Libby – The Best Way to Access Free Audio Books and Ebooks
Want free audio books and ebooks? Get Libby! It’s that simple.
I love to read. It’s seriously one of the best hobbies out there. Books are like movies in your mind guys!
My wife feels the same. However, she listens to books more often these days in the form of audio books especially during her commute or at work. The best part about reading is that it’s one of those hobbies that can basically be done for free.
That’s all due to the magic of public libraries.
If you’re not familiar, Libraries are these big buildings where you can go and get stuff for free as long as you have a library card. Mostly, they’re used for books but they have other stuff too.
Sure, you have to leave your house to said stuff and eventually return it but free is free! On top of that, they often have a bunch of free audio books to borrow too. Sure they’re in CD form and often like 7 CDs to one book but it still works!
Back in the day, my wife would often borrow a book and spent a good amount of time putting each CD onto her computer so she could listen to it on her iPod. The horror of it all.
However, we did it simply because books and especially audio books aren’t cheap. That’s why libraries made so much sense because we saved so much money. We’re both voracious readers and easily save over $200 per month just by accessing our libraries.
Reading got even easier with the advent of e-readers. Now you now longer had to leave your home to get a book. That was bad for book stores but great for readers. Sure, some people like physical books but I couldn’t care either way.
I became a big user of ebooks but the cost associated with them meant I wasn’t reading them as often as I could.
The best part about that is that libraries jumped on board too and soon began to build catalogs of ebooks and online audio books.
And there’s where Libby comes into play.
What is Libby?
Libby is a free app that connects you to your library’s digital catalog. It’s an updated, more modern version of overdrive, another app that does the same thing. This connection means you can get free audio books and ebooks from the comfort of your own home.
The best part is that it’s easy to use and you can access it via your phone(search the app store) or even online via your web browser.
Personally, for me, Libby is one of the best apps I’ve ever used. It gives me access to a treasure trove of ebooks and audio books and saves me a ton of money along the way. Plus, it’s so easy to use and gets the book to your Kindle in no time at all.
How Does Libby Work?
Set up is easy but does require a library card. Once you get set up, this is the screen you’ll see. On the bottom, you can switch between library and shelf. The library screen will take you to the main library page.
This home screen will differ a bit depending on the library system you access. That also determines the quantity and quality of titles you can access. If there’s one negative of Libby, it’s this. It all depends on how good your library’s digital catalog happens to be.
For example, my library has over 115,000 fiction titles and over 64,000 non fiction titles. That’s pretty damn good. I’ve found that libraries are doing a pretty good job of building their library catalogs in talking with people in other states. Often, libraries in certain areas will band together to improve their overall catalog. As you can see, I access the system through the public libraries of Suffolk County, NY which is a large group of towns.
Hopefully, if you’re new to the app, then yours has done the same and your catalog is similarly stocked.
The library home page is where you will search for and borrow books and audio books. The home page will also give you recommendations for books that may be new or relevant to you. For example, all the Harry Potter books are there for me as well as a variety of links I can click that will take me to popular books or books that are new.
I’ve found that the library page has a lot of good suggestions based on various topics and genres too if you’re in the mood for a recommendation.
In this case, I already had something in mind so I did a quick search for the book in question.
The search page is very simple and clean and allows you to look for any book you want.
I just type in Blood Meridian, click on the name as it pops up and it lists all the available versions of the book.
I’ve found that most relatively popular books will have both an audio book and ebook version. In this case, the audio book is available to be borrowed today while the ebook is all out.
I know what you’re saying, how can an ebook be out! Well, libraries still have to pay for these so they do not have infinite copies of the books to borrow. In fact, it functions like a normal library would. If the book isn’t in the stacks, someone has it out and you have to place a hold or come back later to get it.
In this case, I want to place a hold. Doing so will show you how many people are also waiting and how long a hold might take.
In this case, the library has 3 copies that are all out, 9 people are waiting for the copies and it’ll take 7 weeks before my hold will fill. That’s one of the negatives when it comes to these free audio books or ebooks. Just like with a library, you sometimes can’t get the most popular titles right away.
One thing to remember is that these wait times are estimates. The longest time you can borrow a book is 21 days so it’s just an assumption based on those borrowing patterns. People do return books early and I often find that these estimates are very conservative.
In fact, I took that picture yesterday and the wait time is already down to 6 weeks as one copy was returned. If you’re inpatient and want it today then sorry. However, for the patient reader, it’s not a big deal.
After all, there’s so much stuff to read that I can always move on to something else if a book isn’t available.
In either case, I can either borrow the audio book today and start listening to it or I can place a hold. The hold will automatically borrow the book for me when it’s available. In general, a library card will allow you to have up to 7 loans out at a time and up to 5 holds.
Once you’re done borrowing a book, you can head over to the shelf page.
