From Bookstore Bills to Big Savings: Meet Libby

Libraries have evolved into a new digital era. Read on to learn more about how Libby is changing the face of book-lending.

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A holographic book against a blue background covered in code.

Now I’m sure you’re familiar — at least in theory — with your local library. Free memberships, cozy reading spaces, book clubs and educational programs, what’s not to love? And if you’re open to digital reading, the game has been forever changed. Meet Libby, the online library diversifying TBRs and increasing reading accessibility across the world.

What is it?

Libby is an online digital library that provides access to thousands of books, audiobooks, and magazines. You can even download your books for convenient reading or listening on the go when you might not have service or Wi-Fi.

Person sitting cross-legged reading on a tablet.
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How do I sign up?

Sign-up is fast, easy, and most importantly, 100% free. There are no membership fees, no hidden costs, and absolutely no features hidden behind secret paywalls. All you need is a library card and an email address. No library card? No problem. You can also sign up for a digital library card on the app through the same process. And the coolest part is that you can sign up for more than one, so you can access the digital archives of libraries around the world. For some libraries, you’ll have to have a physical library card in order to access the online sources. But don’t worry, there are still dozens if not hundreds of libraries you can access from anywhere whether you have a physical card or not.

How does it work?

Basically, Libby operates just like an in-person library. You browse titles (this is made much easier by the search bar we all know and love), place holds on books that have a wait time, and borrow them for a certain period. 21 days has been the standard from this writer’s experience.

Now, like a regular library, there will be wait times for titles that are in demand and some books that they just don’t have. But, as I mentioned earlier, you can sign up for library cards with multiple digital libraries with no consequence. And you can even have the same title on hold at multiple libraries! There is a hold limit (around 25 or 30 usually), and titles can be available anywhere from a few days to several months after you place the hold. The latter has only happened once to this writer.

Tablet leaning out of a bookshelf full of multicolored books
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Once you receive your book, you can highlight, bookmark, pick up and leave off at any point and the app will save your progress. Libby even lets you view your highlights and reading journey after the title has been returned! After the rental period, the book will automatically be returned at the same time you borrowed it, so there’s no need to worry about late fees or taking any extra steps to return it. The app will even notify you when you have a few days left, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when the book disappears from your self.

Too many holds all suddenly available at once and flooding your bookshelf? No worries, if you’re not ready to take on another read when your title becomes available there’s a super convenient feature that allows you to decide when you would like the book to be delivered later in the future. From a few days to three months, just slide the arrow down the timeline and choose your date. This will fluctuate a bit based on when the next reader returns the title, but it’s a pretty good estimate.

Tips and Tricks

Personally, this writer’s hold shelf is filled to the max at all times. When a new title becomes available, I go right to my TBR and request the next one. Plus, if you’re open to listening or reading, you can have both versions on your hold shelf at the same time (if they have both versions). This helps keep a constant stream of fresh reads flowing. Plus, the surprise of not knowing exactly what book you’re going to get, but knowing that you’ve already decided you’d like to read it is refreshing and takes some of the decision-making out of the process.

The highlight feature is a constant ally during the reading process. Whether you’re an advocate of writing in books, or would rather die than mar the pages, e-reading takes the stress out of the decision. As someone learning about the art of novel writing, it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to refer back to a beautifully written paragraph or particularly evocative dialogue.

Whether you’re into audiobooks or regular e-reading, Libby is sure to save you hundreds as we enter this new era of digital libraries.


Looking for more places to find free and cheap books? Click here!

Browse Bookstr’s favorite reads here!

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