Over the last several years, tablets and e-readers have become an increasingly popular way to read and enjoy content. According to a recent Pew Internet poll, nearly 30% of Americans now own either a tablet or e-reader. And while e-books have also seen a dramatic increase in sales over traditional paper books, many people don't realize that they can also borrow e-books from their local library for free.
While many libraries now offer e-books, there's no universal catalog for browsing available titles. You'll need to talk with someone at your local library about their e-book catalog and how to get started. You'll likely need your library card and Internet access to view the e-books available at your library.
Now that you know how to use your library's e-book catalog, you're ready to start browsing! Exploring titles on a e-book catalog can feel a little confusing at first, especially since you may see books that you can't download yet. Just like the physical books at your library, there are a limited number of copies that can be loaned out at the same time for each book. Whenever you see a book you'd like to download later, sign up for the waiting list (also known as a hold) for that title and you'll be notified as soon as it's available.
If you're looking for something right away, we recommend browsing through books that have been recently returned, which makes it easy to find some of the most circulated and popular titles at your library.
Once you've found an e-book you want to read, you're just a few clicks away from downloading the title to your device. Depending on the type of e-reader or tablet you have, you'll need to download an application (like Kindle for PC or Adobe Digital Editions) to transfer the e-book. Again, ask your librarian what you'll need for your specific device.
Most e-books can be checked out just as long as a regular library book (between one and two weeks), usually with an option to extend the loan period, as well. But here's our favorite part about borrowing e-books: you never have to remember to return the book to the library. Once your lending period has expired, the e-book will simply disappear from your e-reader.
E-books aren't without their limitations. It's important to realize many of the major publishing companies don't currently license libraries to lend their titles, so you won't find the same kind of variety as you would on your library's shelves or a local bookstore. Still, it's an easy way to check out cool and interesting books, and it's completely free.