A few months ago Overdrive was acquired by Rakuten, the same Japanese e-commerce company that purchased Kobo. When the deal went through many librarians were quietly wondering if the status quo would be maintained or if the company would pivot into a new direction.
At the American Library Association annual conference Overdrive has released a new road map that will give librarians a sense of what the company has planned for the rest of 2015.
The New OverDrive is based on three pillars of success designed to enable libraries to win in the increasingly competitive landscape of digital books and media:
- Onboard new users quickly and easily. Because 50% of Americans still do not have a library card, customer acquisition is core to the new OverDrive. With improved speed and ease of use – including instant access, sampling and searching – all library users will enjoy better discoverability of the library’s entire digital catalog.
- Deeper engagement with readers. Once the new user has discovered digital media at the library, the new OverDrive will provide new tools and data-driven services to increase engagement and conversion to a loyal library customer.
- With an improved recommendation algorithm, faster search engine and page loading, users will browse and discover more of the mid-list and backlist and more easily find what to read next.
- To maximize title availability for users and ROI for libraries, OverDrive already supports multiple access models, including Cost-per-circ, Simultaneous Use – from a growing list of suppliers – and Classroom Sets. OverDrive has also piloted a “Book Club” model in certain markets for city reads and other programs.
- Reach more of the library community. OverDrive will continue to innovate to support this critical library objective with new and existing programs:
- Kids and Teens. With the recent introduction of Kids eReading Rooms, a safe section within the library’s website, libraries have seen significant circulation increases for children’s and YA content. OverDrive is also the only digital lending platform that offers nearly 1,600 Narrated eBooks, audio synced to text with fixed-layout in the EPUB3 format. Circulation has skyrocketed at the thousands of libraries who offer these interactive titles.
- Non-English readers. To reach new users who prefer to browse and read in their community language, OverDrive already offers a multilingual website interface in 13 languages as well as a catalog of more than 116,000 non-English eBook and audiobook titles in 52 languages.
- Business commuters and Periodicals users. OverDrive and NOOK Media partnered recently to bring more than 1,000 popular digital magazines and newspapers including content only available from OverDrive: USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Cleveland Public Library (CLEVNET) and Cuyahoga County Library (CCPL) have seen dramatic increases in their circulation due to digital periodicals.
- Readers in places outside the library walls. Libraries in the OverDrive network have pioneered access to library eBooks in a variety of community centers, such as at the San Antonio airport and schools in Oklahoma.
- Casual readers browsing other parts of the web. OverDrive’s Readbox samples allow users to discover and begin reading excerpts of a library eBook on any website and provides a direct link to borrow the title. Vancouver Public Library has used Readbox to help their community learn about their digital collections, increasing both circulation and library card sign-ups.
The features of the new OverDrive align with the needs of today’s library customers. According to more than 10,000 respondents in a June 2015 Patron Survey conducted by OverDrive (complete survey results will be available at Digipalooza), device compatibility (74%), ease of use (63%), and immediately available content (52%) are among the most influential criteria stated when obtaining digital content.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.