OverDrive, Inc.

Rakuten OverDrive, Inc. is an American digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video titles. The company provides secure management, digital rights management and download fulfillment services for publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers.[1] OverDrive's catalog includes more than 2 million digital titles from more than 5,000 publishers.[1] The company's global network includes more than 43,000 public libraries, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and corporations in 75 countries worldwide. [1] OverDrive was founded in 1986 and is based in Cleveland, Ohio.[1]

Rakuten OverDrive
IndustryeBooks, Library Services, School Services, Software and App Development, Digital Content Management, Publishing
Founded1986 (1986) in Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
United States
Area served
Key people
Steve Potash (Pres and CEO)
ProductsOverDrive Media Console, OverDrive Read, OverDrive Media Station, Content Reserve
ParentRakuten (2015–present)


OverDrive was founded in 1986[2] and initially converted analog media to digital formats, such as interactive diskettes and CD-ROMs. As the Internet became a reliable form of digital media distribution, OverDrive moved its services online. In 2000, the company opened Content Reserve, an online ebook and downloadable audiobook repository from which its distribution business would develop.[3]

In 2011, OverDrive launched its WIN Catalog, which allows publishers, libraries, and readers to use options such as "Buy It Now", "Recommend to Library", and "Author Impressions".[4][5]

In 2012, the company announced a series of service upgrades, including: OverDrive Read, a browser-based ereader, streaming audiobooks, which enable access to audiobooks via the OverDrive Media Console apps; OverDrive Media Station, which allows users to browse their library's digital collection on touchscreen monitors and public Internet workstations; Next Generation Content Reserve, a collection-development portal; and OverDrive APIs, which allow developers to integrate OverDrive content into apps and platforms.[6] The company also announced a partnership with LexisNexis to provide the LexisNexis Digital Library, a customized eLending platform for the legal library market.[7]

In 2014, OverDrive completed its Headquarters in the Cleveland suburb of Garfield Heights, Ohio.

In 2015, it was reported that Japan's Rakuten was planning to buy out OverDrive for $410 million, with the deal set to close in April 2015. OverDrive CEO Steve Potash will remain in his current position and OverDrive will keep its name while operating under Rakuten USA.[8]

In 2016, OverDrive partnered with several award-winning companies, including ABDO Publishing Company, Britannica Digital Learning, Dawn Publications, Lerner Publishing Group, and Open Road Integrated Media to launch a QuickStart ebook collection to promote reading in elementary schools.[9]

Libraries and schools

OverDrive launched its Digital Library Reserve, a digital download platform for public libraries, in 2002.[10] The eBook distribution service included a download website and access to the Content Reserve collection development portal. In 2004, the platform was changed into a DRM-protected audiobook download platform.[11] In 2005, OverDrive installed download stations into public libraries[12] and adding music to its library platform.[13] OverDrive added downloadable videos in April 2006.[14] In 2007, the company launched its School Download Library, an eBook service for K–12 schools based on Digital Library Reserve. In March 2008, the company announced plans to provide MP3 audiobooks to public libraries as well as retailers.[15]


As of October 2013, OverDrive content includes a selection of more than 1.8 million eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital content available in more than 64 languages.


Before entering the library market, OverDrive distributed eBooks to a number of e-tailers. In 2002, OverDrive was selected as the distributor of HarperCollins’ eBooks to the publisher's online retail stores.[16] OverDrive launched web stores for Harlequin Enterprises in 2005.[17] In 2008, OverDrive announced that it would provide download services for Borders Books.[18]

OverDrive has entered into partnerships with technology companies including Adobe Systems, Microsoft, Mobipocket, and Nokia. In 2008, Adobe and OverDrive jointly announced that OverDrive would be the co-developer and operator of Adobe ADEPT, a hosted DRM service to protect files viewed with Adobe Digital Editions.

In 2012, OverDrive partnered with Nokia to launch Nokia Reading, an eReading app and service for Nokia's Lumia 900, 800, 710, and 610 Windows Phone devices. [19]

Products and services

OverDrive's download services include several software as a service products for libraries, retailers, schools, publishers and the military, as well as web-based products for content protection and management. These include:

  • Adobe ADEPT, a hosted service for protecting files viewed with Adobe Digital Editions.
  • MIDAS, a white-label e-retail solution that allows retailers to sell OverDrive-distributed media under their brand.
  • OverDrive Marketplace, formerly known as Content Reserve, a collection development portal.[20] Publishers upload their content to this marketplace and apply DRM settings for protected content. Libraries can then log into OverDrive Marketplace and add content to their virtual branch website. Retailers can also use OverDrive Marketplace to supply their online stores.
  • OverDrive Media Console, a proprietary media player for OverDrive-distributed audiobooks, eBooks, music, and video, which is available for the Android, BlackBerry, iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Kindle, Kobo, Mac, and Windows platforms; on some devices, eBooks can also be downloaded and played in Adobe Digital Editions software. Libraries providing digital media titles to their users can be found through the OverDrive Search portal.
  • Private Reserve, a private, online repository for rights-holders to upload, organize, protect and distribute their eBooks, documents and other digital material.

