeks ago and love it. I’ve read more in the last 3 weeks than in the last 3 years! I agree that Overdirve’s selection isn’t great and for me, 21 days may not be enough, but I just joined Amazon Prime and they offer over 5,000 books that can be borrowed, one at a time. The selection is better, though still not perfect.

  11. MAC, Do you know if this special offers thing is available with Kindle 2? I don’t see the Special offers subscription option with my Kindle 2.

  12. kindle lover says

    My wife and I love our new Kindle Fire. It’s lightweight, easy to use and has a great interface. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions from

    It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. I am one very happy Kindle owner!

  13. Has anyone downloaded books from library on their ipad2? I would like to do so. Thanks

  14. never mind, I was able to figure out how to download audio and ebooks via overdrive on my ipad2. will try the downloaded files on my flights tomorow!

  15. Those who like freebies here are some for Kindle Fire:

    (1) Free Paid App of the Day in the Amazon Apps ( I got hundreds this year probably thousands of dollars in value) & I wonder if they going to have free paid apps optimized for Kindle Fire
    (2) Free Time magazine app for those who have time subscription which you can get by using 1,200 Miles or 300 Miles and $2.00 (most airline miles)

  16. Eric Jacobson says

    I am not sure if your library does this but mine allows for holds to be placed on ebooks, just the same as with physical books. So, yes, some have long waits. I build up my waitlists and then wait for the pleasant surprise when my turn comes up.

    I treat ebooks as one possible way to read a book I am interested in. I generally do the round robin – does the city library have the ebook available? If not, does it have the physical book? Does the local college library have the phyiscal book (they don’t do ebooks yet)? If not, I go the interlibrary loan route (usually free at your local library). I can almost always get the book I want in just a few days.

    Finally, if I really like the author and might want to keep the book, older books can often be found at for $4 or so. Also, Amazon will buy back many newer books (I have received books in 2 days, essentially paying $4-6 in the end).

    Just my 2 cents on getting the book you really want 🙂

  17. @Pam. Do not have info about upgrading a Kindle 2 to Special offers. Believe my wife has a Kindle 3. I would suggest contacting Amazon and see what they say.

  18. Brenda Coffman says

    I like the fact that I don’t have to buy a kindle to access my favorite authors. I can use a pc, smartphone, or tablet.

    In addition to free, you can find a lot of low cost books.

    My book, Diana’s Dreams, is $2.99. That’s less than a gallon of gas, much better for the environment!

    The publishing industry is being increasingly picky about where they put their shrinking funds, so new authors have little to no chance of being published outside of Kindle. You may find the next Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, before anyone else. Did you know Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before it was finally accepted?

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