How to Download Audiobooks to Your Smartphone from Your Library

Usually I say something like “A few people have asked. . . ” and then I have to clarify that by “a few,” I actually mean, “one person.”

But this time! TWO whole people asked about how to download an audiobook onto your phone from the library.

Well, ask and you shall receive.

I spent a boatload of time taking screenshots of how to download them onto your computer through the Overdrive Media Console and then transfer them to your player  (which is how I’ve done it for years) and then I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should try out the Overdrive app, just so I can comment on it.”

You guys? The app is so much better and easier. I’m a convert (I’ve resisted in the past because you couldn’t listen at double speed, but now they’ve added that functionality, plus a lot more. I’m in).

So if you have a smartphone or iPod touch, here’s how to do it in about five seconds. (Are there any of you who would want the whole tutorial for how to do it via computer (useful if you don’t have a smartphone or want to listen to it on your computer)? Because I have a whole folder of screenshots waiting. . . .)

In the meantime, here’s how to use it with the app.

Most libraries use Overdrive (the five library systems I’ve used in the last 5 years all do, and they are spread across four states), so it’s very likely your library does as well. How big the collection of books is depends on your library, but chances are you’ll have SOMETHING.

1. Download the Overdrive app.

2. Open it up on your phone and choose “Add a library.”

It’ll let you do a search for your library, and show you the available options.

3. Once you find your library, click the name of it, and log in with your library card number and pin number (the pin usually defaults to the last 4 digits of your phone number). Now when you are at the main menu, your library (or libraries, if you move a lot like I do) will show up at the top. Click your library to enter its site.

4. Search for a book. (You can choose to only have it show available copies if you push that big green button just above your search results).

5. Click the book you want to check out. Push “Borrow” and then “Download.”

6. Go back to the main menu and choose “Bookshelf.” Voila! Your book will be there. (It may take a few minutes to download, depending on how long the book is).

7. Click the book cover to open it and press the play button.

8. You can also change the speed (anywhere from half speed to double speed, in quarter-speed increments).

When the book is due back (usually 7-14 days), it’ll automatically be returned to the library (one benefit to downloading it to your computer and then transferring it manually is that it will stay indefinitely, so if you’re going on a long trip or something, your books don’t all disappear half way through your vacation. You can just delete them when you’ve finished). 
Any questions? Let me put my library degree to work!

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  • Reply Elaine October 4, 2013 at 10:59 am

    It's funny that you've posted this because I've been asked to give a workshop on downloading e-Books using Overdrive. I've put together a keynote presentation. I'm glad to hear that the Overdrive app works well for you for audiobooks.

  • Reply RA October 4, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I am tweeting this to Audrey (SangriaLover) immediately because we were JUST emailing about this!

  • Reply Fran October 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks so much for this! I really had no idea you could even rent audio books like this from the library. Hopefully this will help me with my resolution to do more reading/listening while I get chores done!

  • Reply Amanda P October 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but once you've downloaded the books from Overdrive onto your phone, are you listening to them offline (meaning, your data won't be racking up on your phone)?


    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Not a stupid question! You are listening to them offline – no data or internet connection needed once they've downloaded.

  • Reply NGS October 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    This sounds so much easier than dealing with Overdrive on my computer which has sent me into tears of frustration more than once so that at this point, I'm only getting audiobook on CD from my library which makes me old skool and also limits my selection. Yay! Thanks so much for this.

    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      Yes, this is MUCH easier than Overdrive by computer.

  • Reply JoLee October 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I've been using Overdrive for years now. I check out lots of ebooks from the library too. I love being able to check out books without going to the library.

  • Reply Sara October 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    What is a really good book to listen too? I need help picking one out.

  • Reply Rachel October 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    This is perfect, thank you!!

