Overdrive is the company responsible for the facilitation of ebook lending from your local libraries in digital format. The company is in a unique position in that it offers a purely digital service with no real tangible product related to said libraries. I think the company should develop and market its own e-reader directly to K12 schools and the libraries it deals with.
There really has been no greater time for companies to get involved and develop their own e-readers. The costs of e-ink screens and the chips are at an all time low and there is many ODM and OEM companies based in China and Taiwan that can easily make low-cost devices. Overdrive is in the perfect position, having a well developed back-end system developed for libraries that agree to tap into its ecosystem of audiobooks and ebooks. If Overdrive developed its own cheap reader and allowed libraries to loan the devices out to patrons who did not have an e-reader or tablet, the company could win in more ways than one.
Over the next year, Overdrive will face competition from 3M and its cloud library service. 3M has developed its own e-reader that library staff can lend out to patrons. The e-reader works only with books from libraries supporting its platform. If you steal it, the device deactivates and becomes unusable. The library then sends the user a bill for the device or implores then to return it. In the 30 libraries participating in this beta test, reception has been warm.
Obviously, Overdrive dominates digital lending in libraries across Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK. It currently has a Test Drive program out where it directly supports three tablet computers and the Sony PRS-T1 e-reader. It does not sell the readers itself, but does guide libraries to vendors. In order for Overdrive to take its business to the next level, it needs to develop a super cheap reader that only taps into their ecosystem and can be offered for 50$ or less.
I think the public would really benefit from being able to borrow a device geared specifically for public libraries and schools. A device geared towards only reading and nothing else. Something very bare bones can be made and sold at a very cost effective price. Not only would Overdrive make a bit of money selling them to libraries, but library staff would find it easier to be trained on an official device rather then the 100’s of e-readers on the market.
What do you guys think? Should Overdrive develop its own e-reader instead of relying on 3rd party ones? Should 3M serve as an example how a cheaply made device can be used as a selling point?
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 CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.