The company that bought retail portal in 2010 and eBook company Kobo in 2011 is expanding again. Rakuten has announced plans to buy OverDrive for $410 million.

OverDrive is an eBook and audiobook distributor that makes digital media available to library patrons, school students, and others. You can use the OverDrive system to borrow or purchase books and read them on your phone, tablet, eReader, or other device.



Rakuten expects to complete the acquisition of OverDrive within 30 days. So what happens then? Probably not much… at least not initially.

OverDrive will continue to operated as an independent company and its current CEO Steve Potash will keep his job. The company will become a subsidiary of Rakuten USA, but otherwise it will continue to focus on making digital media available to schools and libraries.

In the long run it’s likely that Rakuten will try to take advantage of its global resources to improve the experience of borrowing OverDrive content on Kobo hardware or using Kobo apps.

Right now it’s a lot easier to check out library books and read them on a Kindle than on a Kobo or NOOK device. That’s because you can borrow a Kindle eBook by clicking a button, opening the Amazon website, and clicking another button to send a book wirelessly to your Kindle device. To borrow an EPUB book you need to download the title to a computer or other device with support for Adobe Digital Editions software before transferring it to your eReader.

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3 replies on “Rakuten acquires library eBook, audiobook provider OverDrive”

  1. There are eink eReaders that support downloading adobe epubs directly to the device, and of course, not everyone’s eReader is eink. On a tablet or phone (including a few that are eink like Onyx’s), you can use an app like Aldiko to download and read adobe epubs. It’s actually an easier process than borrowing from library to kindle, especially since while lots of books offer both an adobe and kindle option, there are many that only offer adobe epub, based on the publisher’s choice of formats.

  2. There actually is an Overdrive app for Android, but it’s sort of clunky. It essentially functions as a wrapper around a web browser, so you open your library’s Overdrive website in the embedded browser and borrow epub or pdf books or mp3 audiobooks, then it opens in the app proper. It’s not amazing, but it works.

  3. Grammar Check: “In the long it’s likely”
    Long run? Long term? perhaps?

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