OverDrive FAQ


OverDrive is the primary service that the Boise Public Library uses for eBooks, eAudiobooks, and digital magazines. This company has an app that most people are familiar with called Libby and the names are often used interchangeably. OverDrive is an outside vendor that supplies access to digital material to us and many libraries across the country. OverDrive is not a publisher - which means they still purchase their materials from publishers and then help us deliver them to you in a digital format.

This is an important distinction because many of the questions we get asked make more sense when you know this relationship. Here are some of the most common questions we hear:

Why don’t you have my favorite author’s latest eAudiobook?

We have selected vendors which can provide us the materials our community wants as easily and affordably as possible, but no vendor can provide every title. For instance, Amazon’s Audible titles aren’t available through OverDrive.

You only have a few titles in the series I’m reading. Why don’t you have the whole series?

When we purchase a physical book, we own it for as long as the pages and binding hold together, and we can circulate it an unlimited number of times. Digital books are different because we pay for access through a lease. When a lease is up, we must determine if our vendor continues to make the title available and then decide whether to repurchase it. This can lead to patchy coverage of series.

Why do I have to wait so long to check out the title I want?

The Library’s copies of digital books circulate like physical copies – we pay to offer one copy to one user at a time. However, the prices we pay for digital copies are exponentially higher than for physical copies, so we can’t afford to buy as many copies. This means our digital books often have longer wait times than our physical books.

Do you only buy one copy of each title, no matter how long the wait list is?

Because we have a limited budget for materials, we must consider cost when we decide whether to buy additional copies. This means the more expensive a title is to purchase, the higher the number of holds needs to be before we purchase additional copies.

I like Hoopla better, and they have more titles to choose from. Why can’t I check out eAudiobooks and eBooks from them?

The reason there are more titles to choose from in Hoopla is because they offer a ‘cost per checkout’ model. Users can browse their whole collection and then check out whichever title they want. Cost per checkout can range from $1 to $5 depending on the title and format, and eAudiobooks are consistently the most expensive.

While being able to check out any title is popular with the public, we are not able to budget for the variable rate and increased cost associated with more expensive titles.

Specifically, we compared average cost per checkout in Hoopla vs OverDrive in the last year:

  • Average cost per checkout in Hoopla was $1.79
  • Average cost per checkout in OverDrive was $.85

Based on the average cost per checkout amounts, if we had paid Hoopla prices for our OverDrive checkouts, then we would have paid $690,095 more for the same number of checkouts. The higher cost would require increasing our budget for digital materials by 111%.

How Much Does the Library Really Pay?

Last year, the average cost of a digital copy was at least twice the cost for a physical copy:

  • Our average price for a Book on CD was $35 and an eAudiobook was $62.
  • Our average price for a print book was $15.13 and an eBook was $28.50.

But new titles by popular authors are even more expensive, for example:

Demon Copperhead

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

  • $133.23 for the eAudio for 26 checkouts – $35 for book on CD – 280% markup
  • $44.27 for the eBook for 26 checkouts – $18 for reg print; $21 for LP = $19.50 average cost for print – 127% markup
  • 127% markup of eBook over print - print book 48 holds, eBook 181 holds
  • 280% markup of eAudio over Book on CD – Book on CD 2 holds, eAudio 178 holds
The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

  • $109 for the eAudio for perpetual access –$63 for book on CD
  • $73 for the eBook – owned, not leased – $18 for reg print; $31.50 for LP (22 reg print & 4 LP ordered = average cost per book $20
  • 265% markup of eBook over print - print book 85 holds, eBook 191 holds
  • 73% markup of eAudio over Book on CD – Book on CD 1 hold, eAudio 150 holds

Why Access Matters

We believe that everyone should have the right to access eBooks and eAudiobooks easily and affordably. eBooks and eAudiobooks are more than just convenience; they bridge the gap between traditional and digital learning, making reading accessible to all. They also provide accessibility for people who need larger print or need to listen rather than read, since it is getting harder to purchase physical books in large print and on CD. While we are actively seeking ways to include more digital content for our users, there are many barriers that we need to overcome.

How You Can Help

By advocating for better access, you are championing the principles of equality, affordability, and community enrichment. Here are some ways you can educate yourself and advocate for your local library:

Contact Us

Phone: (208) 972-8200
Item Renewal by Phone: (208) 972-8980
TTY: 1-800-377-3529

Library Director:  Jessica Dorr

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