Kobo for library ebooks?
August 10, 2022 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I’m considering getting a Kobo mostly for use with library ebooks. I have questions!

1. It clearly works with Libby. Does it also work with Hoopla or Cloud Library?
2. I’ve read that one can download library books to a Kindle and then take it offline and the library books remain on the device until it connects again. According to librarians on Reddit, this is librarian-approved behavior.
2a: Does this also work on Kobo?
2b: Is it true that this is librarian-approved behavior?
3. I have been reading ebooks on my phone & ipad but it is SO EASY to get distracted - like, I am trying to read one now but keep checking MeFi and other online things. In your experience (since I know you can’t speak for me) would having a dedicated eReader help me focus on actually reading books?

I am in the US.

(I suppose I could consider a Kindle, but I’d be just as happy keeping Amazon out of my library life. I don’t read a lot of ebooks aside from those from the library.)
posted by 2 cats in the yard to Technology (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Is it true that this is librarian-approved behavior?

Librarian here. Sure?

I mean the big deal with library ebooks is that the program is a bit of enforced and faked scarcity. That is, there is nothing technical which keeps an ebook file from being able to be copied a zillion times and shared with everyone. However the DRM (digital rights management) which makes ebooks "expire" after some time frame is a compromise libraries (or, more specifically, library ebook vendors) have made with publishers.

Some argue that the terms and the way the whole system works--from the prices for ebooks, to the fact that some of them will need to be repurchased after some certain amount of time--are better for the publishers than for libraries. That said, it's better for libraries in general to be able to buy ebooks than to not buy ebooks. So, some librarians, especially Extremely Online ones, are like "Fuck it, yes, do what you need to do to make library ebooks work for you, this whole system is rigged." I am among them. But I don't think that all librarians feel this way, if they even understand how DRM works and how to end run it.

The "not letting your device go online until you're done reading the book so it won't expire" is definitely one of the easiest methods for this. There are others.

I am a person with a dedicated ereader (one of the older Kindles, which can NOT use Libby so I have to get my ebooks in other ways) but I do find it's a lot easier to read on it since there are no other notifications or other things to distract me. Can't answer your other questions except that I presume the answer to 2a. is "Yes that should be true" but I am not certain.
posted by jessamyn at 2:45 PM on August 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is helpful info for me. Do you know if you keep your device off line, will the book become available for the next person even if it can’t be deleted from your device?
posted by InkaLomax at 2:54 PM on August 10, 2022

Response by poster: @InkaLomax my understanding is that yes, it is “returned” and becomes available for the next person, but jessamyn or another actual librarian can confirm or correct this.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:03 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: I wasn't sure about the answer to your question so I asked the larger internet and it seems like yes, after the lending period is up the book becomes available to the next person even if your device with the book on it is offline.
posted by jessamyn at 3:09 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: You can get Cloud Library books onto a Kobo but it’s not as simple as Overdrive/Libby books - it involves downloading the book & authenticating the DRM on a computer, then transferring to the Kobo. Your library might have a download link for your checked out ebooks from your account page on their website; if not you can go to www.yourcloudlibrary.com, find your library, log in with your library credentials, and find your checkouts - “My Books” or something similar. Each checkout will have a prominent link to read in the browser and a much smaller link which lets you download the file. Then you have to open in Adobe Digital Editions to validate the DRM, then move the file to the Kobo.

I don’t think this works with Hoopla.
posted by yarrow at 3:22 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: Also a librarian, can verify from first-hand experience that Overdrive ebooks are 'returned' even when the device with the book on it is offline.

Hoopla, to my knowledge, doesn't work with Kobo.
posted by box at 3:25 PM on August 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hoopla and Kobo do not work together in any easy way I've found. Possibly you could hack something together with Calibre or the like.

The "staying offline" trick doesn't seem to work as well with Kobo as with Kindles. My vague sense has been that it only works with the book you actively have open. Any other books you have that come due become unavailable even if the Kobo is offline.

I haven't really checked to see if that's really correct, though, or if there's some other variable. If I remember, I can check in a few days when my next batch of library books start coming due.
posted by Stacey at 3:31 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: For #3, yes, having a dedicated e-reader does help reduce distractions.

