In 2011 Amazon started working with Overdrive to allow Amazon Kindle users to check books out of the library to be read on their Kindle devices. Any Kindle or Kindle App can now check out books from your local library. Approximately 11,000 libraries in the US allow users to check ebooks out using Amazon.
The main complain that I hear about OverDrive is that there are not enough books or the wait is too long. And that complaint is all about funding. Your local library system as part of their agreement with OverDrive, chooses the mix and number of books. My local library, Cobb County Library, went from about 800 ebooks in 2011 to about 8600 today. Most of those books only have one or two copies. As I was browsing, there were a few that had more, but Cobb County has chosen to have more books, rather than more copies. If you want more books in your system, then tell your local library, and comment to your local government about the funding. You are paying for these books, it is just that you are not paying for them directly, but through your tax dollars.
How to Check Out a Book
The first thing you need is a local library card. In our area, that requires a trip in person to the library. Then you need to create a login to the OverDrive system. Each Library system has their own login and catalogue, but most will allow you to create a login to OverDrive online and do not require you to visit a local library.
Once you are logged into the OverDrive system, you need to browse through the books. OverDrive has both ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. I use the audiobooks frequently before the kindle books were available. As you might expect, DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a big deal. Most audiobooks are only available on WMA format, so are only playable on a windows computer. Some are MP3 format and do not have DRM, these are playable on a Mac Computer, any iPod or other MP3 Player, and your Kindle (put it in the Audible Folder).
Overdrive has announced that in 2015 they will moved to html5 format that will allow any device to listen to an audiobook as long as it has a browser and they will be moving the download format to MP3 for all audiobooks.
Choose the book
You can choose to only browse Kindle books. As I said, there were just over 8600 ebooks in my local library, 7800 of those included a Kindle format. If you are going to browse them all, then use the wishlist feature. Mark anything you might be interested in, and then later you can just browse the wishlist to see what is available to check out.
The first book I checked out on Friday was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I forgot to take screen shots of the process so I also checked out Spook Country by William Gibson. So the screen shots are of these two books.
Your options, when you find a book are: Add to Wishlist, And choose the format. As you can see, for American Gods there are two formats, Kindle Book, which you use with Kindles and Adobe EPUB, which you would use with Nook or Sony Reader. In this case, the two library copies are already checked out. You can place a hold the library will email you when the next book is available.
If there were a line for the books it would also say “three patrons waiting for the book” after available copies. The most I noticed was 121 people waiting for The Help. There were very few books that had more than 3 or 4 people waiting for it.
If the book was not checked out, it would say “Add to Cart” instead of “Place a Hold”
Check Out The Book
Once in the cart you proceed to checkout. One of the nice features that you cannot do with a physical book, at least in my library, is choose the checkout time. The time is either 7, 14, or 21 days. For some reason, not all books are available for all three time periods. Spook Country is only available for 14 or 21 days.
Download The Book
Once you check out you get a screen that shows the book and a button to “Get for Kindle”.
That link takes you to the Amazon Store, where you have to login to your Amazon Kindle account.
Then you choose what kindle to send the book to, just like you would if you were buying a book. If you have a Kindle, then the book will be delivered to you via Wifi (it will not go over 3G) just like a regular Kindle book.
If you still have a first or second generation kindle, then you will need to download the book on your computer and transfer it with your USB cord because Amazon will not pay for a 3G transfer of a book from the Library.
Return The Book
The last step is to return the book once you are finished. If you want, you can do nothing and the book will expire on your kindle and you just delete it. Or you can return it early. To return the book, you do not go to the OverDrive site, you go to Amazon’s Manage Your Kindle Page.
So that is it, now you have another source for free kindle books.