One of the biggest draws and selling points of Adobe DRM-supporting ereaders, especially the Sony Readers, is that you can checkout ebooks for free from your local library to read on them. This applies to most ereaders and tablets on the market, all except the Kindle and a few no name brands.
The service is provided by a company called OverDrive and is available in the United States and several other countries. Some time back I wrote an article on how to get free ebooks from libraries.
But now as ereaders are becoming more popular and more people are turning to the library as a source for ebooks, the limitations of the service has become much more obvious.
Here are five problems I’ve noticed with getting free ebooks from libraries.
#1. Limited number of copies and waiting lists. Like paper books, libraries have a limited number of copies of each ebook that they can lend out. My local library has 2000+ ebooks, not counting the 15000+ public domain titles. I searched through 30+ pages and every single ebook I could find was checked out. Some have a short waiting list but not the popular titles. Those have waiting lists of several months.
#2. 21 Days. Most ebooks’ max rental period is 21 days or less. Unless no holds are pending, if you don’t get the book finished in that time you’ll have to get back in line and wait for it to become available again.
#3. No library ebooks. #1 sounds pretty good if you don’t have any library ebooks to choose from at all where you live. In that case you can sometimes get a library card from a few non-local libraries but that can bring up other problems, #1 and #4 for instance.
#4. Fees for library cards. A few libraries that have ebooks offer library cards to out-of-state and non-local residents for an annual fee. (Some of these libraries are listed on the how to page mentioned above if you want to try them.)
#5. Poor selection and random selection. A lot of publishers aren’t on board with library ebooks. Couple that with the newness of ebooks and the fact that many libraries don’t have the funding for expanding their collection or even adding a collection. Additionally, the randomness of ebooks available leaves you scratching your head (at my library, at least). They’ll have the #3 or #6 book in a series but not #1, even if it’s from the same publisher.
Despite these drawbacks, getting ebooks for free is a nice perk. But it makes you wonder moving forward if libraries will be able to keep up with the demand for ebooks with the explosion of ereaders and tablets coming onto the market, especially with many publishers and authors feeling uncomfortable about library ebooks to begin with.