For over a decade, the OverDrive app has offered a service that allows institutions including public libraries and schools to lend their digital catalogs of e-books, audiobooks, and other digital media to online users. Now, this longtime digital reading companion will be shutting down for good. After announcing its plans to sunset the app and removing it from app stores last year, the company now says that OverDrive will fully shut down on May 1, 2023. Readers will be directed to use the newer digital app Libby instead.
The OverDrive app had been a part of readers’ workflows for many years offering an easy way to access your digital library. But it’s fair to say the app was beginning to show its age in more recent years, requiring this shift.
In August 2021, OverDrive first detailed its plans to transition users to its newer mobile app Libby and began the process of working with partnered institutions to guide their own respective user bases to make the switch as well. It suggested, for example, that libraries begin removing references to the OverDrive app from their websites and other promotional materials. Later, OverDrive app users were being asked to make the switch, too, with the goal of having most move to the newer Libby app by the end of 2022.
Also last year, OverDrive removed the legacy app from the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Microsoft App Store so new users would not be able to find it and install it on their own devices. However, while the company had earlier shared its general plans around its sunset timeline for OverDrive, it only a few days ago announced the actual end-of-life date for the app as being May 1, 2023.
At that time, OverDrive will be officially discontinued. To prepare for the transition, OverDrive has been offering libraries webinars and virtual training sessions, marketing kits, and preparation checklists with best practices and recommended steps, among other things to help them prepare themselves and their patrons for the transition.
While Libby is a newer app compared with OverDrive, it’s not really a “new” app. It was first released in 2017 as a modernized version of OverDrive, which incorporated feedback from OverDrive’s library partners and from book lovers. The app allows readers to enter their library card number, which is retained in the app, then browse their library’s catalog of e-books, audiobooks, magazines and other materials, and place items on hold.
Once checked out, materials can be downloaded for offline reading or streamed to save space on your device. The app also supports multiple library cards, user-created book lists, adjustable font sizes, zoom for magazines and comic books, and the ability to send downloaded titles to the Kindle reading app in the U.S., among many other features. In addition, audiobooks can be streamed in-app or via Android Auto or CarPlay, with adjustable speeds.
Some of Libby’s features weren’t ever available on OverDrive, including the support for multiple library cards and the unified bookshelf for all loans and holds. OverDrive also didn’t offer features like Libby’s ability to export notes and highlights, Sonos speaker integration, or CarPlay. (OverDrive only supported Android Auto). Libby also provides access to other entertainment resources, if supported by the library, like Kanopy, Craftsy, Universal Class, Indieflix, and others.
However, Libby will lack a few things found in OverDrive, including the “Recommend to Library (RTL)” feature, which is being discontinued across platforms with the app’s sunset. Instead, users are encouraged to use “Notify Me” to express their interest in titles not yet in their library’s collection. Libby is also not available on the Amazon Appstore. And it won’t support downloading audiobooks to a desktop computer — a feature once needed for transferring files to MP3 players. (For this niche use case, the legacy OverDrive apps for Mac and Windows will still be supported. )
The company says that winding down OverDrive will allow it to focus its resources fully on Libby.
That’s something it may need to do, given the app has already experienced a few outages and issues this year, which rendered it inaccessible to users at times. The most recent outage occurred only yesterday, lasting for an hour and a half. It had impacted both Libby and Sora users. (The latter is another OverDrive-built app for students.)
Ahead of May 1, OverDrive users on iOS, Android, and Windows (8 and 10) will see a message in the app explaining why they’ll need to switch to Libby which will link to a resource page about the transition. The page will explain how to sign into Libby and sync your OverDive wish list and answer general questions.
Libby is available for iOS, Android, and the web at libbyapp.com.