Overdrive has made a name for themselves for being the number one distribution company that facilitates e-book lending for thousands of libraries all over the world. Last year over 10 libraries in North America loaned out one million e-books and for the first time two of them loaned out over two million. Needless to say there is a large demand for this type of content and soon Overdrive will be doing something really special. They are implementing technology that will convert their vast content catalog from PDF to EPUB.
Overdrive currently has close to one million PDF e-books and hardly any of them are in circulation. Libraries know that the vast majority of their patrons are using e-readers, smartphones and tablets and that PDF files are quite inflexible and not indicative of a fluid reading experience.
The CEO of Overdrive Steve Potash conducted a “Crystal Ball” presentation at the Digipalooza conference where nearly 500 library and school partners from around the world came together with publishing executives in Cleveland to develop plans and enhance the future of the library world. Steve said “We want to unlock all of the old PDF books, PDF textbooks, PDF handbooks, travel guides—books that we’ve collected, millions of them—that were never optimized for mobile use,” he said. Potash later added that “if we could translate these at little or no cost, and all of the sudden make them fully distributable, optimized just like the beautiful [fixed layout EPUB 3] titles you get from our key suppliers, I think this is going to be huge.”
If there is anyone capable of developing an in-house system that will convert millions of PDF files to EPUB, Overdrive has the best chance of doing it. Potash was a founding member of the Open E-book Forum, which later became the International Digital Publishing Forum. The IDPF has become the industry leader in EPUB development and works with publishers and companies all over the world to refine the format and implement best practices.
There is no timeline on when Overdrive will develop the tools and push out millions of new titles to libraries. The big question is, will libraries buy into it? Overdrive has acknowledged that many of their PDF files are old, therefore travel guides, maps, and handbooks are likely years of out date. Who wants to borrow a London Travel Guide from the library, visit and find out the most of the cool bars and restaurants have been closed for a decade?
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.