You should also make sure your phone/tablet is out of reach ;)
posted by jpeacock at 4:49 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: To confirm again regarding 2a: Kobo will only keep a book past it's return date if you have it open (regardless of wifi status), and if you accidentally turn the e-reader off completely, it will restart on the home page and you will lose any books that are past due. Kindle is much better for this extended-library-loans practice.

(Also, you didn't ask, but I would've liked to have known before I bought a Kobo, so: if you do a lot of highlighting, it's not quite as smooth an experience as on the kindle, sometimes it can be downright frustrating. Sometimes the kerning and spacing on Kobo is weird to a noticeable degree. And pictures or graphics show up super tiny. However, it sure is nice to be out of the locked Amazon ecosystem for books, and it's nice to be able to borrow library books via overdrive right on the device. That's my pros and cons list for Kobo vs Kindle, hope it helps.)
posted by carlypennylane at 6:57 PM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a Kobo (a few in fact) and I find that it is easy for me to get into a book and read more than I expect. The lighting is helpful and for long books I'm not distracted by the weight or the idea that I'm X percent through it. I turn off all page markings and the screen is just words. I actually avoid tapping the screen to do or change stuff because it shows how far I am in the book and I'd rather be surprised.

I also find that if I am not feeling a book I don't put it down and stop, I close it and open the backup book out of the 50 or so I have loaded on there. Oh, that new one isn't really working out? Good thing I'm halfway through the 4th Expanse novel, back to that! I don't even need to reach over to the side table.

Maybe not the question you asked, but I've had a great experience with the Libra 2 and its folding case/stand. Great size, works awesome. But if it seems a little expensive, try waiting a few weeks. Who knows what might happen? A sale, a new model...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:01 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: I purchased a Kobo Forma my dad and liked it so much I got one for myself too. We both go through library books at a ridiculously fast pace, so the Libby/Overdrive compatibility was key. Things I love about it: it's light and easy to hold, no social media distractions, easily adjustable font size and brightness, good battery life. Things I find slightly annoying: it can be hard to browse your library's catalog. It's easy to search for a title or author or you can browse the library's curated lists like "Fun Summer Reads" or "Black History Month" but if you just want to browse by genre you have to use the overdrive or Libby app on your computer to find what you want, borrow it, then sync your Kobo. Not difficult, but can be annoying extra step. Overall though, I'm glad I have it and I use it all the time. Definitely recommend.
posted by platinum at 7:12 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: I really like my Kobo and I primarily use it for overdrive/library books, but it's a bit of a pain in the ass. I have cards at two local libraries, but I have to totally log out of one library account and into another to search the other catalog. Since the last Kobo update, I now lose the books I had downloaded from one library when I log out of that library account and into the other. It's very annoying. Also yeah anything not on overdrive or in the Kobo store is I believe possible to upload but a pain because you have to upload it to your computer first. I've only done this once in the couple years I've had the thing. I'm glad I have a Kobo because I like reading on it, yes it is MUCH better than reading on a phone and yes I read more when I can't access the internet, and also Kindle not an option for me because I want Jeff Bezos to die in a fire, but it's not exactly simple or easy for library books, unfortunately.
posted by latkes at 10:16 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: "Librarian-approved behavior"?

That's exactly the service that libraries are paying for so that they can offer it to their users, so I should hope so!

Your one challenge will be if there are authors that you would like to read, but the author exclusively publishes to Amazon so that they can get higher royalty rates and participate in Kindle Unlimited.

Of course, there are also authors that choose to NOT publish to Amazon, but many of those publish to places that are more likely to offer DRM-free copies of ebooks.

I borrow quite a few books through Libby/Overdrive. A fairly small percentage aren't available via Kindle. A slightly larger percentage aren't available on anything but Kindle. So there's no way to ensure access to every single possible book, no matter what you do.

