The only thing I like more than reading is reading for free. I read a number of books every year and I save a fortune by finding multiple ways to read for free. Having the libraries closed during quarantine has certainly made reading for free more difficult, but I it hasn’t slowed my reading down at all. I’ll let you in on all of my secrets for reading for free when you can’t pop into your local library.
Overdrive and Libby are essentially two versions of the same app. Libby was created by Overdrive and has a different format without all of the features of Overdrive itself. I prefer Overdrive personally because I can recommend books to my library from inside the app, while that’s a feature that Libby doesn’t have. Many people prefer Libby and I’ll admit that it’s certainly a pretty layout, but my heart belongs to Overdrive.
Overdrive is a free service offered by many libraries that gives you access to ebooks and audiobooks. While this is not the only service that libraries use, it is the most prevalent.
Within Overdrive you can download ebooks to your Kindle or read them within the app and you can also download MP3 audiobooks. Overdrive is free to use and can be accessed with your library card.
Many libraries have a limit on the number of holds that you can have at once, so I like to keep books above and beyond my hold limit on my wishlist within Overdrive. Once a hold turns into a loan, I add a new book to my holds list from my wishlist.
If you find a book that your library doesn’t own, you can easily recommend that book to your library. If your library purchases the book, it will automatically be added to your holds.
Hoopla is an additional service that many libraries subscribe to that is also free with your library card. Hoopla gives you access to ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies and television.
Hoopla is different from Overdrive in that you can’t transfer ebooks to a Kindle device, rather they have to be read within the Hoopla app. This for me is a dealbreaker. I am loyal to my Kindle and hate reading on a backlit screen. I do often use Hoopla for audiobooks, however.
Another thing that sets Hoopla apart from Overdrive is that all items in their library are immediately available. There are no hold times. However, you might find late in the day that your library has reached it’s maximum number of borrows for the day and you’ll have to check back the next morning.
Finally, Hoopla has a limit on the number of items you can borrow in a month. My library has this limit set to six. Since I only use Hoopla for audiobooks, and audiobooks account for maybe 10% of my reading, this isn’t a problem for me.
Prime Reading is a service available for free to Amazon Prime Members. You can have up to ten books on loan at any one time, and there’s no time limit, so you can hold onto books for as long as you need to finish them. Many books within Prime Reading include the audible narration for free also, and this is my favorite perk.
The titles available on Prime Reading cycle with time, and while you won’t be able to find everything on your TBR list, there is likely something you’re interested in reading on the list. I wouldn’t subscribe to Prime simply for this service, but it is a nice perk.
One thing I love about Prime Reading is Amazon Original Stories. I loved both Forward and the This Can’t Be Happening Collection, especially with the Audible Narration option. Since these are all short stories, it was nice to have these on hand as an alternative to podcasts, all free with your Prime subscription.
I’ve had a lot of questions about NetGalley and plan to write a more detailed post soon, but for now I’ll say this: If you’re already reviewing books somewhere online (Instagram, Goodreads, a blog) then you should join NetGalley. NetGalley provides free advance reader copies (in the form of ebooks) to reviewers.
The best advice I can offer to someone using NetGalley is only to accept books that you genuinely plan to read and review. Publishers will see your history of reviews and they’re unlikely to be willing to send a book to someone who won’t follow through.
Like I said, a post with more information about NetGalley is coming soon, but I’ll tell you that I used NetGalley badly for years and have worked hard to rebuilt my reputation on the platform. While I don’t get every book I request, I am able to get a number of books from the authors that I love ahead of their release date.
Serial Reader App
If you’ve been meaning to catch up on the classics, the Serial Reader app is a great way to do that and it’s designed for today’s attention span. Each day the app will release a selection of the book that can be read in approximately 20 minutes, designed to mimic the days of serial radio broadcasts. Yes, you’ll have to read the book on a device like a phone or tablet, but the books and the app are all free.