In the old days, the hard part of borrowing a book from the library was trying to figure out that blasted Dewey Decimal System. But with today's e-readers and digital downloadable services through the libraries, finding the book is the easy part just put it in the search engine. It's actually borrowing it that takes all the work.
Most public libraries, including those in Utah, use a digital distribution system for ebooks called OverDrive, from an Ohio-based company. Unfortunately, it feels like you have to go through a thousand steps to download a book. The various hoops are probably there to ensure that the system protects the book from being pirated.
Still, it's a bit of a pain, but I have found an app for tablets that will make it a little easier. OverDrive has its own mobile application called OverDrive Media Console that connects users with the local libraries to borrow and download books much faster than using a computer. The free app is available for every e-reader format, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, Blackberry and the Color Nook. It does not work with Kindles or Nooks that use E-ink technology, but only with color tablets that can download and launch applications.
After launching the OverDrive Media Console app, users type in a ZIP code or city and state to call up a list of OverDrive-compatible libraries in their area. Tap on the library and it takes you to the mobile version of OverDrive's website. There's no need to call up a mobile browser to go the library's site. And the biggest advantage to using the app is that users can access any library, as opposed to going to each library's individual website.
From there, search for available titles and whether there is an audiobook recording.
From here on, the process can be a little different, depending on which library system you're accessing. With the Salt Lake County Library System, users click the "Borrow" button. Once the book is downloaded wirelessly to a device, press the "Bookshelf" button to find it and begin reading. If the book isn't available, put a hold on it, and an email will be sent when it's available.
Depending on the book, users have up to 21 days before it expires and is automatically locked from a device. To return it early, press the "Return Title" button. You can borrow up to 10 books at one time.
Another great advantage is that the app has a built-in text reader and audio player, so no additional app is needed to read the books or play audiobooks. It also has options to adjust the brightness of the screen, the size of the text, the number of columns, line spacing and more.
It's not the perfect app, however, and could use some finesse. Again, it doesn't work with E-ink readers such as the cheaper Kindles and Nooks (more on that in a minute). There doesn't seem to be a way to skip directly to the beginning of another chapter, and it ought to use your GPS receiver to find the nearest libraries automatically instead of the user having to input a ZIP code or city. Finally, it ought to send you a text or push notification when a book is free, instead of doing it by email.
Over time, I found the app much easier and more convenient to use for borrowing books. Download it either through the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
Kindle E-ink readers • If you use an E-ink Kindle or Nook, downloading a book from the library still requires a desktop or laptop computer as a bridge to get it to your reader. Here are the steps for the Salt Lake County Library's System, and frankly it's a shame it takes this many. You will need your library card handy for the number and PIN number.
1. On a desktop or laptop computer, go to www.slcolibrary.org on your browser.
2. At the top menu, hover the cursor over "Reader's Cafe." In the drop-down menu, click on "eBooks" in the "Downloadables" section.
3. Under eBooks in the middle, click on "OverDrive popular eBooks."
4. Find the book you want. Books also are searchable at the top.
5. Once you find a book, click on the book. A new page comes up with the book. Click the "Borrow" button.
6. At the new page, click the "Download" link, which also reads "Select one format." Check the "Kindle Book" box, then click "Confirm & Download."
7. This takes you to an Amazon.com page for that book. On the right-hand side of the page, click the drop-down menu and choose the name of your Kindle (for example, "Vince's Kindle"). If you have an older Kindle that does not have built-in Wi-Fi, you will have to choose the option to download it to your computer and transfer it to the Kindle via a USB cable.
8. The next time you turn on your Kindle in a Wi-Fi hotspot, the book is automatically downloaded to your device. Or if you have the older Kindle without Wi-Fi, connect your device to your computer via a USB cable and transfer the downloaded file to the "Documents" folder in the Kindle.
If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.
An app for that
The free OverDrive Media Console app is available for every e-reader format, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, Blackberry and the Color Nook.