You’ve always wanted to read Infinite Jest, and now you finally have enough time on your hands to get through all 1,079 pages. Sure, you could grab it from a local bookseller, or order it on Amazon.
But you might be able to read a digital copy for free by borrowing it from your local library. With a library card, an internet connection, and an e-reader, you can start reading the book right away without ever leaving your house.
First, you’ll need a library card. If you don’t already have one, visit your local branch to get one. That may be difficult since many libraries are currently closed. But check the website of your local branch to see if you can get an electronic card issued online. Some libraries will give you a card without requiring you to show up.
Browse the Shelves
Use your credentials to access your library’s e-book collection. Many libraries use OverDrive, a cross-platform service with millions of e-books and audiobooks. Scroll through OverDrive’s catalogue in your browser, or download the company’s app, called Libby, to scroll through the selection on your phone. Ones you find the book you want, you should be able to click a button and borrow it.
Most books are available right away. Some books, especially new releases or popular titles, will show a wait time. You might even have to wait as long as a few weeks to borrow a bestseller. This is because libraries don’t have unlimited copies of digital books; they only get a finite amount to pass around, and the more popular a book grows, the more scarce those digital copies become. So just grab a spot in the queue. Once you request a loan, Libby will send an alert once the book is available for you to borrow. The app can also tell you the current wait time as copies get returned to the library and the line grows shorter.
There are two ways to read your borrowed book: Directly in the Libby app, or on any Kindle device. The Kindle is of course preferable since it provides a more pleasant (and less distracting) reading experience. Here’s how to set it up so library books always go straight to your Kindle.
Within the Libby app, tap on the user menu at the top of the screen. Under Help & Support, find the menu item, “Read books with,” then select Kindle. The app will guide you through the process of linking your Libby account with your Amazon account. After it’s set up, whenever you borrow a book, the Libby app will shuttle you over to Amazon for a moment so you can tell Amazon which Kindle reader you’d like the book delivered to.
After that, with your Kindle connected to Wi-Fi, just turn on the device and go to the main menu. You should see the book automatically appear.
Give It Back
Just like the rest of the books in the library, there are limits on how long you can keep the e-books you check out through OverDrive. These limits vary from library to library. Unlike physical books, you don’t have to do anything to return an e-book you’ve checked out. After your time’s up, the book will simply disappear from your e-reader.
No Kindle? No Worries
If you don’t have a Kindle, that’s fine. You can still just read e-books directly inside the Libby app. Or, if you have another type of e-reader—a Nook, a Kobo reader, a ReMarkable tablet, or any device that supports reading digital books—you may be able to transfer your book directly to the device from the Libby app or the OverDrive website.