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How To Borrow E-books From Your Library In 5 Easy Steps

digital library books

Did you know you can check out e-books through your public library, and even read them on your Kindle? Most libraries have tons of free books to borrow, and you can peruse them and even check them out from the comfort of your own home.

Here is a step-by-step guide to how to borrow e-books and other form of digital media from your public library. Once you get comfortable with the process, you’ll love how quick and easy it is to access and read books for free through your library!

How To Borrow E-books From Your Library

digital library books

Step 1 – Get A Library Card

In order to borrow e-books or anything else from your local library, you’ll need a library card. Some libraries will let you sign up for one online, but a lot of them still require you to apply for a library card in person so they can verify your address and other personal information.

digital library books

Step 2 – Go To Your Library’s Website

Now that you’ve got a library card, go to your library’s website and find out which service your library uses to lend its e-books and other forms of digital media. Most libraries, mine included, use a service called OverDrive.

digital library books

If your library uses OverDrive, I highly recommend downloading Libby, which is OverDrive’s easy-to-use mobile reading app. You can use Libby to search for, borrow, and even read e-books, audiobooks, and other digital media available through your library.

Log in to Libby using your library card number, and then you’ll be able to search by title, genre, format, and even availability if you’re looking for something to read right now.

digital library books

Step 4 – Borrow A Book

Once you find something you want to read or listen to, tap “Borrow” to check it out. If the item isn’t available right away, the button will say “Place Hold” instead, and you’ll be able to see how many digital copies your library has, how many people have placed holds on those copies, and a rough estimate of when you can expect to be able to check one out.

If you do decide to place a hold on something, make sure to enable notifications from the Libby app so that it can tell you when your hold items become available to check out.

digital library books

Step 5 – Read

You can read the e-books you’ve borrowed inside the Libby app, or you can send them to your Kindle by linking your Amazon account. Once you do that, you can choose to have your borrowed books sent automatically to your Kindle. (And don’t worry, the Libby app displays clear step-by-step instructions that make it super easy to get everything set up.)

When you’re done reading, use the Libby app to “return” the book to your library. If you don’t return it manually, the book will get returned automatically on the due date (unless you have the option to extend the loan period, which will depend on your library’s policies.)

digital library books

What Else Can I Check Out?

As I mentioned earlier, e-books aren’t the only type of digital media you can check out from your local library. Most libraries also offer audiobooks and magazines, and you can check those out through Libby as well.

Keep in mind that while Kindle e-readers are excellent for reading e-books, they aren’t ideal for things like comics and graphic novels. For the best reading experience, you’ll want to read comics or graphic novels on your phone or tablet, which you can do within the Libby app.

Your library may even offer digital loans of movies and TV episodes too. The best place to start your search is Kanopy, where you can use your library card to access streamable movies. The Kanopy catalog is heavy on documentaries, indie films, and educational programming, but there’s some “just for fun” stuff too.

digital library books

The Takeaway

Thanks to services like OverDrive, your library’s digital collection is more accessible to you than ever before. If you have any questions about your library’s digital collection and how to borrow e-books, audiobooks, and more from home, don’t be afraid to stop by your library and ask a librarian! They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction or help you get started.

Do you borrow e-books or other types of digital media from your library?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I’ve been downloading library ebooks for years–way back when Kindles and smart phones didn’t exist, but ebooks were downloadable to PDAs (though the selection wasn’t great). Anyway, the point of my post: Here in California, almost all libraries will issue library cards to anyone who lives in the state. They do require that you physically go to the library; it can’t be done online. Before I travel, I alway go online to check out the libraries in the area, and whether or not they have Overdrive. I currently have approximately a dozen library cards–a great selection of books!

    Two of my libraries also offer free magazine downloads through Zinio–great selection including Consumer Report, Good Housekeeping, Rachel Ray, Popular Mechanics, Newsweek, Family Circle, the list goes on and on. Those same two libraries also offer free mp3s through Freegal. Selection is limited to Sony labels, but still some good stuff… Adele, Dylan, Train, Usher, Carrie Underwood…

    I LOVE my libraries!

  • Kindle can download not just books, but also journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs. Once books are downloaded in the Kindle, the user can read as he pleases, continuously or intermittently, without having to recharge the device often. The battery lasts for about two weeks when the wireless mode is turned off, and for about five days when this feature is on. Even with continuous reading, the Kindle does not heat up as other devices tend to, thus never distracting the reader in any way.”-.

