The Problem with OverDrive and Kindle’s Deal for Libraries

OverDrive launched the ability for patrons to check out OverDrive library books on their Kindles today. Word flew fast on Twitter which I was absently monitoring while doing other tasks at work. A few hours after the initial tweets I noticed that my library’s OverDrive ebook collection had indeed been Kindlized. As soon I had a chance, I hurried to set up equipment to record a tutorial video for our patrons so they would know how to get OverDrive ebooks on their Kindles. That’s when I ran into problems.

First, my library owns multiple Kindles which are registered to the Library. We lend these and other ereaders out to our patrons. The instructions from OverDrive’s blog are pretty thin about explaining the actual multiple step process which looks like this:

  1. Go to your library’s OverDrive website.
  2. Select a book which has a Kindle format and add that format to your cart/bag.
  3. Enter your library card number.
  4. Click proceed to checkout.
  5. Now you are directed to download the book from Amazon by clicking on a button image below the book cover.
  6. If you’re not already signed into Amazon with your browser, you will be directed to sign in.
  7. You then click on the green button on the right side of your screen to access this library book. Below that is a drop down menu which allows you to send the book to your Kindle-enabled device (for me it’s my Android phone) or register a new Kindle.

That last step is where the library problem begins. If you’re like me who doesn’t own a Kindle but was trying to put the book on a Kindle owned by my library, you’re out of luck. In order to get the book, you have to have a library staff member get a list of the books you want and your library card number so they can then go to Amazon on the Library’s account to download the books by USB. By USB, they mean downloading an .amz file to the Desktop which you then drag-and-drop into the Kindle’s documents folder. If that downloaded .amz file is all there is to it, why is anyone required to have a personal Kindle registered to their Amazon count in order to place files onto their library-borrowed Kindle?

I am also unclear on how this two account process to check-out a Kindle ebook will work out since the book was checked out through OverDrive using the patron’s library card number but the book must be downloaded via the library’s Amazon account. Does the .amz file have an automatic return/deactivation date attached to it? I have not checked an ebook before on someone else’s device so I do not know what the usual procedure may be.

So the main issue here is that Amazon and OverDrive have made it not-too-terrible of a process if you personally own a Kindle, but for the patron who is checking out a Kindle from their local library, they have to rely on staff to place the books on the device for them. We have a generous check out time for Kindles, so a patron could easily head out of town for a couple weeks, read through all their Kindle books, and then want to check out more books. Tough luck. Since we own non-wifi enabled Kindles, we cannot check out additional ebooks on our end for the patron and have them sent to the Kindle. Perhaps purchasing wifi-enabled Kindles will improve that aspect of customer service in the future but we shouldn’t have to. That workaround also relies on the patron being somewhere with a stable and powerful enough access to wifi that they could download the ebook(s).

It should be noted that people who have Kindles and have tried out the service say that it’s not too bad. However, I do not relish having to awkwardly explain to patrons about another workaround, another codependency on library staff to do something that should be so simple–checking out a library book no matter the format.


  1. I believe the terms of service for kindle don’t allow us to loan them for content, only as demonstrative technology. If still true, unlikely we’ll see an improvement in this flow. Yes, wish it was easier all around! (excellent video btw!)

  2. My library just jumped on the e-reader bandwagon and it’s nice to know that we aren’t the only ones running into some awkwardness.

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