Library Apps Might Be the Best Thing to Happen to Reading

How I found my motivation to read during lockdown.


Every summer break, when I come back to my hometown from university, I go on a reading spree. The new-found free time sends me straight to my local library to pick up as many books as they’ll let me away with, to consume at breakneck speed like I did when I was a child.

I tried the same thing in my university town, but I could never maintain that focus when I was thinking about deadlines.


A Solution to Library Closures

When the first lockdown came upon us, the library was a harsh absence in my life, but the escapism I find in a good book was more necessary than ever. First, I used up the remainder of the Waterstone’s vouchers that I got for my birthday — until I ran out of space in my room.

Then I moved on to Kindle books — until I looked at my bank account. Desperate, I went to my local library’s website, and that’s when I found their digital content.

As it happens, most libraries have the option to borrow eBooks with just an app and a library card. The most common are OverDriveLibby, and BorrowBox, which are all available on a range of devices.

Some libraries even give you the option to borrow books on your Kindle, if you’d prefer to keep your phone life and your book life separate. The range of these collections depends on the app that you use, but it also depends on what your local library has access to. I got lucky, with two library cards and therefore access to both Libby and BorrowBox, so I was able to access two libraries worth of eBooks for free on my phone.


How Do They Work?

Both of these apps have very user-friendly interfaces that make signing up, borrowing books, and finding your next favourite read a breeze. I was most impressed at how straightforward it was to search different genres and categories to curate a reading list that I’m excited about. It’s worth noting that BorrowBox is only available for UK and British Commonwealth libraries, but other apps are used globally.

It works just like borrowing physical books does. You choose a title, download it immediately (or wait until it’s available; digital copies are limited, too) and after three weeks or so it will be returned to the library for someone else to enjoy.


What’s Different?

Of course, it isn’t exactly the same. The collection might not have everything that you’re looking for, but it does allow you to explore titles that you hadn’t considered before.

Using Libby and BorrowBox, I’ve read books like Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Jandy Nelson’s stunning YA novel I’ll Give You the Sun, and even my first foray into comic books. It also allowed me to revisit some old favourites: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Without the ability to borrow this 13-book series, this childhood nostalgia would have been much more expensive.

In the end, these digital library books made up about 30% of the total books that I read last year. Easy access to these novels meant I could start reading immediately after I found a title, giving myself no time to lose focus and motivation. They also improved my relationship with my phone — I no longer feel guilty about my screen time if I spend a good fraction of it reading.


The Takeaway: Library Apps Are a Lifesaver

If I can offer any piece of advice to avid readers it would be to check out what your local library has to offer in digital content.

If eBooks aren’t your thing, I’ve found that they also have a massive selection of audiobooks. Although I’ll always prefer a good physical book, library apps have been a lifesaver during lockdown, allowing me to expand my own library and reach my reading goals more easily than ever before.


Please note, this was initially published on January 21, 2021 at Medium.com

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