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  • Listening to audio books is practical and it meets the busy lifestyle of contemporary people. You can tune in to your favorite books anytime anywhere, while you are walking, sh… The popularity of iPod and MP3 players has raised the marketplace of audiobooks in recent years. Some book publishers also believed that audio books could outsell paperback books or e-books one day. Indeed, this pattern is clear if you think about some great benefits of audio books over paperback books. ;

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  • In order to go back to a page in your kindle press menue then Go to
    and at the bottom of the page you can select location- begginning
    table of content or cover. I have a older kindle and I love that I can
    listen to a book. My favorite web page is one hundred free books.com
    I have gotten on a email list and they email me new books every day
    and you can go back to the original site for the one hundred books
    every day. I have gotten five pages of gulten free cookbooks from
    this site. I have also used the by collections feature, as that way my
    cookbooks are all grouped together. Love your your site! Georgie

  • Had to update… I have a Kindle Fire and borrowing a book from my library was as easy as buying one from Amazon/checking one out from the actual library. This could get dangerous. Not like I don’t already have 100’s of free books yet to be read. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my kindle!! Thanks again for posting this fantastic information!

  • Jillee you are so freaking awesome. Thank you so much for sharing! As soon as I saw this, even though it’s after midnight, I had to check this out. My library does participate and I’m beyond giddy about it. Off I go to check out some ebooks!!! :o)

  • Thank you! Thank you for the detailed info and links! For some strange reason I never thought to check my local library to borrow books, but with your info I can’t wait to get started reading on my Kindle.

  • I borrow books for my kindle at NYPL.or as a resident of the state of new york you can get all kinds of books and each day the list gets longer . Have been doing this for about five years.

  • libraries have not been able to keep up with the demand for ebooks…they are lacking alot of financial help in this area and can be very frustrating. waiting in line for 24+ people..is WRONG!!!

  • To those who prefer the feel of a real book in their hands, I can understand that, but I had just about given up reading due to arthritis in my hands making it painful to hold a book open for long. I have no trouble at all with my Kindle Touch, and turning the pages is so simple!

    • My daughter borrows Nook books from the local library all the time. There’s usually a waiting list. Her account is attached to my email so I just let her know when a book is ready for download. They give 3 days from the time the email notification is sent out. If she misses that window she loses the opportunity to download it. Also, renewals aren’t available on borrowed ebooks. If you’re a slow reader like me it’s not worth reading a book for two weeks without being able to finish it.

      • Sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply to Renna’s post. It was meant as a comment to the blog post.

        But…to comment on Renna’s disability. My mom has macular degeneration and is legally blind. She loves to read and thought she’d never be able to enjoy it again because the small print in books made it too difficult. My siblings and I pitched in and bought her a Kindle Touch two Christmases ago. She was so thrilled that she can read again. Since then she’s developed arthritis in her hands so I bought her a Kindle pillow so she can prop the device on her lap and read hands free. :)

  • Another great source for free great Kindle ebooks is http://www.pixelofink.com/ It sends you an email with 5-12 books free every day. The one catch is you have to download the book the day you get the email, because the specials are usually only one day. I have gotten 100's of books free. Also http://ebookfling.com/ is a great loaner site, if you loan a book you earn a credit and then with the credit you can borrow a book. I have had great luck with this website.

  • Hi Jillee–I found out about the ebook thing from my library. Then I found out from a website that there are also websites with books that are free and downloadable. Some of the sites are free-books.net, freebookspot,ebookjunkie.com. Hope you enjoy these! Your blog is AWESOME!

  • Jenny, I feel your pain! I too love books! I love to fill my bookshelves with them…not only are they well loved but books lend such a coziness to a room. However, I can't deny progress, the digital book is here to stay and is very convenient AND economical. My biggest worry is the future of our beloved libraries…it will be a sad day if they ever fall prey to progress like the Post Office is experiencing :(

  • Thanks for spreading the word. I have been doing this for a while now and I love it. I use a Kindle app for my droidX, and there are a few titles that will not sync to a device with an app, but they should be listed as such. Your library can help if you have problems with this (as I have). You can also use the overdrive app to read the epub books from their site, and listen to the audio books. You can also borrow and loan your own Kindle books. There are directions on Amazon's site.
    Good luck.

  • I have a Sony Reader and the library lets me borrow e-pub books. They have many different formats as well as audio books for your ipod. I love the no return feature! I find it is good to go to the recently returned section and pick a book that I can get right away.

  • Yay Overdrive! I work at my local public library, and I've made it my mission to tell as many people about Overdrive as possible, because it really is that awesome.

    Overdrive also works with the Nook and all the Apple devices. AND it has audiobooks you can download too. I use it all the time on my iPhone. There's an app that lets you download straight to your iPhone and bypass the computer completely. Seriously, how could you not love free downloads?

  • Down with Kindle! Boo! I love my books. I love the smell of them when they're old, when they're new. Boo, boo, boo! Okay, that was my speech. Carry on.

    • Why not have the best of both worlds! I have 2o bookcases full of books, and almost 1000 free ones on my kindle. You don’t have to let go of the real ones to have the virtual ones!

  • I do this and use Pixelofink.com as well. This website offers several free books a day through Amazon. I love my kindle and have a never ending supply of reading material.

    • I agree. I live in Gulfport, MS and the Harrison County Public Library has no ebooks program. I’ll be dead by the time they catch up with the technology. But I doubt there are any libraries that don’t require a “resident” membership to borrow their ebooks.

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