I signed up for a library card through a free app called Libby and got access to thousands of free ebooks and audiobooks — here's how it works

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  • Libby is a free app that lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library.
  • You can stream and download books for offline reading or listening, including on Kindle.
  • Some libraries even let you get a library card through Libby, making it easier than ever to sign up.

Like many people, I spent a lot of the past year reading and listening to audiobooks (and, yes, MasterClasses as their own de facto podcasts). Especially with audiobooks, I feel like I’m getting away with something every time I turn activities I love to do (like laying in the park or taking a long bike ride) and activities I have to do (folding laundry, doing the dishes) into infinitely more enjoyable versions of themselves. Plus, I still feel like I’m growing — and escaping the daily grind — without needing to sit still or pay as much attention.

Recently, I’ve been using Libby, a free app that lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library, to plan out my next 10 reads. If you’re an avid reader, it can help you save some extra money for a vacation or other worthwhile investment. 

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Which books are on Libby?

You’ll find recent releases that are at the top of the NYT bestseller list such as “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah and other cult favorites like “Atomic Habits.” And, of course, there are plenty of classics.

How does Libby compare to other reading apps?

Pros: I’ve found Libby’s book selection to be great in both quality and quantity. You can also do most of the things other apps offer, like downloading for offline reading, changing playback speed, adding bookmarks, putting on a sleep timer, and syncing with other devices so you don’t lose your spot — all completely for free.

I also loved that you can place up to 10 book reservations at a time. It pretty much guarantees that you’ll always have one ready to read.

Lastly, Libby lets you borrow books for 21 days and even request extensions if you run out of time.

Cons: If you’re someone who loves new releases, the wait for highly popular books can be a few weeks. 

To get your hands on the latest Kristin Hannah book ASAP, you can get ebooks and audiobooks through Audible and Scribd for less money than a hard copy. (Of the paid options, I recommend looking at Scribd first thanks to its breadth of options and affordability). The main difference is that neither option requires you to put a hold on books. And while Scribd is a paid membership, you’ll always own your Audible titles once you’ve purchased them.

“The Vanishing Half” was one of the best books we read this year.

How do you get a library card through Libby?

Libby works with public libraries that use OverDrive, which is reportedly 90% of all public libraries. (You can search for your library here by zip code to see if it’s included). Some libraries will let you get a library card directly through the Libby app — my Brooklyn library did, for instance, — but some have different requirements. Either way, it should be simple. It took me two minutes to sign up for my library card through the app.

The bottom line 

Libby is a lifehack. Even if you use it to supplement your reading elsewhere, it’s one of the best services I’ve stumbled upon in recent years. The app is free and easy to use, with a broad and high-quality book selection. If you’re looking for a cheap way to read any ebook or audiobook — and an especially affordable way to read many — this app is perfect for any book lover.

Borrow and read ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library for free.

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