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Dear Jane: How do I check out electronic books from...

Dear Jane:

My library just started lending ebooks! Happy dance!   What do I need to get this to work?


Dear Tania:

Short Answer: Library useage is a great way to dip your toe into the digital book world. You don’t have to have any special device to use the library digital lending program except for a computer with either MAC or PC software.    You will need Adobe URLLink Icon Adobe Digital Editions and you will need to “authenticate” that program.   You will download a file from your library site called “URLLink” or something like that.   Double click and your Adobe Digital Editions program should open and trigger the download of a book.   These books will be readable for a period of time (usually 3 weeks) and then you won’t be able to access the book again.

Long Answer: Library digital lending programs are dominated by a company named Overdrive. Overdrive supplies digital audio and digital text books to libraries all over the world. Overdrive delivers digital books through your library, generally, in Adobe PDF and Adobe ePub. Sometimes there are mobipocket formats.

Overdrive Location Search

Many libraries offer the digital audio and fewer offer digital text. You can do a search HERE at the Overdrive site for libraries near you that offer digital lending services by entering your postal code. Or, if you want to find libraries that lend just digital books, Sony has a site HERE where you can enter your postal code and find libraries that lend digital books (the previous link gives you results for libraries that lend both audio and text downloads).

If you plan to do a lot of borrowing of digital books from the library and plan to read on a dedicated digital device, you will want a device that reads ePubs and PDFs. Popular digital readers that allow you to read your borrowed ebooks include the nook, Sony devices, and Kobo. The Kindle CANNOT be used with library programs. (I mean, you can but you have to obtain your PID and then download a script and run your mobipocket through the script to make it readable on the Kindle. This does not strip the DRM but modifies it. I have no idea whether this still works.)

Cleveland may no longer have LeBron James but it does have a robust digital lending catalog. It’s romance ebook section has nearly 6,000 titles.

The Sony eBook Library is a tool that helps you find a library near you that offers digital lending. For $8.95 per year you can access 750,000 books. Baen has offered up 75 eBooks for this library but the fiction is few and far between.

The Internet Archive is also digitizing copyrighted books and will then create a lending program for the digital copies. While publishers are anxious about digital lending and at least one, Macmillan (publisher of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Lisa Kleypas), refuses to allow digital lending, some current data shows that digital lending is leading to sales.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Tweets that mention Dear Jane: How do I check out electronic books from the library? | Dear Author --
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 07:03:26

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Vanessa Kelly, Sydney and Vassiliki Veros, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: Dear Jane: How do I check out electronic books from the library? […]

  2. tricia
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 07:46:39

    I have a Sony Pocket that I use for reading library books. (My library in Canada uses Overdrive, so my experience comes from that.)

    I really love it. I started out by using the computer to read the ebooks, but it’s beyond worth it to have a simple reader for this purpose. My husband bought mine for me on a trip to the States so it was cheaper than they were here, and at the time the Kindle wasn’t being offered here at all, so the decision was simple.

    Overdrive’s wish list function is awesome. When my library puts up new books, I add the ones I want to my wish list, and then I just “shop” from there whenever I feel like reading something else.

    I don’t know if this part is customized by each library or set up by Overdrive, but our ebook lending period is three weeks. You can’t easily renew books–if someone else has signed up for the book, you’ll have to wait for it to be available again if you don’t finish. Otherwise, the file becomes unreadable when the expiry date passes. (I did find a way around this once, but I’m not sure I could get it to work again–if anyone’s interested, I’ll spell out what I did.)

    I still buy paper books. But I read way more library books now than I used to because I don’t have to physically return them to the branch, so digital lending has increased my exposure to new auto-buy authors. (Sorry, Macmillan. Not yours!)

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  4. Heather Backman
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 10:47:35

    The librarians at your library would also probably be happy to help you with this! If you can’t physically make it to the library, most offer reference service by phone and many offer assistance over e-mail and/or chat. Look for an “Ask a Librarian” link or something similar on your library’s website!

  5. RachelT
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 13:02:18

    Jane, Thank you for this article. I looked at the links you provided to see which libraries are issuing ebooks. To my delight I found that my own county have recently started issueing ebooks. I find it amazing that from an article you wrote in the US, I have been able to find ebooks at my local library in rural England. It is truly a small world! Thank you once again.

  6. Jane
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 13:55:00

    @RachelT: Thank you for sharing! How awesome that a) your library is lending digital books and b) that you found out about it here. Woot!

  7. Lindsey
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 14:01:01

    Thanks Jane! I just found out that my library is lending ebooks through this article, through the Southern California Digital Library. The selection isn’t nearly as wide as Cleavland, but there are a good 400+ romance novels, several of which I’d been meaning to pick up. :)

  8. hapax
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 18:00:45

    Our library offers both Overdrive and Netlibrary. Overdrive has a better fiction selection, and is available in more formats. Netlibrary has a better audio selection and allows an unlimited number to check out the same title at the same time.

    They both have slightly different authentification procedures and interfaces, so check with your local library.

  9. sao
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 00:54:10

    So you don’t have to return the e-books and downloaded audiobooks? The only thing my library has told me is that you can’t return them early (a royal pain in the butt, since the waiting lists are long, long, long and the lending period several weeks)

  10. Lizzy
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 04:02:26

    Yet another reason libraries are awesome.

    I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  11. tricia
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 06:16:11

    @sao: I’m able to return mine early with Overdrive, but no, you don’t have to. In the Sony Reader software, I just left-click on the name of the book and select “Return Borrowed Item”… and it vanishes. If you were to check my library’s Overdrive site in the next second, you’d see the book as available for checkout. (It would really be awesome if more people knew how to do this, because then the waiting times would be shorter, but it’s not even mentioned on my library’s site… or even Overdrive’s, I think.)

  12. hapax
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 09:28:25

    Warning: depending on your computer / reader software, just because the book has been “returned” and / or is unplayable, that does not mean it has been removed from your computer. It could still be there, taking up space — so you should always drag the title to the recycle bin and delete it when you are finished.

  13. Lindsey
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 13:46:12

    @sao I’m using Adobe Digital Edition for Mac, and they do have an option to return the book early (in the main “library” section of the program, when you hover over the book cover, there’s a little arrow, which you can click for Options, and one is “Return Book”).

    Unfortunately, I doubt most people know about/use this option, and keep the book for the full two weeks, just waiting for it to expire, hence the ridiculous waiting lists.

  14. Mike Cane
    Jul 21, 2010 @ 04:26:16

    I did a HowTo for ePub library loans back when Sony finally came out with a Mac version of its Library software:

    Sony Reader 101: Borrowing Public Library eBooks

    And people who read fast should be made aware of this Gotcha — scroll down in this post for Error 710.

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