That Ebook Cinderella Moment

Over the last year I have been gradually converted so that ebooks constitute 80% of my reading. The remaining 20% is about equally split between online textbooks (Books24x7 and Safari Online) and real page-turning pbooks. Of the ebooks about 70% are Kindle books and the rest from Overdrive via my local public library. Since my wife suborned my Kindle I read all my ebooks on the iPad.

Overdrive is an excellent borrowing service but the ebook becomes unreadable after 14 days exactly. There is no friendly librarian to cajole into extending the loan or forgiving a fine. Like Cinderella’s coach when midnight comes your ebook turns into a cover thumbnail fit only for deletion. Yes, you can borrow the ebook again but only if a copy is available and not on hold for another person. At best this re-borrow is a fairly tedious process and inevitably causes a gap in the momentum of your reading.

I use Bluefire on the iPad and when showing its library in cover thumbnail or list view there is no indication of when an ebook might expire. You must remember to switch to list view and go the extra step of touching the right arrow to see details of the borrowing period. Even then the information is correct only to the nearest day – not so useful for Cinderella:

2010-12-30 SNAG-01

Sadly the Bluefire library entries for expired ebooks are not visually different from ebooks that are still readable.

Ebooks from Overdrive can of course be read by the iPhone Overdrive app which does indicate when an ebook is expired without a further step. However knowing an ebook is expired when you haven’t finished reading it is not particularly useful. Also using the Overdrive app on the iPad makes the font fuzzy in 2x mode so Bluefire is much better on the eyes.

At least Adobe Digital Editions on Windows, the ebook reader for PCs, is aware of the expiry problem and its library view shows the remainder of the borrowing period to the nearest hour:

2010-12-30 SNAG-00

While closer to ideal a better feature would be a customisable push notification message warning the reader of expiry in the near future.

Hopefully Bluefire and Overdrive are listening and will make their ebook borrowing experience even better.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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