Everybody loves libraries, right? But what if your reading life has predominantly moved to an e-reader and you’re wondering if you’ll be stuck buying books instead of utilizing your favorite place in the whole world? The good news is that you can still borrow library books without putting your pants and/or face on or waiting for the library to open.
The majority of libraries in the US use Overdrive and it’s companion app, Libby, is an awesome one-stop-shop for borrowing, reading, and listening to library content on your iPad or Android tablet. But we know that the best digital experience for reading books comes in e-reader form and for this post, we’re looking at the three most common brands available today - Amazon Kindle, Rakuten Kobo and Barnes & Noble Nook, and how easy it is to use each one to get to your library books.*
So, here they are, ranked from hardest to easiest…
The only way to get library books on to the Nook is to browse for, check out and then download them from your library website. Once downloaded, you’ll need to open them in Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), plug in your Nook via USB, activate the device to use with ADE (make sure you use the same login details on both the Nook and in ADE), then send the book to your device from there.
In other words, it requires a desktop or laptop, a USB connection, a bunch of steps and is generally just clunky and unintuitive - which is a shame because the 2019 Nook Glowlight Plus is the cheapest in the big-screen e-reader lineup at $199.99 for a whopping 8” screen.
Kindle is a lot easier than Nook.
Once you check out a book on your library website (or in the Overdrive app), you need to click the Read With Kindle button, which then sends you to Amazon to complete the delivery and choose the device to send the book to. This is assuming you have wifi. If not, you’ll need to transfer to your device on a computer via USB, as documented above.
While this is a lot simpler, it still requires another device to find and check out library books, and there are still some hoops to jump through.
Rakuten owns both Kobo and Overdrive, so it makes complete sense that Overdrive is built right into later-model Kobo devices. Once you’ve logged into Overdrive on the device, your local library shows up as a tab in the “Store” section on the device.
Even though this is simple, there is one thing that may be an annoyance - the library section only shows you a handful of curated groupings, so you have no real control over what’s shown. If you’re not sure what you want and are looking for recommendations in a particular category, you need to browse the regular store, select the category, choose a title and hope that it’s available at your local library.
Once you’ve found the book you want and have confirmed it’s available, click the three dots on the screen and it will give you the option to borrow the book, or if it’s already been checked out, place a hold. The book, once borrowed, will automatically appear on your Kobo, and will automatically be returned when the loan expires.
Once you’ve chosen a delivery method from Overdrive when using Nook/Kobo or Kindle, you can’t go back and choose another unless you return the book and borrow it again. If you do use Libby on a tablet, it doesn’t appear that you can read books that you’ve sent to Kindle in the Libby app. You can read books that you checked out via Nook or Kobo, however.
If your library doesn’t have e-books or the choices are lacking, you can always get a non-resident card from one of the libraries that allow them (for a small fee). A good list is right here.
The e-readers in the title image are Nook Glowlight Plus (2019), Kobo Forma** and Kindle Oasis (2nd Gen). Kobo is the clear winner in the library integration stakes, and as Kobo has partnered with Walmart in the US, their devices are easier to access than ever through either Kobo or Walmart.
* I am not commenting on the quality or ease of each device - merely the ease of access to library books.
** Please ignore the weird colors in my images - it’s the result of bad lighting (phone plus its summer and we live in the dark) as well as some potentially dodgy processing choices to make the print clearer. The screen is gorgeous!