or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

A New Overdrive Interface is Coming, Are You Ready?

   October 3rd, 2012

Overdrive's Next Generation Digital Library - See Book Read BookI think I'm a little behind the curve on this, but since there were so many great comments on how to improve the Overdrive interface, I thought this would be worth talking about.

It looks like the new Overdrive interface really is coming, scheduled to hit libraries during the holidays - perhaps the worst time for staff to be learning a new interface, but if it's progress, it's worth it.

I haven't seen Overdrive's Webinar on the new interface, but I do plan to watch it as soon as I find a spare 60 minutes.

However, other librarians in my consortium have watched it, and it looks like there's some good stuff in there. Most interesting to me is the "one-click download" requiring no software installation or activation. That's huge. Apparently that component isn't quite ready yet, but should make our patrons lives (and therefore our lives) much, much, much easier.

But one of the new features did bother me. The new interface apparently includes a "Buy It Now" button, which will be located directly under the "Add to Cart" button. The Boston Public Library has been demo'ing the new interface for most of this year, and here's what it looks like (click for bigger):

Overdrive "Buy it now" screenshot

When someone clicks that green "Buy It Now," a windows pops up with a list of stores (click for bigger):

Overdrive "Buy it now" popup window

Pardon my French, but I fucking hate this. There's been conflicting reports about whether this "Buy It Now" button is optional or not, but I sincerely hope it can be turned off.

Certainly there's an argument to be made for it: if publishers know libraries are going to directly be driving customers to them, they might be more inclined to actually deal with libraries. There's also the convenience to the patrons who don't want to wait for the library's copy to be returned, and can afford to just go buy it themselves.

This seems wrong to me. It makes libraries Overdrive's bitches, because now we're drumming up retail business by preying on immediate gratification. Which is absolutely idiotic, because technologically there is no reason anyone should ever have to wait for an ebook. Implementing this feature just encourages the backward-thinking currently gripping the ebook world as they try to cling to past revenue models.

What would be awesome is if the patrons were given the option of buying a copy for the library. They get it first, then they can donate it to the library for others to use, if they want.

There's also the line that libraries will be getting a kickback from such sales, in the form of Overdrive credit. This is a complete non-starter for me, so I won't even address the idea of libraries profiting from our shortcomings.

But speaking of revenue streams, it looks like the new Overdrive interface also prominently features banner ads - here's the BPL's advanced search page (click for bigger):

Overdrive featuring banner ads

Notice the two "Advertisement" right under the black menu bar? Sigh.

But I don't want to be all doom and gloom. In all fairness, I haven't seen the webinar and don't know a lot of the facts - this is just all from using BPL's site. When I called BPL, they were much more positive than I felt. The "Buy It Now" button was initially a little jarring for them, but they've had no problems or complaints, and do see credits quarterly, which shows patrons have no qualms about using it.

I am also not sure what other new features are included in the new interface, but since Mike Lovett of Overdrive was so encouraging in his comments last time, I'm hopeful the good outweighs the bad (or better yet, all of the "bad" is opt-in).

So, I encourage everyone to check out the Overdrive Next Generation Digital Library webinar. And as always, keep a running list of "how to make this better" to send to Overdrive to incorporate into the next iteration.

And for further reading on ebook topics, here's a few recent things to check out:

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9 Responses to “A New Overdrive Interface is Coming, Are You Ready?”

  1. Jen Moore Says:

    I’m fairly sure that the “Buy it Now” button is optional – our consortium was voting on whether or not to keep it at their last meeting. (Alas, I think they opted to keep it in. I’m with you; it seems like a terrible idea.)

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jen: I’m happy to hear it’s optional, but I’m sorry you guys are keeping it. However, it has been working for BPL, so maybe I just need to adjust my thinking. But I don’t know – it’s kind of like Redbox outside of libraries, or having a Wal-Mart coin-operated towel dispenser in the bathroom, which patrons can pay to use when the library’s towel dispenser is empty. It just seems like if we get better at meeting demand, we don’t need to supplement things with extra-charge services.

