Answered By: Sophie Firby
Last Updated: Nov 02, 2015     Views: 3087

This is what we call the "OverDrive Math" problem. You're in the same position in line in both places, it's just that one page is doing a mathematical calculation that the other page is not.

Here's the explanation:

When you place a hold on an OverDrive title, OverDrive looks at the number of copies that the library owns and calculates how many people are waiting PER COPY (see image above, showing the number of library copies as 18 and the number of people waiting per copy as 18).

When you check the holds position next to the item on your holds page, you are seeing the number of people ahead of you per copy (18 in the example).


When you check your holds position in the main library catalogue, you see a very different number (316 in this example).

The patron in the example is at position of 316 for Girl on the Train, and since there are 18 copies of the title, the OverDrive page calculates this as being “18th in line for ONE of the 18 copies” and shows 18. Our library catalogue is not set up to make this kind of sophisticated calculation, so it just shows the basic number: 316. 

Not to worry, though! That doesn't mean that you have to wait for 316 people to read the book before you'll get it; there are 18 copies being shared between all users so the line moves quickly.

It’s exactly the same calculation that you have to do (mentally) if the library has 20 physical copies of a book across our branches and you’re 20th in line – you know you’re getting that book a lot faster than a second book that you're 20th in line for, but that the library only owns one copy of. 

OverDrive does this calculation so that people aren’t confused by titles that come at completely different rates when both items said they had 20 holds on them. Unfortunately, the difference in the two displays means that people get confused anyway. 

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    Comments (2)

    1. In Overdrive, how are you waiting in line for an eBook that's on the internet - shouldn't there be endless copies? Are book websites that sell eBooks doing that? Seriously, would the books stop selling because their are no more eBook copies? I'm confused with this.
      by lyne on Jan 31, 2016.
    2. Hi Lyne,

      You're right. It is possible for there to be endless copies of eBooks. In fact, one of our eBook services works this way: Freading. The issue is one of business models. Freading charges us a small amount every time someone borrows an eBook. While Overdrive requires us to purchase copies of each eBook we want to offer. Essentially, in this matter, Overdrive works just like print books always have. The book publishers seem to prefer this model, and Overdrive offers most of the bestseller, mainstream, eBook titles.

      If, one day, we had infinite money, we could ensure that you never had to wait for an eBook. But until that day comes, or the publishers start preferring a pay-per-read model like Freading's, there will continue to be hold lists for eBooks.

      by Mike @ WPL on Feb 01, 2016.

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