One of the great benefits of living in this modern age of technology is that you can find many free sources of entertainment. One of the best resources is your local library. Libraries have existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years. They were always an equalizer, because they offered a way for people who didn’t have a lot of money to have access to the same books that the wealthy could always afford. But it wasn’t until recently that you could download books and streaming media from the library without ever leaving your house.
I’ve always been an avid reader, but I haven’t taken advantage of the library as much as I should have until the past year or so. I hate to admit it, but I always had a problem returning library books on time. So I wound up owing fines, which I would pay. But the fines dissuaded me from wanting to take more books out. Getting a Kindle really changed things for me though.
The Joys of the Kindle
My boyfriend bought me a Kindle for my birthday about 3 years ago. I wasn’t sure that I would like it, because I always thought I loved the feel and smell of books. But I got over that pretty quickly. I’ve found that a Kindle is a more efficient way of reading – for me at least. The reasons why include:
- Different font size options. My eyesight is fine, but I’ve found that it’s easier for me to read with a slightly larger font than you can find in most books.
- Free books. I can easily download classic (public domain) books for free. Also, there are services like BookBub that will send you daily notifications about free and reduced-price books.
- Reading ease. I find that reading is just easier with a Kindle. I can read with one hand instead of two. I can carry several books with me at all times.I can easily look up words I don’t know within the Kindle’s internal dictionary. My Kindle is lighter and easier to carry than most of my books, and I don’t have to spend a lot of time manipulating the pages in a physical book.
- Downloading books from the library. This eliminates my issue with returning library books, and eliminates fines. I still only have 21 days to read my books, but the library just “takes them back” when those 21 days are up.
I prefer reading on my Kindle to reading on my tablet or phone, because the Kindle doesn’t have a backlight and is easier on my eyes than other devices. Also, it’s too easy for me to get distracted on my tablet or phone. I like that pretty much the only thing I can do on my Kindle is read.
During the past year, I’ve started downloading ebooks from the library. I downloaded the Overdrive app (which most library systems use) onto my tablet and phone, and followed the instructions to get the books onto my Kindle.
It’s been great and I’m reading much more than I was before!
I’m lucky enough to live in a county that has an extensive e-book selection available. I can’t always get the book I want right away, but I can put a hold in and usually have it within a couple of weeks. Perhaps 20% of the books I want aren’t available through my library at all, so I buy the ones that aren’t. But that still means I’m spending a lot less on books than I was before. Even if you don’t live in an area with a good library system, you might be able to get a library card for another system in your state – or possibly even another state. Do some investigating to find out what you are eligible for.
Right now, I have 5 library books downloaded to my Kindle, and one audiobook downloaded to my smartphone (more about that in a minute). I don’t know how I’m possibly going to get through all of these books before I need to “return” them. But the great thing about library books is that I don’t feel obligated to finish books I don’t like. I always feel guilty not finishing a book I paid for, but I don’t feel guilty about not finishing a library book. And isn’t life too short to read books that you don’t enjoy or at least get some benefit from? If you decide not to finish a book, just be a good citizen and return the book (electronically) so that other people who are waiting will have access to it.
Other Digital Services the Library Offers
My library also has a vast collection of audiobooks. They don’t have quite the selection that Audible has, but it’s still enough for my needs. Through the Overdrive App, I can download audiobooks to my phone or a CD, and listen to them in the car. I mostly listen to fiction at the moment, but I’ve listened to a few educational books as well.
I read somewhere (I believe it was actually in a self-help audiobook) that in the time the average person spends commuting in their lifetime, they could get 4 PhD’s worth of education. So, why not do something that helps you improve yourself while driving? You don’t have to limit yourself to just driving though. I also like to listen to audiobooks when I’m cooking and cleaning. It really makes those mundane tasks go by more quickly. And several people I know listen to audiobooks when they are knitting or engaging in other craft activities.
My library also offers free streaming video and music. I haven’t really taken advantage of these options yet, but I plan to in the near future. Right now, my library system offers almost 700 free movies, and some of them look pretty good. If I needed to, I could save a little money by canceling my Netflix subscription for a while. I think I would be perfectly contented with the options available through my library. They also allow up to 6 song downloads per week, and the songs never expire or need to be returned.
Bricks and Mortar Libraries
I’ve mentioned all the options for things I can do through my library system without ever setting foot in an actual library. However, the library also offers a lot of great in-person services and activities. For example, my library has a 3D printer that residents can reserve space on. They also offer tutoring, classes, and video game and DVD rentals. If you can’t remember the last time you visited your local library, it’s definitely worth checking out.