    PS: I absolutely [heart] your domain name.

  3. Amy Says:

    This looks a lot like the interface that the Free Library of Philadelphia has been using. It’s definitely more attractive than the original. I have to say, I don’t notice the ads. And I have considered the Buy It Now option once or twice, when I wanted to invest in a book (which is rarely, because I hate the business model of ebooks right now). I considered it mostly because IndieBound was an option, so I could buy through my favorite indie store (Otto’s Books) rather than one of the big guys. But most of the time I don’t notice it.

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of being able to use the Buy It Now button to buy a copy for the library and get it first. There are a number of books I would never buy for myself but would be happy to add to my local system’s collection. That’s one of the reasons I don’t buy ebooks, because I can’t share them. Plus, I’m cheap.

    The one-click option would be wonderful and I’ll be anxiously awaiting that one. For some reason, I can’t get the Windows Media Player security patch to update on my students’ computers without contortions worthy of an Olympic gymnast, so that could make my life so much easier.

  4. Cam Juniper Says:

    I also love the idea of using buy it now as a buy it for the library. I think patrons would really jump on this. I think it’d work really well for folks who’re in line for something & don’t want to wait–instead they can buy a copy for the library & have first dibs on it.

    Also looking forward to the one-click option. It’ll greatly reduce the learning curve for folks. Even those with some computer comfort have trouble navigating the multiple steps. I also have two computers I’ve not been able to use the audiobooks with. One runs Linux & has no version of windows media play or itunes on it (have been attempting to use WINE (basically a Windows emulator) with mixed results). The other is a stripped educational license of windows that didn’t come with windows media player–and windows doesn’t offer an online download for it.

  5. Christina Getrost Says:

    Our consortium in Ohio (The Oio E-Book Project) evidently opted out of the Buy It Now option, because I’ve been using our new interface for a few months and never knew that part existed. We also don’t have any banner ads, but that may be because we’re in an ebook consortium. I really like the new interface, it is a vast improvement over the old one. We still have the same problems from patrons who don’t understand how to get Adobe Digital Editions etc, (I am very curious about this One Click option, I hope we get that!) but in general it seems to be working for us. Good luck with your new one!

  6. tim Says:

    Assuming you’re referring to the ability to read ebooks in browser with the “one-click download” that requires no software or installation, it actually requires the installation of the Google Chrome Frame plugin for Internet Explorer. And this plugin doesn’t work in the 64-bit IE.

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Christina: Thanks for sharing that you don’t see the Buy It Now or the banner ads – that’s great news.

    @tim: I’m not sure of the details, but the scenario you describe is disappointing – although, not surprising. No install sounded too good to be true, so temporarily viewing it in a browser sounds about right. I hope that is clearly marked “Preview” or something, because it sounds like we’ll still need to show patrons the real way to download and transfer ebooks to their readers – and some kind of hybrid “one-click download” might actually make things more confusing. Sigh.

  8. Mike Lovett Says:

    Hi Brian-

    I just caught this blog. I think I can help clear up a few things about the “Buy It Now” option and other aspects of OverDrive’s eBook-lending platform.

    We haven’t yet launched our Next Generation Digital Library Platform, but you can get a sneak peak in our webinar. Earlier this year, we began rolling out WIN Catalog features such as “Buy It Now”. We’ve seen a positive response to the Buy It Now feature, both from patrons and librarians. Of course, all WIN features are opt-in, so libraries can choose not to participate in Buy It Now.

    The banner ads you see on the Boston Public Library are examples of the “Book & Author Impressions” WIN Catalog feature. Like Buy It Now, Book & Author Impressions is an opt-in feature, and libraries get a portion of the revenue in the form of content credit.

  9. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Mike: thanks for the reply Mike – that is good news about the WIN features being opt-in. I’m really looking forward to the new interface and other features.