OverDrive added more than 2,100 libraries to its global network in the first four months of the year. The gains mark the company's effort to add a wide range of direct-to-consumer services to its offerings.
OverDrive added 2,173 public, school, academic, and corporate libraries in the first quarter, bringing the total number of institutions in its network to more 29,000. OverDrive CEO Steve Potash told PW the company has also seen “booming revenue” during the same period. He pointed out that all the major New York trade book publishers are now involved in offering e-books via libraries. “We’re over that period of withholding e-books. Library lending is in at all the publishers,” he said.
Potash said the growth of OverDrive customers and services marks a concerted effort by the company to “connect millions of readers to books and to publishers.” Among those efforts, he said, is a revamped OverDrive.com website that offers readers the ability to create accounts and search a database of more than 2 million e-books and audio-books for loan or purchase, directly through Overdrive. (Sales are limited to e-books and audiobooks; physical book sales in the works.)
In addition to driving consumer traffic through its website and positioning itself as book retailer, OverDrive is also building new dashboard accounts for publishers that will provide them with analytics aggregated from the data retrieved from millions consumers visiting the websites of its library network. “We’re providing a more intelligent connection with end users for our publishers,” Potash explained.
There’s also the OverDrive app, which allows consumers to read e-books, access audiobooks and watch video. And the new OverDrive ReadBox is an embeddable e-book reader with a variety of services that can be placed anywhere on the web. (The Huffington Post used the service to offer readers an excerpt of Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen.) The ReadBox gives consumers access to OverDrive’s 2 million titles; consumers can read up to 10% of any title in the OverDrive catalog (offered in multiple languages), connect with social media, find where to borrow the book, or buy the e-book directly.
Potash also noted OverDrive's push to build specialized online digital reading rooms for kids. “We’re building specialized library digital reading rooms, initially for kids and teens, where all the titles are safe and leveled by grade,” Potash said. “We’ve done this in 200 major library markets, including Brooklyn, and circulation is exploding. We’ve focused on kids and teens, but we can create these rooms for any group.”
OverDrive will also be announcing a host of new technology and consumer services at BookExpo America—delivering books via text services, new ePub based services, browser-based interactive kids titles with audio and video, reader alerts for new books and services at their libraries, special offers and more.
“We’re converting our growing library traffic into conveniences, value-adds and special offers." When asked whether OverDrive is becoming a retailer, he said the company remains on the same track it has always been on. "Our mission has always been to partner with authors and publishers to create new retail channels. Nothing has changed."