  • Reply Sherry October 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I love OverDrive, but I sure didn't know the app has been upgraded to listen to the books faster. I wonder if the Android app hasn't gotten the upgrade yet. I also rarely browse the books on my phone. Instead I browse on my computer, make lists of stuff I want to read later, put books on hold, etc. I'm still anxiously awaiting the day when we can sync GoodReads and OverDrive. I know it will happen one day. I just know it.

  • Reply Celeste October 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    You know I need the step by step with web shots, thank you!

  • Reply Heather October 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Send me the screen shots por favor, my computer is waiting in my kitchen to tell me stories while I cook and clean. Thanks for the smart phone tips too!

  • Reply becomingbrown October 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I love the smart phone tips, however, we do a lot of traveling. I was wondering about getting that set up on my computer so they don't disappear for me mid trans atlantic flight.

    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      The books download to your phone, so they aren't streaming (meaning you don't need an internet connection to listen to them, only an internet connection to down load them).

  • Reply Jodi October 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    This is great, thanks! Actually, after I left my comment yesterday I went back to my library's website and found the link to audiobooks. Hooray! Now I just have to see how big of a collection they have.

  • Reply Karen October 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    So…what if you want to download onto a Kindle. The app wouldn't work, but would the computer?

  • Reply preethi October 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Love the Overdrive app, but didn't know they'd added double time capability. Is this recent? I just tried to figure it out a few weeks ago for…a very long time.

    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Erica, who has used the app for ages, tells me it's only in the last few weeks they've added this.

  • Reply Shannon... October 5, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Love, love, love Overdrive! And just a small note… Though the book is technically returned on its due date, if you set back the date on your iPad (take it off of auto date first), you can buy yourself another day or two on a book that you are almost done with… Not that I would ever abuse this privledge that way!! 🙂

    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      THIS is brilliant 🙂

  • Reply kimmie October 5, 2013 at 12:54 am

    I used to use overdrive on my computer for the longest time but recently a lot of things have been having trouble being transferred over because it'll say they're being transferred but lots of parts will be grayed out in itunes which means that I have to keep transferring and transferring to eventually get it to work. But then I started using the app and oh my goodness it's so easy! I love how I don't have to get frustrated about parts not transferring over.

    The only thing I *did* like about using the overdrive on the computer was that once it was on my iphone, the files would ignore the 21 day lending window and I could have them on my phone as long as I wanted, until I manually removed them (I keep Goose Girl on my phone at all times in case I want to listen to it, and it's been there for… like years), but with the app, they automatically expire in 21 days and I have to re-borrow and re-download them if they expire before I'm finished, so I use the app for books that I know I'll be able to finish fairly quickly, and the computer overdrive program for longer books that may take longer than 21 days (ahem, A Song of Ice and Fire books took me like 3 months each).

    • Reply Janssen October 7, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      I like that about the computer too – if I'm going on a trip, it's nice that they won't disappear while I'm gone.

  • Reply Becca October 5, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Thank yooooou! I could seriously kiss you for this post. This is wonderful.

  • Reply ct October 6, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I started using this app since you recommended audio books. Just finished one of the Bartamaeus books and am in the middle of Outliers. Love it!! Thanks!

  • Reply Tracy October 6, 2013 at 3:30 am

    Yea, thank you! I am one of the two people you referenced and have been checking back. Audio books are a mom's best friend.

  • Reply ccr in MA October 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for this! I actually had Overdrive on my iPad already, since a librarian friend put it there for me, but the other shoe hadn't dropped re: audiobooks. Love it! So cool!

    For Sara: I recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: a good book and a good cast reading it.

  • Reply Siouxzy October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    This is great!

  • Reply Jenna Pirrie October 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Ah! I was so excited for this, until the app told me on the book page that borrowing and downloading is disabled for this device. Have you run into this? I'm on an iPhone 4s, and I'm not really sure where to even go to fix it.

    • Reply Janssen October 10, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Hmm, I've never seen it. Sounds like it might be your library?

