How to Download e-books from the Public Library on the iPad

Have you checked out a book from your public library and read it on your iPad yet? You didn’t know you could do that? It’s possible for library patrons to borrow books from their public library, read them on the iPad’s gorgeous screen, all without leaving home or ever having to worry about an overdue library book.

The majority of public libraries offer digital media to their patrons. As e-readers and tablets become more popular, it is likely that the amount of digital content available to readers will increase, as will public libraries’ commitment to invest in digital content.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, as of January 2012, 29 percent of Americans owned a digital reading device. If you are reading this, you probably own an iPad. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started.

Step one: get a library card and sign up for an online borrowing PIN. Don’t limit yourself to the local branch of your public library. Often big library systems including the New York Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will issue library cards to anyone who pays taxes in their state, even if the patron never plans to enter a library branch. If your local library doesn’t offer e-books, or even if you just want to access a larger selection of titles, find the largest library in your state and try to get a library card from that system. Most library systems can guide a new user through the registration process.

Step two: download Overdrive Media’s iOS app. Overdrive Media is an Ohio-based company that manages digital lending for 15,000 library systems. Overdrive’s holdings comprise 650,000 premium digital titles from more than 1,000 publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins, BBC Audiobooks America, Harlequin, and Bloomsbury. (Note: Overdrive can only let you borrow titles that your library owns.)

Step three: get an Adobe Id. The Adobe ID is free, and you can sign up from within Overdrive by tapping settings. Make a note of your Adobe ID because you will need it if you want to read a borrowed e-book on more than one device (e.g. iPad and iPhone or iPad and Kindle).

Step four: get books. The app opens to your bookshelf. This is where your digital titles will be stored. Tap the Get Books+ button in Overdrive’s upper right-hand corner. Tap the Add a Library bar to open up the app’s search function to search or browse for libraries. When you find the library you want to borrow from, tap the name of the library. A new page in the app opens that shows what type of digital content (e.g. audiobooks, e-books) the library lends. Tap the star next to the name of the library to save it as a source for future downloads.

Step five: access digital catalog. To open a library catalog return to the bookshelf (the page that says “Add a Library”), make sure the Get Books icon at the bottom of the page is selected. Tap the library’s icon. The library’s digital catalog will open in Safari.

Step six: select content. The library’s main catalog page will look something like this:

It will likely include options to browse or search the catalog. I typed in Ready Player One (a futuristic story of digital culture by Ernest Cline), which I am currently reading. There are no copies of Ready Player One available, but the library allows you to request it.

Tap request item. The system will request your library card number and pin. Tap Login. The library will mark the title as an eHold and send you an email when the book is ready to download.

Let’s find a book that’s available for download. Tap Browse all Adobe EPUB ebook titles. (While your iPad can also read Kindle books, you must own a Kindle to use this option). Tap available now to browse titles that are ready to download.

Well, look at that, there is one copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo available for download. Let’s get it.

Step seven: begin the checkout process. Tap add to elist. Tap proceed to checkout. Tap confirm checkout.

Step eight: download content. Tap the download button. Safari closes, OverDrive re-opens, and your title will begin downloading automatically.

Step nine: start reading! When the lending period for the title is up (usually between 7 – 21 days), it will appear on your book shelf as an expired title. Unlike printed books, digital library books cannot be renewed through Overdrive, so don’t delay, start reading that new book today.

Do you use your iPad to read books from the public library? Let us know in the comments what you think about the iPad as e-reader, OverDrive, or your favorite authors to read digitally.

Header photo courtesy of Flickr user mikebaird.

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite

  • Allison Henderson

    How do you do it for Kindle? Or Android-type software? Is that yet possible? Thanks.

    • whatwentwrite

      The process for Kindle is very similar. Just choose Kindle as the format instead of Adobe EPUB. For Android OS, check the Overdrive site to see if your device is compatible.

  • Luigi Cappel

    I’ve been doing this for the last 6 months. eBooks on iPad and Audio Books on iPhone. There is a bit too much in the self help space at the moment, but content is improving quickly. 

  • Obe Hostetter

    Kindle directions are something like this:

    1. Go to Overdrive app on Ipad
    2. Find your book
    3. Click Add to basket link to the right of the Kindle Book
    4. Click proceed to checkout
    5. Sign in with your LIbrary card number & PIN number.  (Get PIN number by going in person to the library and asking for it)
    6. Click confirm for checkout
    7. Click Get for Kindle
    8. You will be directed to Amazon web page.  Sign in with your Kindle/Amazon account
    9. Click Get Library Book
    10. Click download now
    11. Click save and download the book.
    12. Hook up your Kindle to your computer by usb.  Copy the downloaded file to the “documents” folder of your Kindle. It will appear on your Home screen.

  • penny

    hello, anyone know how i can get books off my USB onto overdrive?

  • Grace Blydenburgh

    after you’ve downloaded book (onto desktop) of iPad, can you read it without an internet connection, say, in traveling in buses.

  • Celia

    Are there any parental controls for younger kids?

  • M42

    On Android you don’t have to read library books in the crummy, sluggish Overdrive App. I can read them on any number of third party readers that offer lots of extras.

    • Lory Gil

      The App Store offers a huge selection of third party readers, as well. Overdrive is not the only one. That being said, I use Overdrive on a regular basis and it is not “crummy” or “sluggish” on my iPad Air at all. It is possible that your public library’s connection is slow. Overdrive offers a great service and helps keep the public library system relevant.

  • mrcreader

    Thank you SO much! Upgraded my Nook to an iPad Mini over a week ago but couldn’t figure out how to get my library books on the iPad. I thought I’d have to keep using my 4 yr old Nook Color for the borrowed books, which would be annoying and silly. Now I can read my library books on my iPad Mini AND I no longer have to connect my device with my computer to get my new library books like I did with the Nook, which was annoying if I was on vaca and got notice my book was available. I’m ecstatic 😀