If you are an audiobook fan, you know how pricey they can get. Audiobooks usually cost around $30-$40 in a bookstore, though many libraries have decent selections on-hand. The best case scenario is when your library supports Overdrive, a company that supplies digital media to libraries, schools, etc. Overdrive audiobooks usually come in WMA and MP3 flavors, but of course, they are all coated with special DRM. Even digital files have limited timeframes (usually 14 days), though at least they just expire, saving you the trouble of driving all the way to the library to return or renew them!
(screenshot courtesy Androlib)
Now Android fans can join in the audiobook fun, as Overdrive has created a special app just for Android! Should you be rushing off to get a library card? I’ve only played with it a bit, and I am admittedly not an audiobook fan, but I thought I would share my first impressions.
Downloading the app was easy. I went right to Overdrive’s direct download site, though you can also grab the app from the marketplace. After agreeing to the terms and conditions, the app was downloaded and I was all set. I immediately set out to look for a way to download audiobooks and discovered the only way was to go to search.overdrive.com in the web browser. There was no way to determine this from the app, a major shortfall. At the very least there should be a web link within the menu letting you jump straight to the library system!
(screenshot courtesy AndroLib)
From the Overdrive site, you can enter your zip and select your local library. While my county has a dreadful ebook selection, they actually have a halfway decent audiobook inventory. I downloaded a test book (Alice in Wonderland) and the Overdrive app kicked in and appeared ready to download. And…nothing. I hit back, clicked download, again launching the Overdrive app, and still nothing. I did it so many times the library eventually got mad and told me I’d used up all my downloads. Suddenly, Overdrive showed the book and offered to download it for me.
As a nod to the space-conscious among us, Overdrive allows you to download the various parts of the book all at once or in pieces (so you don’t overload your data connection or your SD card.) Playback was straightforward, and it does remember where you left off. It also allows you to bookmark certain spots, definitely a bonus when you want to note a certain chapter or passage you find interesting!
I know the app is new, but I hit a showstopper bug this afternoon. After setting up Overdrive and downloading a book, I went about my day. When I headed home from work, I plugged my Droid into my car stereo and opened Overdrive, intending to test out the app a bit. Except the book was gone. As was the “Getting Started” guide. And the app stubbornly refused to believe it had ever contained content. Since I was about to head home, I didn’t have time to re-download any books, so I tried a reboot. Miraculously, it worked, but the fact that this app required it was annoying. Android has overall been fairly solid for me, and I was really annoyed that it was forcing me to do an unplanned, spontaneous reboot. To be fair, I’ve rerun all the apps I had going this afternoon, and the bug hasn’t resurfaced. But if it happens again, it is a definite one-way ticket off my phone!
What I Like: Lots of options for listening and bookmarking; Access to a potentially huge selection of free books
What Needs Improvement: Bug temporarily wiped out my library; Difficult to download content