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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

How Kobo beats Kindle on library books

When I reviewed three recently-released e-readers last month, I received several complaints about this line in the story:

Kobos are much better citizens [than Kindles] when it comes to borrowing e-books from your local public library.

Wait a minute!, said the Kindle folks. My Kindle works great with Overdrive/Libby!

(For those who don’t know, Overdrive is the service used by most public libraries in the U.S. to provide e-books to patrons. Libby is the excellent iOS app that works as a front-end to Overdrive. I can’t recommend them both enough.)

But let me be clear: When I say Kobo e-readers are better at Overdrive than Kindles, I’m not saying Kindles don’t work. I’m saying that it’s not nearly as good as an experience as it is on a Kobo. (This is unsurprising, since the owners of Kobo also owned Overdrive for several years.)

Checking out an ebook with Libby for Kindle.

Here’s how you check out a book if you’re a Kindle user. You open Libby, select your book, and tap Read With Kindle (left, above). The Libby app then opens a webview at Amazon.com (center). You select where you want the book sent, tap Get Library Book, and a new page opens telling you that you’ve succeeded (right). The book will automatically download on your Kindle device the next time it syncs.

Ready to sync!

Not bad, right? Certainly this is more streamlined when Amazon began supporting library books a few years back. You can even return a book to the library right from the Kindle, which was not previously possible. It’s pretty good.

But here’s where Kobo beats the competition: all of Overdrive is available, right on device. Right down at the bottom of the Kobo Home screen are links to the Overdrive catalog and your personal list of holds:

Tap on the left option, and you’ll get a browsable catalog of books that are available from your library (below left). Tap on the right, and you’ll see the same list you’d see in Libby—all the books you’ve held, along with an estimated wait time (below right).

It gets better. Like Kindle, Kobo offers its own online bookstore. Unlike Kindle, you can search the Overdrive catalog as well as the store.

And if you are searching for a book in the Kobo Store, you can always tap the ellipsis button to see if it’s available at your local library—and place a hold on it right from there.

In short, while the Kindle’s integration with Libby is just fine, it does rely on a second device for all management of the experience. Kobo, on the other hand, will let you drive the entire experience from the device that’s already in your hands.

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