Using the Overdrive app to read ebooks: a short review

I’ve been using the Overdrive mobile app to read ebooks from the Singapore Public Library for about a month now, and overall I think it’s pretty good. It’s easy to check out and return books from the library, there’s a decent amount of formatting options to make reading those books comfortable, and there’s a few extras just to sweeten the deal.

Library usage
Since Overdrive is meant to be used in conjunction with libraries, it’s a good thing that checking and returning books to and from those libraries is as easy as, uh…picking one’s nose, or something. The Overdrive app also keeps track of when each book is due, what books you’ve checked out (and returned) before, and which libraries you’re a member of.

Audiobooks can’t be downloaded directly to the app, so you’ll have to download those first to your Overdrive-compatible computer and then transfer them to your mobile device/iPod Touch. Since I use Linux, this is impossible for me.

I’ve also had issues with Adobe PDF ebooks not being able to be downloaded directly to the Overdrive app, and I’m not sure why that is. EPUBs are perfectly fine, though.

Readability
Like most ebook reader apps, you can pick from a “day time,” “night time” and sepia color schemes. I’d recommend always reading books with the night time colors on anything with an LCD screen– it’s better for your eyes and won’t get you (or me) tension headache. You can also adjust the brightness of the text! I usually have mine somewhere below halfway of full brightness. There are various font sizes as well, if you need to adjust that. And you can switch the orientation of the text any way you’d like.

An interesting thing about the Overdrive app is that it tells you how many pages are left in a chapter and how many pages overall are left in the book (see photo to the right). This info is located at the bottom of each page, and you can’t turn it off. At first I was really annoyed because it kept distracting me, but now I find myself liking it. It makes gauging how long a book or chapter will take me to read really easy.

Anyway, now that I’ve got the text set up in the way that’s most comfortable with me, I’m not getting headache any longer and I’m fairly blazing through the books I’m reading.1

Other things
The Overdrive app doesn’t have a dictionary, which is unfortunate since that’s one of the things I like the most about my Kindle. You can’t take notes, either, though you can add bookmarks (photo).

Every time you exit out of the app and then re-open it, you have to re-open the book you were just reading, too. It saves your place, obviously, but this is an added step that’s really annoying to me.

And finally, if you’re like me and like to play music on your iPod Touch while doing other things…that won’t work with the Overdrive app. You can’t play music on your iPod while reading a book in the app as well. Not that big of a deal, but it’s bothersome.2

Conclusion
The Overdrive mobile app isn’t perfect, and if you’re used to being able to customize things more like with the Kindle app or Stanza, you’ll probably be upset or disappointed or something. Not being able to take notes is annoying, and while I like the fact that it keeps track of when my books are due I wish it’d let me download an audiobook once in a while. Overall, though, it’s a decent ebook reader app and it lets me read ebooks for free from the library with a minimum of fuss, so I like it.

Footnotes

  1. I don’t know why, but I feel like I read ebooks faster on my iPod Touch than on my Kindle. Hm.
  2. You can listen to music while reading books on basically every other ebook reader app, btw.

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