Promoting Reading With eBooks & OverDrive

A selection of eBook titles available through OverDrive with St Andrew's College

A selection of eBook titles available through OverDrive with St Andrew’s College

I took the opportunity in the last week of Term 2 to sit down with Cathy Kennedy, the Library Manager at St Andrew’s College, and discuss the implementation of eBooks in the College libraries. Having personally used various eBook readers, from Kindles to iPads, I was keen to learn more about the journey to arrive at the current solution in place.

Due to the length of this post you may want to skip down to the various sections below which include:

  • Background
  • Launch
  • Benefits of OverDrive
  • Challenges
  • Uptake amongst students
  • Promoting eBooks at the College
  • Conclusion


Since around 2010 Cathy had been closely watching the development of eBooks and was always keen to introduce them to the students here at St Andrew’s, however it was not until OverDrive came to Australasia and offered a package targeted at schools that it became truly viable. Prior to this, there had been other vendors but they were too expensive and their solutions were still really in their infancy and not easy to implement. OverDrive was an obvious choice because:

  • It already had massive market share in the public library sector
  • The option existed to form a “consortium” with other schools and combine your respective eBook libraries to increase the size of the total collection
  • It combined with our existing Library Management System “Oliver” from Softlink meaning that there was only one platform from which students could access all their books, in both paper and electronic formats.
  • Audiobooks were supported and could be accessed by our students in the same way as eBooks.
  • Fantastic support materials, both technically and from a promotional perspective, with posters and videos to help our students use the system easily.

After enquiring about other schools in Christchurch that might be interested in setting up a consortium and sharing eBook collections, Cathy found there were no equivalent Year 1-13 schools keen to partner and so she decided to go it alone in Term 3, 2013.


Deciding on a “soft launch” first, the new eBook library was introduced to staff only in Term 4, 2013, before students were given access to the full collection in Term 1, 2014. Now six months on, Cathy is satisfied with the decision to go it alone and not partner with another school, as it has allowed her greater control over the selection of titles in the growing library. Interestingly, she did comment that:

For smaller schools, the appeal of a consortium must be very high, as the price of entry into eBooks is not cheap. To be able to quickly grow your catalogue with another school would make it significantly more affordable.

Benefits of OverDrive:

A shot of the interface used by the Library to help identify potential new eBook Purchases.

A shot of the interface used by the Library to help identify potential new eBook Purchases.

One of the biggest drawcards for using OverDrive is the wide range of publishers that are supported, allowing the library to select from a massive number of titles. The pricing model is based on an annual subscription, half of which covers the support of the platform itself, and the other half is credit towards eBook purchases for that year. I thought this was a rather smart “hook” by OverDrive to guarantee a minimum number of eBook purchases by schools each year, whilst it does meant that the students benefit from a continual supply of new titles.

To assist with the selection of new titles, the interface used by the Librarians shows a “Top 200” titles in various categories that we currently do not own (see screenshot on the right). From this, it’s easy to sort through Young Adult, Fiction, Audiobooks etc to locate popular titles that could be added the collection.

OverDrive supports two formats for eBooks

  • OverDrive Read: allowing a user to read the eBook directly within the web browser on their device
  • ePub: one of the more established eBook formats on the internet and supported by apps on tablets and smart phones and requires the use of Adobe Digital Editions

Additionally, OverDrive eBooks can be read on most common eBook readers including iPads and Nooks, with the major omission currently being the Amazon Kindle. This is being supported in the Northern Hemisphere and Cathy is hopeful that support for the Kindle may be available in 2015. Student laptops can also be used to read eBooks on as well.

As mentioned earlier, the integration with Oliver was crucial as this makes it easy for students to find any title, printed or electronic, from the one platform. An upgrade is planned to support “ezread” which will allow students to borrow eBooks directly from Oliver, without the need to be redirected to OverDrive.