This is where all your loans and holds live and where you access or transfer your ebooks or audio books.
In my case, I read via a Kindle and all it takes is a few button presses(see Read With Kindle button) to get the book onto my Kindle.
In most cases, I’ll have multiple books out at a time as my wife and I both use the same app and library card. Books can be borrowed for 7, 14 or 21 days and will automatically be returned and removed from your device once the loan expires.
I know what you’re thinking. What if it takes me longer than 21 days to read a book? Well, you can borrow it again! However, you can also cheat the system a bit and turn on airplane mode on your Kindle. When that’s on, the book will stay on there forever(or at least until airplane mode is turned off). What a cheat!
If you don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader, you can also read them through the Libby app on your phone, tablet or even on the website.
When it comes to your free audio books, they’re listed here too and you can listen to them right through the app as well.
In fact, all the benefits of audio books are here too with everything being split by chapters as you’d expect.
And the holds you set up? They’re here as well. You can keep yourself updated as to the wait time for that book you’re waiting on. The best part is that once it’s available, the book automatically moves to your shelf for you to access and you get an email telling you it’s there.
Why I Love Libby
People always say that saving money means you’re giving up on so much. However, if your hobby is reading then you don’t have to give up anything.
In fact, if anything, Libby makes it easier to access all your favorite books whether it’s in audio book or ebook form. It’s simple, easy to use, helps you access a great library of books(assuming your library is well stocked) and you can do it all from home.
The best part about it is that you save A TON of money while doing it.
I took a quick look through our loan history this month. Between my wife and I, we’ve read 8 ebooks and listened to 5 audio books. That’s a relatively normal month for us and it might be even be light since my wife goes through audio books quite rapidly.
The average ebook or physical book retails for around $10. There’s obvious variations but it’s a good ball park. Audio books are often in the $25+ range depending on length. If you look at our usage, that means we’d be spending around $200/month to support our reading habits. We’re talking like $2,400 in savings per year.
Sure, there’s some subscription services that would lower that price. However, I find them too limiting in selection. My library via Libby pretty much has everything I ever look for.
That’s an insane amount of money to save. There’s nothing better than free entertainment in my mind! Sure, you don’t get to keep the books but you can always borrow them again.
The reality is that I’m probably not actually saving that much. After all, if I didn’t have Libby, I’d probably just read less because books would be more expensive and harder to access. That’s actually what happened before I downloaded Libby. I just read less and spent more time playing video games or watching TV. Now I’m reading more because Libby makes it so easy to access reading materials.
The access is the part that I love about Libby. It makes one of my favorite hobbies so accessible and that’s just fantastic.
In fact, I just finished a book today and I’ve already got another one on the way to my Kindle at no cost to me. That’s a beautiful thing. I love my free ebooks and my wife loves her free audio books.
I also love that you can share it easily with family. My wife and I both use the app through one card and have no issues with the interface being muddled by the fact that we’re both borrowing books and sending them to different kindles.
Now, that’s not to say Libby isn’t without negatives. The main one is that it’s VERY dependent on how good your library’s digital catalog. Some may have an epic selection while others may be middling. The good thing is that you’re not geolocked to your town’s library and if you can borrow a library card from a relative or friend if they’re not using theirs, you might have access to a better catalog.
I’ve also found that digital catalogs are growing. On top of that, mine has been great at getting certain books if they don’t have it already. You can request certain titles if they’re not in the catalog. It might take a bit of time but they’ll eventually get it. That’s something we’ve done a few times successfully.
Another negative is that there are limits to the number of books that are available to borrow. The latest hot release might not be available for a few months by the time you request it. If you’re patient and willing to wait then no problem but it’s not for everyone.
This is obviously not a replacement for anyone that loves to collect books or loves the smell of a physical book. I personally don’t care about that and prefer reading books on my back lit Kindle. Seriously, reading at night changed so much when I bought that thing!
So sure, if you’re an old school reader, it’s not going to replace everything. However, it’s absolutely amazing for those books you plan to read or listen to once. It’s still pretty damn good if you plan to read books multiple times. Just borrow it again a few months later! After all, it’ll still be there.
Libby hasn’t completely eliminated all reading expenses for us.
My wife and I still buy some books. However, this has replaced 95% of our reading expenses if not more. The books we do buy are rare. It might be a new release of our favorite series that we want to read right away. I’ve also bought some books that I plan to read multiple times or books that have a lot of tables and graphs I want to reference. Sometimes, a physical book can trump an ebook but that’s not always the case.
If you’re an avid and patient reader looking for a place to get books, whether in ebook or audio book form, then libby is the place for you. Yes, the selection depends on your library but if you’ve got a good one then it’s a pure treasure trove. Best of all, it’ll save you so much money and space in the long run.
Libby is fantastic and I recommend it to everyone I meet. It’s the best free tool I’ve found and makes reading accessible and best of all free!