There are so many paid subscription services for everything these days that it can be easy to forget the original and best service you already pay for in your taxes: the library.
If you’re not a regular library goer, or if you haven’t been in a few decades, you might still imagine the library as just being a big room of books and stern people who are obsessed with silence. But in 2021 libraries have fully embraced technology, whether it’s offering computers, music studios and 3D printers (and community sessions on how to use them), or e-lending apps.
If you’re getting into reading more ebooks and would prefer to read them for free (which I highly recommend), then you should head to your library and get a borrowing card. While joining up, make sure you ask the librarian about which apps your area uses and how to log into them. Many libraries will also let you just sign up on the library website, so you don’t even have to live nearby or get changed out of your comfy reading pants.
The main apps used by libraries in Australia are BorrowBox, Libby, CloudLibrary, Freading and Kanopy. Depending on which licences your library pays for, this gives access to hundreds of thousands of ebooks, audio books, magazines, newspapers, movies and other content you’d expect to find in your library (including new releases as well as the classics).
The process of using them is usually as simple as signing in with your membership number and password, and then browsing for what you want to read/watch/listen to. It’s much like any of the paid subscription apps, but without the exchange of money. There are generally limits on how long you can keep borrowed items; just like physical books, the library only pays for so many copies. But, if there isn’t anyone waiting to borrow that book after you, you can usually just extend the loan.
Even state libraries, which don’t normally let you borrow physical books from their collection, have special ebook lending systems that open up access to their digital collections for free.
It’s worth signing up to every library you’re entitled to in order to gain access to the widest range of free information. Libraries are such a valuable community resource, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not taking advantage of all they have to offer.