I do recommend, however, that if you have access to multiple library systems via reciprocal library cards, that you DO go ahead and sign up for the reciprocal cards. And then make sure that you add each of your library accounts into Libby/Overdrive. The selection of books available from each library WILL vary. (In other words, I'm not just saying this because the hold time for a book you want might be shorter from one library then another, I'm saying it because one library might not have even chosen to offer that book while another one does.)
posted by stormyteal at 11:40 PM on August 10, 2022

Best answer: I have a Kobo and the Libby/Overdrive integration was one of my primary reasons for getting it (in the UK, Kindles don’t have any library integration).

I use the Libby app to browse and borrow books, then they just show up on my Kobo next time I sync it. They appear in a dedicated Library Books section. I can confirm you can continue reading a book and finish it if your device is offline when it’s overdue, even if you return it via Libby. I feel no guilt in doing this, since I normally have it for a few days past the due date at most and it’s not actually affecting anyone else.

One thing you may not have considered - Kobos also have Pocket integration. This works incredibly well - you add articles to it via browser plugin or mobile app share menu, then they sync to your Kobo, formatted so you can read them like a book. It’s how I read 90% of online articles that are more than a couple of paragraphs wrong. I usually add articles over the course of the week and then read them at the weekends, like a kind of self-curated newspaper. I used to do this with Kindle and Instapaper, but Pocket is better to be honest.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:23 AM on August 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love my Kobo and use it to read library books all the time, but I use my Libby app on my phone to actually browse for/borrow books and then sync my Kobo to read the books on there. I don't find it particularly easy to browse for books on my Kobo.

2. Yes, you can dl books to your Kobo, keep it offline, and the book you're currently reading will stay there past the due date. Other books will be returned. It's also very easy to renew e-books through Libby--it will prompt you to renew when it's two days to the due date, and if the book can't be renewed, it'll prompt you to reserve the book so you can get it again. Not a perfect system, but it could be worse.

3. I get SO MUCH MORE e-reading done on my Kobo than on my phone because it's just for reading. It's like having a real book in my hands. Also (if this is any concern), it doesn't affect my chronic migraine the same way my phone does--the difference in lighting doesn't register with my senses as "screen" in the same way.

I love my Kobo and am considering buying a new, fancier Kobo with more features. I am absolutely brand-loyal and see no reason to switch.
posted by epj at 8:52 AM on August 11, 2022

Best answer: For other Kobo users: Books you have checked out will stay on your device if you are offline and past the due date as long as you are several pages into them. At least, this is my experience. I make sure to tab into the first actual page of the book when I download it, and I haven't had any stop working past their due date if I've done this.

I like the kobo for having a nice wider edge to hold. More ergonomic than the ultra thin kindles. All the knock off covers for the H2O work the same as the $50 official one.

Sideloading is nice and easy, I wouldn't let that stop you from it. It's also so much more pleasant and easy to read without the entire internet sitting in your hand tempting you.
posted by Bottlecap at 4:10 PM on August 11, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you all, esp for the additional tips that I hadn’t even known to ask about (having the book open to prevent return, integration with Pocket, migraines, mention of specific models, searching difficulties, issues with multiple libraries…)

@jpeackock - yes, the other devices need to be out of reach for this to work :)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:00 AM on August 12, 2022

It is possible to have multiple libraries synced on your Kobo, it's just a pain to set up. But mine is still running that and has books from both systems visible on it. It does often come up with books that don't automatically sync though, that have to be downloaded manually. For some reason, those have to be done from the Mac, not the Linux computer. (It's possible Windows would work, I don't have one.) I read a fair number of genre and self published books, which may account for it. If you read more mainstream, you may have fewer problems.

One other thing, it is possible to get a Kobo with buttons. I love having buttons to turn pages. (Very old kindles had that feature, but haven't been able to get it for a long time for them.)
posted by blueberry monster at 7:46 PM on August 22, 2022

How do you set it up to show multiple libraries??
posted by latkes at 9:39 PM on August 24, 2022

I set up blueberry monster’s Kobo to borrow from multiple libraries using this guide. It was a bit unreliable; several times I had to re-do various steps in order to get it to remember all the settings and work correctly. I don’t remember the exact details, sorry.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:08 PM on August 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

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