With its Next Generation enhancements, OverDrive also offers:[6]

  • Next Generation Content Reserve, a streamlined collection-development portal.
  • OverDrive APIs, which allows developers to integrate OverDrive content into apps and platforms.
  • OverDrive Media Console, enhanced capabilities which enable on-demand access to streaming media.
  • OverDrive Media Station, a platform that lets patrons browse their library's digital collection on touchscreen monitors and public Internet workstations.
  • OverDrive Read, a browser-based eReading experience.
  • OverDrive Listen, a browser-based eListening experience.
  • OverDrive App, an App for multiple platforms, including multiple Android, iOS, and Windows 8 phones and tablets. It is free to download and lets one read eBooks, listen to audiobooks and stream video.[21]
  • Libby, a free app for Apple iOS, Windows, and Google Android devices. It's used for checking out eBooks and audiobooks from local libraries.[22]
  • Sora, a free app for Apple iOS and Google Android devices. It's used for checking out eBooks and audiobooks from school libraries.[23]

Events and outreach

OverDrive holds a biennial user group meeting called Digipalooza to train and educate librarians on the download service. Held in Cleveland, Ohio, the event focuses on trends, best practices, and outreach ideas for public library download websites.

At the 2008 Public Library Association National Conference, OverDrive unveiled preliminary plans for the nationally touring Digital Bookmobile.[24] The traveling exhibit is housed inside an 18-wheeler and visits public libraries throughout the OverDrive network. Inside the tractor-trailer, learning stations guide patrons through all aspects of their public library's download service. As of August 2012, OverDrive has hosted more than 500 Digital Bookmobile events at libraries and community centers throughout North America.[25]

In 2011, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash made obvious hints that the Amazon Kindle would join other major eReaders in public libraries as soon as September 2011. In his "Crystal Ball Report", during the final session of OverDrive's July 2011 Digipalooza conference, he hinted at the month of release.[26] On September 21, 2011, OverDrive began supporting Kindle public library book borrowing.

On September 18, 2014, OverDrive debuted International "Read an Ebook" Day, "an annual holiday to celebrate and raise awareness for reading on digital devices". Leading up to and on that day, OverDrive encouraged "readers around the world" to participate "by choosing from millions of free eBooks from their local library or purchasing an eBook from a retailer online". Additionally, throughout the day, OverDrive celebrated "the holiday by giving away tablets and devices every hour on the event website (www.readanebookday.com) and through social media to readers who tell their story of what eBooks mean to them, by using the hashtag #eBookDay on Facebook or Twitter to tell their story, or commenting directly at the event website.



OverDrive is criticized for relying on digital rights management (DRM) protection technology from Microsoft for the bulk of its audiobooks. Microsoft's refusal to update its Macintosh versions of Windows Media Player to accommodate the requisite encryption scheme disqualifies Apple computer users from accessing the bulk of OverDrive's audio files, which are formatted as DRM Windows Media Audio (WMA).

In March 2008, OverDrive announced that it would distribute a collection of approximately 3,000 audiobooks in the MP3 format, which is more widely compatible.[27] On November 19, 2008, OverDrive also released the OverDrive Media Console for Mac, which allows Mac owners to download and listen to MP3 audiobooks from their library on a home computer. OverDrive's streaming audiobook option—scheduled for release in 2012—will enable Mac users to access many audiobooks that were previously unavailable due to WMA compatibility issues. [28]


In January 2009, OverDrive informed Fictionwise that it would no longer be providing downloads for purchasers of e-books through Fictionwise as of January 31, 2009; no reason was provided to Fictionwise as to why it was being shut down. This prevents previous purchasers from being able to renew their books on new devices.[29] Fictionwise was working to provide replacement ebooks for its customers in alternative, non-DRM-protected formats, but did not have the rights to provide all of the books in different formats.[29]

See also


  1. "Who we are". Overdrive.com. 2019-10-16.
  2. Reidel, Jeff (26 February 2018). "OverDrive steering success in Northeast Ohio". WKYC. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  3. "eBook Distribution Goes Global; OverDrive Content Reserve Creates International and Multi-lingual Marketplace". AllBusiness.com.
  4. "OverDrive to Announce Solutions for Libraries to Meet Explosive Demand for eBooks". OverDrive.com (Press release).
  5. "OverDrive Showcases WIN Catalog at PLA Conference". OverDrive.com (Press release).
  6. "OverDrive's Next Generation eBook Service to Extend Value of Digital Libraries". OverDrive.com (Press release).
  7. "LexisNexis Announces LexisNexis Digital Library" (Press release). Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  8. Milliot, Jim (19 March 2015). "Rakuten to Buy OverDrive". Publishers Weekly.
  9. "OverDrive Launches QuickStart eBook Collection to Promote Reading in Elementary Schools". DigitalJournal.com. 14 March 2016.
  10. "OverDrive's Digital Library Reserve Enables Circulating eBook and Digital Magazine Collections".
  11. "OverDrive Audio Books Platform Released".
  12. "OverDrive Launches Audiobook Kiosks in Public Libraries".
  13. "World's Greatest Classical Music Available via Download from Public Library Websites".
  14. "OverDrive Download Video Celebrates One Year Anniversary".
  15. "OverDrive to offer DRM-free audiobooks".
  16. "HarperCollins Launches Four Ebook Stores".
  17. "Harlequin Enterprises Announces the Launch of E-Book Program". Archived from the original on May 17, 2011.
  18. "OverDrive Powers Digital Audiobook Service for Borders".
  19. "OverDrive and Nokia Reading".
  20. "Collection Development". OverDrive. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  21. "OverDrive App". Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  22. "Meet Libby".
  23. "Sora".
  24. "Digital Bookmobile to Launch National Tour at Public Libraries".
  25. "Happy 4th Birthday, Digital Bookmobile!".
  26. "OverDrive Hints That Kindle Library Lending is Coming in September". Archived from the original on September 25, 2011.
  27. "OverDrive Breaks the iPod Barrier for Downloadable Audio".
  28. "OverDrive to Provide Streaming Audiobooks to Libraries and Schools".
  29. "Fictionwise Support FAQ". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
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