    • Reply Janssen October 17, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      Okay, after using the app some more, I know now that it's WMA files that won't download straight to your phone. You'll have to use the computer to transfer those files. But if it's a MP3 book, it should transfer without issue.

  • Reply Neil & Michelle Harrison October 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I've been using overdrive for years. Using the computer and transferring it allows me to listen to WMA audiobooks when the app doesn't for my galaxy player. For some reason, my library has way more available on wma than mp3.So, I like both methods, although the app is definitely easier.

  • Reply Stacey October 16, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I would love to know how to do it on the computer first and transfer over so that I can take longer than 7 days.

  • Reply Lisa!! January 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    You are AWESOME!! My husband wanted to listen to a book while he shoveled snow. He was going to use Audible, but I said, "Wait… let me check Everyday Reading to see if she has a post about downloading books from local library." And… of course you do! Thanks so much. You are helpful on so many levels. I have made your recipes, I purchased pants you recommended (but were too skinny for my "athletic" calves, I ordered TogetherBox for my niece and now you're helping educate us on some tools, oh oh oh and now I have a blogger profile because you asked us to complete our profile… who knows maybe I'll start blogging because of you. Thanks for always having helpful, quality and wholesome posts. You are my kind of friend. Thanks so much!

  • Reply Lisa {} February 3, 2014 at 12:00 am

    It took potty training to finally motivate me to take the five minutes to do this, so months and months later I finally did it, so thank you! The tutorial was so helpful, I'll definitely be passing this on.

  • Reply Leslie Seror November 12, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Thank you for this!! I pinned this months ago and just recently actually got around to doing it. I've loved listening to audiobooks. Thank you, thank you!

  • Reply Rich and Brianne April 30, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I've been downloading books for my son to listen to during quiet time, but I it says I can only have 5 holds at a time. Is this library specific? You said you have long hold lists with Overdrive, so I'm just wondering if this is my library's rule, rather than Overdrive's.

    • Reply Janssen May 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      I use the wishlist feature to save books I want to listen to later, but yes, every library I've used with Overdrive has a limit on the number of holds (it varies from library to library, but 10 is the most I've ever seen).

    • Reply Rich and Brianne May 21, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Oh I didn't even think to look for a feature like this, but, of course, it makes sense. I'll look for a wishlist on mine. Thanks!

  • Reply Rev Yvonne November 4, 2015 at 5:26 am

    You said you've moved a lot and have used OverDrive for several different library systems. What happens to wish list, ratings, recommendations, hold queue, etc., when you move from one library system to another? Is it kept? Or lost?

    • Reply Janssen November 12, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Lost, unfortunately. My accounts don't disappear, but I can't combine all the lists and holds into a new account.

  • Reply Monica Ordway November 10, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    So when I download a book does it use a lot of data

    • Reply Janssen November 11, 2015 at 4:49 am

      It's not HUGE, but it's enough you won't want to just download willy-nilly on the go.

  • Reply Monica Ordway November 10, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    So when I download a book does it use a lot of data

  • Reply Sara March 3, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you!! This was so helpful! I just joined OverDrive through my library system and downloaded the app, and I’m so excited to get into audiobooks.

  • Reply Leslie March 27, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you soooo much! Wish I had found this an hour ago! You’re the best…

  • Reply Audiobooks for Kids: Tips for Starting + Titles to Try - Everyday Reading February 3, 2018 at 11:55 am

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  • Reply Amy March 12, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Is there a way to download audio books that have pages you can turn? My child loves the concept, but doesn’t like that it’s not interactive. He won’t sit there and stare at the book cover the whole time. I know there was something like this when I was growing up but all the audio book apps I’m finding just show you the cover rather than inside the book as well. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Reply Kim Giandalia - Ferguson June 16, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Do you have to have overdrive to download audiobooks? I don’t have a computer, just my Android phone.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw June 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Yes! Just download the Overdrive or Libby app on your phone and you can use it entirely without a computer!

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