Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hands-on Play: Wisconsin's Digital Library (OverDrive)

Wisconsin’s Digital Library (OverDrive)

Some prerequisites:

I guess I’ve been using Wisconsin’s Digital Library (OverDrive) for a couple years now, so I’ve already gone through the initial higher-friction acts of downloading the OverDrive Console (for audiobooks) and Adobe EPUB (for ebooks) to my computer. I can’t remember the process of downloading DRM tools (so OD can ‘disappear’ your expired downloads), but I remember that this was a bit of a hassle. About a year and a half ago, I bought a Nook and added the OverDrive app; it’s a useful app both for organizing and reading WDL downloaded ebooks (or audiobooks). It was really interesting for me to hear about Kate's experience as a Kindle device user, as it's pretty different to get channeled through Amazon and because it's such a popular device.

In playing with the WDL (OD) interface, I went through the various steps of downloading an ebook and explored a bit and I discovered some very useful search and browsing tools. Overall, I think the WDL’s OD interface, with its image-rich pages (full of book cover art icons) provides a really fun and intuitive “shopping” experience. The glitches I’ve experienced have to do with remembering to complete the steps of opening the ebooks and audiobooks I’ve downloaded to my computer, or transferring them to a device. Downloading directly to a device (given a good Wi-Fi and Internet connection) strikes me as a smoother road, but actually exploring the site and searching is much easier using a computer.

Accessing the OverDrive interface/console:

You can access the WDL directly or by going through your library portal. OD seems to be very nicely integrated into both the MPL website and the library OPAC, although you do have to look a bit to find the hyperlink in a LINKcat result that links to the WDL (OD) console/interface.  I used the MPL main webpage and followed the link to “eBooks” (OD is pretty much the digital collection [34,474 titles] for MPL although they have smaller EBSCOhost and Safari collections as well). You can access and browse the WDL without signing in, but must sign in with your library card number and password to actually read or borrow and download ebooks or digital audiobooks.

The particular titles on display are snapshots of the collection and, I assume, are set to change/rotate at intervals during any given day. All of these “sections” on the main page (e.g. New eBooks, Just Back In, etc.) can be browsed by clicking on the “view more” link. For example, the “New eBooks” ‘view more’ link will allow you to browse page by page over 1600 new ebooks with 20 books per display page, which can be viewed as a grid or list display.

Filtered Search/Browse Feature:

Clicking on this “view more” link, I found a very nice filtered search option, that’s allows browsing using filters by format (6), subject (100), publisher (100), language (7), rating (6), device (14), and various filters geared towards finding books for children/teens such as interest level, ATOS level, lexile measure, and grade level.  The filtered search feature also allows browsing of ebooks and audiobooks that are “available now” as well as “titles to recommend.” The latter is one’s avenue for making a request and it allows users to discover items in OD’s catalog that could potentially be purchased by the Consortium. Apparently this button was initially so popular that WPLC has had to limit patron requests to 12 per year. For the sake of exploring, and you can learn a lot about the collection this way, it’s worth checking out these filters. For instance, looking at the “publisher” filter, I was surprised by the number of publishers that OD negotiates with. The first ten on the publisher’s list accounted for 50% of the collection (17527). Looking at the “languages” filter, one can see that 99.8% of the ebooks are in English, with 54 in Spanish and a handful in Italian (3), Romanian(2), Swedish(2), German(1) and Chinese (1).

To experiment with the filter feature, I applied EPUB (format), a Nook (device), and Grade 3 (Grade level) filters to allow filtered browsing.  This yielded 45 results (including several James Patterson titles, Walter Mosley titles, romance, horror and YA fiction that your 3rd grader might love to read). It seems the filter has some gaps that might be tightened. Alternatively, one can set filters and do a simple search (by author, title) or even use the advanced search which seems intuitive and fairly elegant.

Account Page:

I frequently use pages such as “Bookshelf,” “Holds,” and “Wishlist” that are for managing one’s own account (the account icon is at the top of every page). Playing with these account features, I checked my holds and recognized books that I requested probably 2 months ago. Unfortunately, unlike the LINKcat account one can’t see when the hold request was placed, although you can see your place on the waitlist. The issue of satisfying in-demand titles is an ongoing issue for the WPLC. I believe their goal, which may not be possible given publisher price gouging of libraries and high demand for the most popular books, is to have a 5:1 hold/copy ratio. The Bookshelf page shows your current ebooks and audiobooks and shows how much time you have left before they’re yanked. There is now a renew feature but I’d guess it’s very unlikely to work for in-demand books. “Lists” is basically your wishlist page and I find it very useful for remembering all those titles that I hoped to checkout but which were not currently available.

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