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Free Audiobooks on Your iPhone...Sort Of

This week, the App Hunter reviews the OverDrive Media Console app, which allows library patrons on mobile devices to upload ebooks and audio books.

Imagine this: Walking into your local library and finding an advertisement for an app that allows you to checkout ebooks and audiobooks on your mobile device!

Inside, you yell, "Genius! Why hasn't this existed before?"

That's exactly what happened to me with the OverDrive Media Console app. OverDrive has so much promise, so many tantalising possibilities that you can't help but like it.

Earlier: A Review of Panoramic Photos by the Pano App

In my case, I really, really wanted to like it.

But the experience speaks for itself.

I tried this app out a year ago but was frustrated by its limited book selection and even more limited functionality. For example, I wanted to listen to The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 1  on my iPhone. It's a rare audio book and I was able to download it to a proprietary player OverDrive had me install on my desktop. It played perfectly. But it would not, could not transfer to my iPhone.

As much as I would have liked to listened to the entire book, my desktop Dell is not very portable.

So I gave up, hoping that OverDrive would improve its user experience and increase its selection.

When I tried it again this week, the only Philip K. Dick book I could find was Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep? (the basis for the movie Blade Runner). My second choice, Dan Savage's The Commitment, was already checked out, with a hold on it — as were scores of books I browsed.

Now, libraries set the number of books available, so until e-commerce relationships between libraries and publishers and mobile software folks evolve, I don't know how many audiobooks will be made available when they still have mass market appeal.

But I could only find one book I was interested in, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein — and it took 20 minutes to download, even with my iPhone tapped into wifi. Worse: It would not download while I was doing something else and kept telling me of its "limited ability."

And sometimes, because the app operates as little more than portal to its website, I'd get system error messages.

Still, I'm enjoying Frankenstein. I just wish the app wasn't equally as antiquated.

Patch also has its own iPhone app, which will connect you to local news, weather, events and business listings in your town.

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