Logging into OverDrive from an iPad and being asked for standard username/password

Logging into OverDrive from an iPad and being asked for standard username/password

Furthermore, both Oliver and OverDrive support Single Sign On (SSO), allowing students to use their existing username and password to authenticate to the systems to borrow books. This allows us to restrict younger students from accessing content intended for senior students, as our students are grouped by Year Level.

This level of integration is becoming an increasing requirement for third party products that we look to deploy into the College, as it allows for centralised management of student data and avoids issues of students forgetting their passwords and being dependent on a third party to reset and provide to them.



One of the biggest challenges being experienced is the need to continue to provide new titles in both formats: paper and eBook. Students and staff have not yet fully accepted that a title may only be available in one format or the other, meaning that new titles are effectively being purchased twice. Cathy’s end goal is very clear however: for borrowers to be comfortable reading a title in either format, meaning she only needs to purchase it in one format or the other.

She also cleared up another misconception held by many students and teachers: eBooks are not cheaper than traditional texts when being purchased in a library setting. Many students are used to seeing books online for $4-$5 and think that the titles in the library cost the same amount.

A selection of prices on various different eBooks

A selection of prices on various different eBooks

Cathy was quick to point out that in most cases, publishers are charging schools the same price as the printed edition and that in some instances, there are “metered titles” meaning it can only be loaned a certain amount of times before it expires and needs to be re-purchased. An example of this type of eBook is below:

A metered eBook that can be loaned another 25 times before it expires.

A metered eBook that can be loaned another 25 times before it expires.

Uptake Amongst Students:

Cathy has been pleased with the initial uptake of borrowing eBooks so far in 2014 and the graphic below indicates that Year 9 is clearly the biggest user so far:

Year 9 students are the biggest users of eBooks so far in 2014

Year 9 students are the biggest users of eBooks so far in 2014

A number of factors help explain the popularity of eBooks with Year 9 students including:

  • All Year 9 students own their own device and are required to bring it to school each day
  • Cathy has promoted the eBook platform to Year 9 students as part of their Library orientation sessions
  • When purchasing new titles for the collection, Cathy primarily had the Year 9 students in mind since she knew they would all have their own device with which they could borrow titles with.

Most of the new titles being added to the OverDrive collection are fiction, as the library already caters for non-fiction titles through the printed books already owned, along with subscriptions to World Book Online and other database services such as EPIC.

Cathy also noted that:

There is definitely some resistance among students to reading online however, I feel this will change and I wanted to be ready!  The very keen and established teen readers, tend to still like to read a paper book but one group who seem to like the idea of eBooks are the challenged readers or reluctant readers.  One thing that eReading does is level the playing field – no one can see the ‘size’ of the book you are reading so some of the learning support students really took to an eBook with enthusiasm!

Promoting eBook Usage at St Andrew’s College:

An eBook promotion on the frontpage of Moodle

An eBook promotion on the frontpage of Moodle

Cathy regularly updates the College library page on the intranet and this has continued with the introduction of eBooks to the collections. Other methods she has used to increase eBook reading include:

  • Promoting new titles on the frontpage of Moodle
  • During orientation sessions with classes
  • When a new print title also has an eBook copy in OverDrive, stickers are placed on the physical copy to let students know they can read it as an eBook too
  • The use of “shelf talkers” – labels on the shelves in the library that indicate eBook availability to students.
  • During the upcoming Preparatory School Book Week, plans are underway to do a school wide promotion of the eBook platform, potentially running a competition similar to the end of 2013 where a staff member won a Kobo eBook Reader


There has been a significant investment into getting the eBook platform implemented and populating the titles in the current collection – it now exceeds over 500 eBooks. The pricing model means that this will be added to continually each year and Cathy is also exploring the possibility of the Wheelers eBook Solution as they typically contain more New Zealand authors in their collections than OverDrive.

I am hopeful that the combined printed and electronic formats of books means our students will continue to be inquisitive readers during their time at St Andrew’s College.

3 thoughts on “Promoting Reading With eBooks & OverDrive

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  3. Pingback: Integration of eBooks key factor for St Andrew’s College | StAC e-Learning Stories

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