Library eBooks can be Frustrating!

Overdrive for iPhoneFirst – go read this – I am a frustrated eBook (non) user, by Sarah Houghton-Jan (you do read her blog, right? It rocks). Then come back, and let’s discuss.

I have to admit, I had a VERY similar experience with the iPhone Overdrive app. I spent a goodly chunk of time trying to figure it out, and gave up (planning to get back to it eventually). Instructions on use? There are some, but they didn’t make sense to me. I’m sure this one’s my fault, since I don’t usually listen to audiobooks … but still.

I was finally able to “successfully” check something out. But I guess it was already “checked out,” so I didn’t immediately get the book. Nope. I had to wait for 3 days, then received an email saying my download was ready. I was busy, so missed my window of opportunity to download the book… so now, I need to start over again!

My questions –

  • Why is Overdrive that hard to use? If Sarah and I can’t easily figure this thing out, our patrons won’t be able to, either. They’ll try once, then go use something else.
  • Thinking of my library here – normal books? Easy to check out. Videos in our Mediabank DVD dispenser? Easy as RedBox or an ATM machine to use. Overdrive? Hard enough to use that we set up a special PC right by our Reference desk so we can help patrons figure the thing out.
  • Check out the pic to the right – it’s the iPhone app. Help is prominently featured, front and center, right over the iPhone’s Home button) . At the least, that sends the wrong message. Why can’t there be something like “3 easy steps to downloading?” when you turn on the app for the first time, then have Help go under a secondary menu? If you really need Help on the main page, you probably need to redesign.
  • It’s a digital file – why can’t I access the ebook when someone else has it “checked out?” That doesn’t make much sense to me.
  • Why doesn’t the app have me make a connection to my local library the first time I use it? The process goes like this: download app, turn app on. Read Help. Click a link … that takes you out of the app, and onto the web. It would be much better to at least keep me in the app.

I know, I know – DRM. That’s the problem, right? I’m not completely buying that. At least SOME of the problem is on the design and usability end (of at least Overdrive). But there HAS to be an easier way to manage DRM concerns, like allowing someone to check out stuff, but then adding one extra step or something that makes you “prove” you’ve deleted the file? Netflix’s digital downloads and the movie rental part of iTunes are similar (except for that whole for-profit thing) to a library setup. They also deal with people “borrowing” their stuff, some of it even digitally. But it’s easy. Why can’t our library vendors (Overdrive, Netlibrary, etc) also build something easy to use and manage?

ALA Annual’s coming up. These are GREAT questions to start asking there.