If you’re thinking about buying a Kobo Aura one, the awesome 7.8-inch ereader with so many more typographical choices than Kindles, you’d do well to catch up with the manual.

The PDF here includes instructions on Page 48 for OverDrive, biggest service for library e-books, the one that your local library most likely uses.  OverDrive, meanwhile, has posted overlapping advice.

Nate Hoffelder at the Digital Reader reached the same conclusion I did when I first used my Aura One to forage for ebooks from the library system here in Alexandria, Virginia (actually stored on an OverDrive server). You’ll be better off starting with a Web version of your local OverDrive catalog—via your desktop—to identify and check out the titles you want.

Then you just can tap the Sync icon on your Aura One rather than suffer the usual file transfer hassles. Also, browsing within the Web-based catalog, you might use the “Available Now” option if you’re in a city like mine where demand for e-books is heavy.

Of course, this is a long way from conveniently being able to search for just the right library books on the Aura One itself via keywords and a library-only filters.

I hope Kobo will add such a filter.

Library ebook search hassles show need for national digital library system

Meanwhile the lack of the library-only filter illustrates why we need a national digital library system (or to be exact, intertwined systems—one for public libraries and another for academic and research libraries).

Rakuten, the Japanese conglomerate that owns both Kobo and Overdrive, in fact makes money off library services, but it’s especially interested in pushing hardware and selling books. Nothing wrong with those goals! But library patrons’ needs shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle.

Librarians should be in charge of library systems at the national level, as opposed to vendors serving as de facto national librarians. This approach wouldn’t necessarily hurt Overdrive’s bottom line and in fact could help it. Especially if we created a well-funded national digital library endowment, Overdrive could still do quite well as a contractor providing services. It’s just that we really need an open, truly competitive approach, under which:

1. Not just Kobo but also other vendors would be able to build library access into their e-readers and applications, with patrons easily able to search just for library books.

2. Whether using an ereader, an app, or the Web, patrons could simultaneously search across the collections of different services, not just Overdrive, rather than having to skip from silo to silo.

The SimplyE app now available—for iOS and Android users—offers or will offer this de-siloing capability for patrons of the New York Public Library and the Connecticut State Library, as well as systems in Brooklyn, Boston, Chattanooga, Cincinnati/Hamilton County, Cuyahoga County, Sacramento, Santa Clara and Alameda County in California, and the Kent District in Michigan. See a recent Publisher’s Weekly article about SimplyE. Time to alert your local library about SimplyE?

Ultimately, we need a national collection encompassing everything, but SimplyE and equivalent functionality on ereaders would be one way of making a smooth transition and could include free books from such sources as the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, the Hathi Trust and the Digital Public Library of America.

With SimplyE you can check out books from your phone or tablet in just three clicks. Looking through user reviews at the Apple App Store and Google Play, I see that SimplyE has a lot of rough spots to work out. But the idea of de-siloing is definitely worth pursuing.