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OverDrive enables Discoverability of books and ebooks on the web

Library Technology Newsletter [May 2022]


OverDrive has been a longstanding partner with Google to facilitate the discoverability of ebooks and audiobooks available from libraries. As the leading provider of digital collection materials to public libraries, its efforts have a large impact on the visibility of libraries on the web.

Knowledge Panel BorrowAction for OverDrive
Knowledge Panel BorrowAction
for OverDrive

Persons can borrow Ebooks and audiobooks from their library's OverDrive collection via Google search results. When searching for a book on Google, results will usually offer a knowledge panel presenting additional information about the title, along with action buttons for buying a copy or borrowing from a library. When available as an ebook or audiobook from a nearby library that offers the title, the Borrow action connects the user directly its page in the library's OverDrive collection. This page, though delivered through the OverDrive platform, carries the library's logo and branding. In addition to presenting the bibliographic description of the item, the page includes summaries and reviews, recommendations for similar works, and a few sample pages. Searchers with a library account can sign in to borrow and download the title if its available or add it to their reading queue.

Digital content from OverDrive can also be included in Borrow actions facilitated by other discoverability services. Borrow actions enabled through EBSCO NoveList Linked Library Service, for example, may also include OverDrive items represented in the library's catalog. OverDrive provides MARC records for their digital collection items to enable discovery of these items in the library's catalog.

OverDrive has partnered with Google since 2017 to activate the BorrowAction in Knowledge Panels for books. This capability is provided for its customers in the countries where Google supports the BorrowAction for books, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. Libraries benefit from this exposure for their digital items without any additional fees beyond what they pay for their ebook collections delivered though the OverDrive platform.

Overdrive completed a major engineering project to develop feeds and other interactions to enable Google search to match the items available from each library and to present them as a Borrow Action in the knowledge panel. The library associated with the BorrowAction is activated according to the proximity of the searcher to libraries that hold the item in their OverDrive collection. Presented as a simple user feature, the BorrowAction depends on a large-scale body of structured data that includes the specific titles available from each library and their addresses. Google algorithms then use the physical location of the searcher to calculate the nearby libraries that offer a title given in a search query.

A closer look at the links structures involved, shows that the BorrowAction presents a link in the form:

which redirects to the public facing page for the library and the item:

Both links also include the additional data attributing the source of the transaction

  • &utm_campaign=searchfeed&utm_source=google
These data elements inform OverDrive use analytics to calculate the proportion of views of the item page and lending transactions attributed to Google search.

Example of a library's page for lending an item through OverDrive
Example of a library's page for lending an item through OverDrive

The BorrowAction for OverDrive ebooks and audiobooks seems to appear on Google knowledge panels for books more often than other options. Its prevalence relates to the number of libraries that subscribe to OverDrive's collections and the large number of popular titles in those collections. Over 76,000 libraries work with OverDrive to provide access to digital content. Of this total, data from 21,000 libraries, mostly in North America, are used by Google for populating borrow actions and related services.

According to OverDrive CEO Steve Potash, the company works in many different areas to strengthen the position of libraries to their communities. Providing easy ways to find and borrow ebooks and audiobooks through Google as a significant point of discovery that drives users to libraries and leads to more use of their digital collections.

The discoverability of ebook and audiobooks from a library's OverDrive collection is provided automatically in the geographic markets where it is available. OverDrive does not charge for this service.

[Return to issue: May 2022]
View Citation
Publication Year:2022
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Technology Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 1 Number 05
Issue:May 2022
Publisher:Library Technology Guides
Place of Publication:Nashville, TN
Company: OverDrive
Record Number:27296
Last Update:2022-12-05 13:34:42
Date Created:2022-05-15 10:50:24