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Overdrive At the end of January, I wrote an article on the Overdrive overhaul, and how users weren’t completely happy with the new interface. To follow up on that, I decided to try the Overdrive Media Console app and see how it fares as an e-reading app.

My verdict? I want to like it. I really do. But I can’t quite warm up to it.

Why do I want to like it so much? Because it’s an easy way to get library books on my Nexus 7. The more I use the Android Kindle app, the less I like it, so EPUB is a logical alternative. Aldiko supports Adobe DRM books, but it’s a couple of extra steps to load library books into Aldiko. Overdrive should be the smoothest, easiest approach. And it’s not, darn them!

Let’s start with what I like:

Overdrive does have a page count per chapter feature, and it’s visible at the bottom of the page. That’s an update from the last time I used the app (about two years ago). As I’ve said before, I rely on a time until end of chapter feature, and I’m less inclined to use an app that doesn’t give me that information. In the iPad version, it shows time until end of chapter and total pages in the book. Cool, but I don’t read much on my iPad anymore.

The layout is clean and attractive, and the app has some basic color and formatting features. Nothing special, but it should meet most reader’s needs.

In shelf view, it shows how many days until the book is due, and it’s easy to return the book right from the app. Nice!

It supports side-loaded EPUB books, as you can see from the screenshot. It’s also got basic sharing features, including integration with Goodreads.

So what do I not like?

It’s picky, but I’m not crazy about the default serif font in the Android version. The iOS version gives me more fonts to choose from (including my favorite, Georgia), but the options are more limited in the Android version, just like the Android version of the Kindle app. I’m starting to think it’s an Android thing. When I went hunting for different fonts, I discovered that changing fonts generally required root access, and I’m not interested in rooting my Nexus 7. If any readers know an alternative, please share in the comments.

There’s another curious Android vs. iOS difference: The iOS version takes a few minutes to “index” the book when you open it, but navigation is smooth after that. The Android version doesn’t index, but it does take several seconds to load the next chapter, which can get annoying if you’re reading a book with lots of short chapters. I’d be happier with the app if they’d let the Android version get its indexing out of the way in advance.

My biggest annoyance is in loading books into the app. Remember how I said it should be easy? Well, thanks to the overhaul of Overdrive, it’s not. Going to “Get Books” opens up a pseudo Web browser to take you to your library site of choice. A site which is not optimized at all for mobile devices.

The app should take you directly to a log-in screen and then straight to your bookshelf. Instead, you have to muck about with the home page, find your account icon, tap that, then go a log-in page, and finally to your account and a bookshelf page that looks terrible on a tablet screen.

Incidentally, prior to the overhaul, it worked pretty much the way I said it should, and the page looked good on a tablet. I really dislike “improvements” that are really a step backward.

Once again, the people who designed a system for e-books are clearly not themselves e-book readers, or they would never make boneheaded mistakes like they have with this app.

I’m afraid the best I can give the app is three out of five stars. If Overdrive would create a mobile-friendly site and fix the indexing in the Android version, I’d add a full star to the rating because once you’re reading, it’s not bad (assuming you can find a font you like).

 
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