Being stuck in quarantine is the perfect time to tackle your TBR, amirite?! (Unless you’re like me and can’t focus for shit when your anxiety is high, heh.) I’ve been seeking out ways to read for free with library branches being shut down and no physical books available. Here are the ones I’ve found so far:
Your local library (digital)
This is the biggest resource for free ebooks that everyone should be taking advantage of! If you don’t have a library card already, many libraries are offering ways to get one online (whereas you’d usually have to be present to get one). If you can’t find a way online, try contacting your library to see if you can!
I am in LOVE with my local library. It’s part of a very large network of branches, so I can almost always find the titles I’m looking for. On the rare occasion I can’t find something, I have the option to request a title, and they’ve almost always ordered my requests!
There are a few apps available for library books:
This is the most common app that most libraries use for digital media. I personally don’t like the setup, I prefer Libby! Overdrive isn’t really user friendly, in my opinion.
On the desktop version of Overdrive, if you search for a title and it’s not available, you can tab over to “request a title.” There’s a limit of how many you can request per month, but I make good use of my requests! So far almost everything I’ve requested digitally has been approved. (The way this works might vary for different libraries, though.)
My rating: 2/5
Pros: Free, you can request titles they don’t have
Cons: Not user friendly, may have a wait for some titles
This is my favorite app for digital media from the library! Everything is easily accessible on the dashboard, including your loans and your holds (Overdrive is a pain in the butt to get to your holds). You can easily suspend holds – if you’re like me and request too many at once, this keeps them from all coming in at the same time. It’s fantastic! Audiobooks are easy to listen to on the app, and you can change the speed of them too, without distortion. (I prefer listening at 1.25x speed, I get through them much faster!)
Overdrive and Libby are linked. I can access all my titles on either dashboard, and if I check something out on Overdrive it automatically shows up on Libby.
My rating: 5/5
Pros: Free, user friendly, you can request titles they don’t have (through Overdrive)
Cons: May have a wait for some titles
I’m still new to this app. I like that there’s no wait for books, like there is sometimes with Libby/Overdrive, but I also find that the selection isn’t great. I rarely find the books I want on there. They don’t have many new releases, and it seems like it’s mostly the really popular stuff that’s available on there. Still, it’s free, and you can borrow up to 10 books at a time (this amount is currently extended to 20). The app also offers movies, TV, and music!
The main reason I was turned off of this app is because there is no longer a Hoopla app for the Kindle Fire, and I absolutely despise reading on my phone.
My rating: 2/5
Pros: Free, no wait time for titles, has other media besides books
Cons: Selection is poor, no way to read ebooks on Kindle
Amazon is currently doing a TWO MONTH free trial for Kindle Unlimited! You can access the promotion HERE. There are TONS of free books to read through Kindle Unlimited. (It’s mostly indie and lesser known authors, but I have seen a few popular titles on there from time to time!)
There’s also a Top 100 chart for free books on Amazon, you can see that HERE.
My rating: 3.5/5
Pros: Free for 30 days (currently extended to 60 days), no wait time for titles
Cons: Doesn’t have many popular titles
Cost after trial: $9.99/month
You can currently get a completely free 30 day trial of Scribd, no card required, HERE. (I’m not sure if it takes a card or not, but if you use my referral link you get 60 DAYS free and I get an additional 30 days free membership!!) This one has TONS of audiobooks available, but not a great selection of ebooks. It’s mostly useful for those who listen to a lot of audiobooks. The ebooks are mainly really popular or older titles, but I’ve seen quite a few newer audiobooks.
I personally have a major beef with this app, and I’m not sure I want to continue on using it paid when my free trial is over. I found out the hard way that you have a limited amount of listens (especially for popular/new titles, it seems). I was looking forward to starting The Shadows Between Us, which I had just saved the day before…I went to start it, and suddenly – it wasn’t available anymore. I had also started listening to Crier’s War – I was a couple of chapters in – and suddenly that wasn’t available anymore, either. The app said they wouldn’t be available again until the 19th of April, so I have to wait WEEKS to listen to them. NOT. COOL. That was enough to turn me off to paying for it. If I had known up front that there was a limit to how many you could listen to, I wouldn’t have been as pissed about it. The lack of transparency is enough to make me second guess paying for the app.
So, lesson learned: Download the titles you’re listening to. Or you may lose them mid-book.
My rating: 3/5
Pros: Free for 30 days (or 60 days w/ referral link), cheaper than Audible for paid and not limited to one book a month, no wait time for titles, great selection of audiobooks, can refer a friend for a free month of membership
Cons: Poor selection of ebooks, possibility of losing saved titles without warning (including ones you’re currently reading), limit to how many new titles you can listen to despite being advertised as “unlimited”
Cost after trial: $8.99/month
If you are new to audible, you can get a 30 day free trial, which currently comes with 3 credits (1 credit = 1 audiobook). They also currently have a small selection of totally free books that you can listen to (for as long as the schools are closed), you can see those titles HERE.
My rating: 4/5
Pros: Free for 30 days with 3 titles, no wait time for titles, awesome selection (and sometimes exclusive audiobooks), app is user friendly, ability to return titles you don’t like, you get to keep the audiobooks even if you cancel
Cons: Expensive, you only get one book per month if you pay monthly
Cost after trial: $14.99 if you pay monthly
This one offers a free 30 day trial, which includes 2 audiobooks of your choice plus one of their picks. See their site HERE.
However, after the trial, it’s the same price as Audible, which is why I didn’t continue my membership. For the same price, Audible has a WAY better selection and a much more user friendly system. With Audibooks, if you listen at 1.25x speed, the playback is distorted. Which was a major no for me.
My rating: 1/5
Pros: Free for 30 days with 3 titles, no wait time for titles
Cons: Expensive after trial, same price as Audible for less selection, app is not user friendly, can’t listen at any speed but 1x without distortion
Cost after trial: $14.99/month
I will try to keep this updated as I find more sources. If you know of any that I missed, please let me know!
What are your favorite reading resources? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned? If so, what do you think about them?