Free eBooks Galore!

It is common knowledge these days that public libraries are the place to turn to if you’re looking for free books to read. With public libraries available for communities everyone, it is not too hard to drop in, sign up for a library card, and begin taking books home with you to keep you occupied for hours. But, did you realize that public libraries can be accessed from the comforts of your own house? Digital library collections are an investment that public libraries have implemented through their own ebook purchases or through partnerships with eReaders and apps to bring readers access to hundreds of thousands of print materials through digital platforms.

Now, anyone with a library card can easily access free ebooks on their devices without having to scour the internet or use illegal platforms to download new titles. The app partnerships are easy to use and allow patrons to “check out” all kinds of books from classics written decades ago to anything like new fiction titles or even the latest memoir written by past president, Barack Obama.

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Physical Library Locations & eBook Collections

The simplest way to get started on finding these eBooks is through your local public library, school library, or state library. Many of these institutions have programs in place and all you need to start checking out books is a library card and an electronic device to read off of like your phone, a tablet, or a Kindle eReader. 

You can browse endless collections of books through your library’s main website. These pages will usually direct you to the lending service they partner with and will have you borrow books through your computer browser or  through a user-friendly mobile application. Your library card is your pass to start borrowing through these popular lending services. All you need to do is create an account and log-in using your library card each time. 

Checking out books through digital platforms and apps work the exact same way as you would check out a physical copy from the library. Like with print materials, there are only a certain amount of copies available for each eBook. This is just one example of how Controlled Digital Lending works under the Fair Use Act and why libraries are able to partner with digital platforms to loan books out digitally. Books that are popular at the time can have a longer waiting list. Just like you’d have to get in line to put a physical book on hold, you may have to wait for a digital copy to become available in order to check it out. The digital libraries make this process easy for patrons by allowing them to place books on hold and giving them the option to automatically download them once the book is available. What’s great about this process too is that it is easy to check how many people are waiting to borrow it and be notified of when it is your turn. 

Once books are checked out they are either downloaded to the electronic device or made available in the eReader app. At this point, library patrons usually have a few weeks to read the book before it gets “returned”. Once the due date arrives, the book is automatically removed from the device or made unavailable for access. You are certainly allowed to check out the book again if you want and many services also give you the option to renew it if there’s not another person waiting for it like how you are able to renew physical books at the library. 

There’s a few digital lending services that are well-known to those in the eBook borrowing world. The two major ones are Hoopla Digital and OverDrive (Libby). However, there’s plenty of other options out there that libraries can partner with, for example, The New York Public Library uses an eReader platform called SimplyE  which is a project through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) in addition to OverDrive. 

Hoopla Digital

Hoopla is a digital service that puts your local library at your fingertips and delivers books and other entertainment straight into the hands of the reader. The app is available on Android and Apple products as well as popular streaming devices such as chromecast, firetv, or Roku. It gives users access through a desktop browser or mobile device and has the option of downloading books ahead of time to be accessed later if you know you’re heading somewhere without Wi-Fi. An added bonus is that you can also instantly borrow movies, music, audiobooks, comic books, and even television shows. 


OverDrive is another common digital lending service that people will see at their libraries. This digital library is a one-stop shop for all kinds of digital downloads that are available for access with a library card. Users can enjoy titles immediately and can easily download them for offline use or send books to their Kindle devices. 

OverDrive is responsible for creating the Libby App which is what most users will interact with to download their materials. The app allows users to easily search collections of books and audiobooks from their local library and read them for free. The app is synchronized across all platforms which means you can use multiple devices to read what you’ve checked out and notes and reading progress from one device will update on another so you can keep track of where you’ve stopped. The app also has the capability to link to any Bluetooth devices you may have like your car, making it easy to listen to audiobooks on long road trips or even your daily commute.


Developed by The New York Public Library and now managed nationally by the Digital Public Library of America, SimplyE is a free, open-source e-reader app that allows us to bring together our entire collection of more than 300,000 e-books and audiobooks and make them accessible all in one place. You can download the SimplyE app for iPhone and Android to start accessing a great collection of free ebooks from DPLA and state and local libraries now. 

Online Libraries 

In addition to physical libraries as an option to look at when searching for free eBooks, there are also many online libraries that have large collections available to the public. Project Gutenberg is an online library completely run by volunteers with 60,000 free eBooks that focus on older titles whose copyrights have expired. Another place to look for older, out-of-print books is the Internet Archive which has millions of options. LibriVox is a good resource for those who enjoy listening to books. This public domain has volunteers all over the world that read books for their audiobook collection. And, for parents looking for more materials for their growing children, the International Digital Children’s Library is a good resource to find free award-winning eBooks suitable for different age groups. Check out this Mashable article for more ideas and places to search for free eBooks on the internet. 

Bonus Content

EBooks aren’t the only available entertainment that these digital platforms offer. Libraries with digital collections and partnerships also have extensive amounts of movies, audiobooks, and software for patrons to use. There are even options at some libraries for digital magazine check out-these types of apps give unlimited access to recent and back issues of popular magazines and usually do not have an expiration date.

Getting a library card is free and already comes with access to plenty of beneficial information and resources on top of free books to read. Nowadays, signing up for a free library card at your local public library also means free eBooks, making it even more convenient to patrons to tap into their passion for reading immediately and in the comfort of their homes.