Another dot in the blogosphere?

OverDrive underwhelms

Posted on: December 13, 2016

Last week I mentioned how I was “reading” an audio book for the first time using the OverDrive app.

On my iPad: OverDrive app and audio book in my account.

On my iPad: OverDrive app and audio book in my account.

I downloaded the free app on my iPad initially and later on my iPhone. Here are some thoughts so far about using the app.

On my iPhone: OverDrive app and audio book in my account.

On my iPhone: OverDrive app and e-book in my account.

The good thing about the app and the library service is that both are free. I do not have to pay a cent immediately out of pocket. It is nice to see some of my tax dollars at work.

Now for the bad.

My biggest bugbear is that the book I borrowed is either audio only or text only, not both. I thought that the enhanced version would be both text and audio-based, and this was why I initially installed OverDrive to my iPad. I thought I could listen to the book when my hands were busy and go back to actually reading when they were not. But I made the wrong assumption.

This also meant that I had to borrow the same title twice: The audio book and the text-based book. Each counts against my borrowing limit.

The app has a sync function but it does not seem be working*. It does not sync the downloads between devices. As a result, I have not been able to test if bookmarking in one device leads to a synchronised bookmark in another. One reason for this lack of syncing seems to be the fact that OverDrive keeps forgetting login information to my OverDrive and library accounts.

*Update 1: After manually forcing audio downloads to my iPhone, I have discovered that syncing occurs, but is imperfect. It was several paragraphs (about a minute of audio) off in one instance.

*Update 2: I cannot copy text from the book. This makes note-taking and quote-making an unnecessarily frustrating experience.

Perhaps my complaints are newbie issues. I have barely used the app for a week and am reluctant to use it due to its clunkiness. Perhaps I chose a title whose publisher was struggling with legacy mindsets and offered either-or instead of two-in-one.

Perhaps I have been spoilt by other apps like the default Podcast in iOS. This app that automatically downloads content and syncs it between my iPhone and iMac so that I can listen to podcasts in different contexts. I can start listening on the move on my iPhone, sit down at my iMac and continue where I last left it. This is so very Netflix.

Perhaps there is a design and usability lesson in all this. The new invariably learns from the old: The issues, limitations, hangups, etc. But the old remains old by stubbornly holding on to what is losing relevance. That is why it is called old.

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