Late last year, OverDrive began rolling out a new look to their site. My own library in Fairfax County had a “New Look Coming” banner up for several weeks. When I tried it out for the first time, my reaction was, “Not great, but I can live with it.”

I wasn’t crazy about the new thumbnail view of the catalog. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it easiest to process information in lists, not in blocks of images. I also missed the feature that told me exactly where I was in the hold line. The old site would tell me, for example, that I was the seventh out of 15 people waiting, and that the library owned six copies. That gave me a pretty good idea of just how long I’d have to wait for my book. On the new site, I had to click through to “view Book details” to get the same information. I often have anywhere from five to 10 books on hold at a time. So going from scanning a quick list to clicking through for each book was a major pain.

However, beyond a shrug and a, “Well, I guess I’ll get used to it,” I didn’t think much about it. Then TeleRead received the following email from a frequent commenter and a MobileRead forum user.


Could you pick up on the sentiments in this Mobilread thread?

Overdrive “upgraded” their interface and it is being perceived by many of us as a downgrade, however, we can’t get any answers from Overdrive. Maybe your site has a bit more pull and an article would force Overdrive to deal with their users’ feedback.

The redesign is being pushed to more and more libraries without any regard to the issues it is causing.

Thanks in advance.

Aha! I wasn’t alone. In fact, when I stopped by to browse the MobileRead thread, there were 370 messages there, almost all of them from unhappy OverDrive users. Interestingly, an OverDrive representative had been responding in the beginning, but after just a few posts, they dropped off the thread.

Here are a list of the major complaints from the MobileRead thread. I happen to agree with all of them.

1. General dislike for thumbnail view and “squashed” book information.
2. Desire for a Wish List page that allows easy removal, hold requests and checkout
3. While browsing, users want easy links for accessing hold requests, wish lists, bookbag and item on loan
4. Desire for more visual indication of a book’s availability, especially in what format (so you don’t accidentally check out an audio version when what you really wanted was Kindle)
5. Fewer click-throughs to perform basic lookup and other functions
6. Search term “Add to Cart” on the Wish List
7. Confirmation that returning a book that you checked out by mistake won’t lock your account for “suspicious activity”
8. “Available now” to Wish List filters
9. Going back to the Holds list from checkout instead of being directed to the bookshelf
10. From the browse view, show:
•    the entire title of the book
•    the entire name of the author
•    when it was released
•    how many copies the library owns
•    how many of those are available
•    how many people are on the waiting list
•    which formats are available

That “suspicious activity” mentioned in item number seven above was news to me. Apparently some users had returned books within a day of checkout and had their account locked for several days. I’ve personally never experienced that, and I’ve occasionally returned books within a day, usually because after a couple of pages in, I discover I don’t like the book.

One ironic comment on the forum was in response to this announcement on the OverDrive site, where they said patrons were spending 22 percent more time on the site, viewing 22 percent more pages. While I had to question the numbers (identical, really?), one of the forum members said that of course patrons were spending more time and viewing more pages—the site was set up to require that. It isn’t necessarily a sign of more engagement, but could be a function of requiring more time to perform basic functions.

I sent the above list to OverDrive for comment. Here’s the reply from public relations and social media specialist Mike Lovett:

Hi Julie-

Thanks for getting in touch. We haven’t forgotten about Mobile Read, but we haven’t had time to circle back of late.

Sometime in the next few days, I’ll be compiling a list of questions/suggestions from Mobile Read users and posting a status update regarding some of the tweaks in the works for our Next Gen sites. Thanks for sending me your list—as you’ve seen, there’s a lot to sift through!



So … good news there. OverDrive is aware of the problem, and seems to be getting ready to roll out some tweaks. If you’re a user of the site and aren’t happy, I’d suggest you head over to MobileRead and join the discussion there. Or, if you’re experiencing an issue I didn’t cover, try contacting them through their Facebook page. It looks like its monitored regularly, and someone does respond to questions and comments.


  1. Barbara, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “users just looking at their screens?” I’ve tested all the items above, and I agree that the new interface requires many more clicks than the previous version. I think that’s a valid complaint.

  2. Barbara,
    Apart from the downgraded site perfomance (pages slower to load), and the fact that most titles and author names are now cut off (see example below) more clicks are required for certain tasks. This is very bad user experience.

    When browsing a category, the following is what you saw/see for any title (using “Lara” as an example)…


    Book cover thumbnail
    by*Bertrice Small
    Series: The World of Hetar
    Release date: May 01, 2006
    Available copies:**0*(1 patron(s) on waiting list)
    Library copies:**1
    Kindle Book – Place a Hold – Add to Wish List
    Adobe EPUB eBook – Place a Hold – Add to Wish List


    Two thirds of the book cover graphic
    by*Bertrice S…
    A bookmark graphic to add to wishlist (not intuitive)

  3. I can view all of my holds from the same page without having to page through each book. Just go to My Account and Click on Holds from the menu on the right. I get an image of all the books I have on hold and it says for each, “You are user XXX out of XXX on the waiting list.” Maybe that is more work than you used to have to do (I don’t remember how you did this on the old site – I never really looked for it).

    I don’t use Overdrive all that much – I prefer to buy my books and only check out books that I already own in paper but don’t want to read in paper and don’t want to buy again or books that I am not sure I will like so I try from the library first. However, I found the new interface easier to work with than the old one for finding books. Intuitively, I just figured it out quicker, where I always had to sit in figure out the old site for a few minute before I could work with it.

    It may very well take more steps to do something, but I didn’t have to think about what I needed to do to find what I wanted – it just happened naturally. This may be because I hardly ever used Overdrive so I didn’t have the old interface mastered (sometimes sites are very efficient if you know them well, but have a learning curve if you don’t), but still – I felt better directing my Mom to this new site than I would have to the old site where I know she would have needed help figuring out how to use it.

  4. Vonda, yes, you can view your holds from the same page and see where you are in the queue. What’s missing in the new version is also seeing how many books the library owns. It’s a big difference to be 15 of 15 when the library owns 20 copies vs 3. I like to get a feel for how long it might take for a book to become available for me.

    You have a valid point, however. We do get used to doing things a certain way and when forced to change, we resist. I can see where a brand new user might prefer the new interface. If you don’t know what you used to see, you won’t miss it.