The coronavirus has changed the landscape for book lovers, especially those on a budget. Sure, many bookstores offer curbside service and online stores have plenty of titles for sale, but the costs can add up for families, many of whom are feeling a financial pinch during this crisis.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for accessing free eBooks and audiobooks from retailers, local libraries, and other sites. And it seems a lot of people are going down this route. According to David Burleigh, spokesperson for free digital content service OverDrive, “it has never been such a busy time to access free e-books in the library,” citing that they have “seen unprecedented demand and established records for Libby app installs, payment and new users. over the past few weeks.
Here are options for self-isolating readers who prefer to borrow and not to buy:
Some retailers such as Google Books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and Audible offer a selection of free eBooks if you already have accounts; no membership is required. But some retailers require credit card information to open an account. Just search for “free books” on each site. The selection is small – you won’t find current bestsellers, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new author or genre.
On World Book Day, April 23, readers can receive a free copy on Audible of Jenna Bush Hager’s current Read with Jenna book club choice, “Valentine,” by Elizabeth Wetmore. The link can be found here.
Libraries offer online access even when their physical locations are closed. Some libraries even provide access to their wifi in their car parks. Apps such as Libby, by OverDrive, are used by libraries for their digital collections of eBooks and audiobooks. The track selection is comprehensive, including classics, bestsellers and everything in between. The only downside is that there may be a waiting list for some titles, depending on their popularity.
Don’t have a library card? Its good. Thanks to Libby and OverDrive, many libraries are adopting instant digital cards that offer instant access based on your phone number. Currently, approximately 80 library systems in the United States now provide this functionality.
There are several sites that offer free access to thousands of titles, such as Project Gutenberg, Open Library, ManyBooks, and in the case of audiobooks, LibriVox. Some require you to create an account, but a credit card is not required. The titles available on these free public sites tend to be older, mainly because the titles they contain are mostly already in the public domain and no longer have copyright. But as every bookworm can tell you, every book is new if you haven’t read it yet.