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Borrow free audiobooks using your phone

If you’re a busy person, you probably already love audiobooks. You can listen to them on your commute to work, in your car or on a train. You can listen to them while you do various hobbies, like knitting or painting. If you do data entry at work, they can make the monotony a little more bearable while you have them on in the office. And you can listen to them while you exercise or walk around.

In other words, audiobooks are brilliant for people who have a lot to do because they make reading an activity you can do while multi-tasking. If you have time to listen to music, you have time for audiobooks, and therefore time to read. This is no small feat in the world of literature, given how much attention it takes to sit and read off a page.

By taking away the visual component, and keeping the amazing storytelling, audiobooks give people who might otherwise not have the time, time to read. That’s a valuable thing to give people, especially to and for individuals who are passionate about literacy and literature.

It’s no surprise then that libraries, fantastic resources for many things but especially for books and reading, have had audiobooks in their collections for some time now. Well sure, you might be thinking. You’ve seen those giant cassette tapes or those CD box sets when you’ve been to the library.

But audiobooks from the library aren’t just physical anymore—you can get them digitally, just like you can get ebooks. And you can get them without ever leaving your home!

How can you have access to your local library’s thousands of audiobooks? You just have to download the Libby app, by Overdrive.

Libby can access your library’s catalog without being anywhere near the library, and its excellent audiobook player allows you to listen to books to your heart’s content. Want to try Libby yourself? Just follow the instructions below, and you’ll be enjoying audiobooks in no time!

1. Get a library card

OK, full disclosure, Libby works remotely, but you need a library card in order to use the app. So if you don’t have a card already, or if your library card is expired, you’ll need to get to the library once to get a card, or to renew your old one.

Typically, a local library needs some form of photo ID that verifies your local address. If you don’t have your address on your ID (such as having an out-of-state license) you can usually get a library card by bringing what ID you have, and proof of address, like a utility bill, or a copy of your lease. From there, you’ll fill out a little bit of paperwork for the library, and you’ll be all set to borrow books, in person and on Libby!

2. Download Libby

Logically, of course, you need to download the Libby app in order to use it. Libby works on tablets and phones and can be found on the Apple and Microsoft app stores, as well as Google Play.

You can find links to download directly on the Libby website, accessed from your preferred audiobook or e-reading device. Libby can send books straight to your Kindle or another Adobe-compatible e-reader, if you prefer that device—you just need the app on a phone or tablet in order to make it work.

library sign in

3. Find your library and sign in

Once you have the Libby app downloaded and open, and after you’ve confirmed you have a library card thanks to step 1, you’ll be prompted by Libby (the adorable girl in the circle) to find your local library in the app. You can find it by letting Libby guess based on your location (which will require you to allow the app to use location services), or by searching yourself within the app.

  • Type in the library name, or search your city or zip code, and select your library from the list.
    If your local library is part of a connected system throughout your state, expect to find the name of the library system at this part, rather than your specific branch.
  • With your library located, if your library system has a lot of Kindle download availability, you can confirm whether you’ll do your reading mostly on your Kindle, or on Libby itself. Select your preference, and right after you’ll be prompted to sign in with your library card.
  • Type in your library card number, and, if your library system has it, your library card PIN number. Your library PIN should have been set up when you were at the library—contact the branch you went to if you can’t remember the number to have it reset.
  • Tap “Sign In” and Libby will show you your account; you’ll be able to see how many books you have on loan with Libby, and how many holds you’ve placed, as well as how many loans and holds you’re allowed to have from the library.
    • How many books you’re allowed will depend on your library system, and its digital catalog—if the number feels low, remember you can always return books at any time, and check out more, just like your physical library. And you can add other library cards as well if you have them for other systems.

find audiobook

4. Find an audiobook

Once you’re logged in to your library on Libby, the catalog is yours to peruse. Search for titles you’ve been itching to read, and just make sure you tap on the version with the headphone or earbud icon for the audiobook version.

Not sure what you want to read? Take a look at the featured collection at the top of the app, or try “Explore” at the top and bottom of the front page to find guides to various genres made by your library. Again, for audiobooks specifically, make sure you tap the title with the headphone or earbud icon.

Also try the “New in Audiobooks” or “Popular Audiobooks” options below the featured collection or in “Explore” for some great suggestions, and filter results to your interests. There’s even a way to search exclusively for what’s available to borrow right now by tapping “Available audiobooks.”

Searching for an ebook is the same process. Take all the time you need to find something; you’re doing it from the comfort of your home after all, so it’s all on your schedule. And feel free to listen to or read samples to get an idea if you’ll enjoy something before you commit to it.

wait list

5. Borrow the audiobook, or place a hold

You’ve found the perfect audiobook—now you just have to borrow it.

  • Tap “Borrow” next to the book cover, or below it if you’re on the book’s page, and confirm the selection, which you’ll be able to do so long as you don’t have too many books out already. From there, the book will download to your device and will be available on your Shelf until your borrowing period expires, which is typically in 14 days.

If the audiobook of your dreams has “Place Hold” beside or below it, you can’t borrow the book just yet. Libraries keep a finite number of digital copies of audiobooks and ebooks in their catalog, allowing only a certain number of people to have the book at once.

  • To be one of the next people to get the book, tap “Place Hold,” and provide an email address to receive a hold notice for when the book is next available.
  • To get an idea of how long you might have to wait, click the circle icons next to “Place Hold.” Here you’ll see the waitlist data, telling you how many people have checked the book out, how many copies there are, and approximately how long you’ll need to wait to get the book yourself.
    • The number of circles next to “Place Hold” also indicates how long you have to wait. The more circles there are the more people on the waitlist.

Once a person’s 14 days with an audiobook are up, assuming they don’t, or can’t renew, the audiobook will automatically go to the next person on the waitlist, so tap “Place Hold” if you really want the audiobook. The sooner you tap, the higher you’ll be on the list, and the sooner you can get that hold notice and be able to download the book to your Shelf and device.

6. Enjoy your audiobook!

Once your book is downloaded, it’s available for listening right from your Shelf, which you can access on the bottom right of the app once you’re logged in. From the Shelf, play your audiobook right through Libby, enjoying the beautiful player.

The Libby plater keeps track of where you are, allows you to put down bookmarks, and allows you to skip around in the book by finding a chapter, and dragging through the audio file. You can even play files at different speeds, in case the narration is too slow or fast for you.

Return or renew the audiobooks you’ve downloaded by tapping “Manage Loan” beside the book on the Shelf page. Keep in mind, very popular audiobooks might not be eligible for renewal, as is often the case with physical copies in libraries. Make sure you plan your listening accordingly. In “Manage Loan,” you can also send your ebook or audiobook to another device, like a Kindle, and read more about the title from the library catalog.

Whether you’re busy or not, Libby makes it easy to get free audiobooks right from the comfort of your home. So continue to enhance your hobbies and workflow by downloading the app, and listening to some thrilling mystery, or laughing at a great comedy.

It’s quick, it’s simple to do, and most importantly, it costs nothing. I can’t believe you haven’t just grabbed your library card and done all the above steps either. But it’s OK, you can do it right now—and this list will be here to help you out, and get you listening to great literature in no time!

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