How to listen to audiobooks and read eBooks for FREE

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ARTICLE – Last year we remodeled our main bathroom and I ordered a white Amazon Echo Dot and a special outlet wall mount holder so the install would be neat and the Echo wouldn’t need any counter space.

Every morning before I hop in the shower, I’ll say “Alexa, play some music” and she’ll start playing some of my favorite songs that help me wake up. But one morning a couple of weeks ago, I heard myself saying “Alexa, read me a story”. I don’t really know why I even asked that because I’d never issued that command before, but I’m so glad that I did because it’s ignited a new thirst for reading (and listening) to books that I’ve not had in a long time.

See, I love to read but I never seem to have enough time to devote to it. It can sometimes take me a month to get through a book because I only read a couple of pages here and a couple of pages there. I rarely sit down and devote an entire hour or more just for reading.

But from the moment Alexa started the audiobook AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller, I was hooked on audiobooks. Instead of listening to the radio or Spotify on my 20-minute drives to and from work, I listened to the book. I found myself looking forward to getting up in the mornings just so I could get in another 10-minute listening session in the shower followed up by a 20-minute session on the way into work and then another on the way home.

I finished AWOL on the Appalachian Trail this weekend (great read/listen if you enjoy hiking stories like I do) and asked Alexa to read me a new book when I hopped in the shower on Sunday. I was confused when the same book started over and I later found that my Amazon Prime membership must not cover audiobooks like I thought it might. Instead, I think I just got a one-time freebie and was prompted to sign up for a 30-day trial or a full subscription. I don’t need an extra $14.95 a month bill that only gives you 3 books a month, so I went searching for alternatives.

I ended up finding that there are some free audiobooks from Amazon if you have a Prime account, but they are not easy to find (thanks a lot Amazon) and they aren’t new releases or best sellers. I was just about to give up when I found OverDrive and Libby.

OverDrive and Libby are pretty much the same thing. Libby is just an updated version of the OverDrive app for Android and iOS devices that lets you read and listen to audiobooks and read eBooks for FREE. Completely, FREE and no trials, or paid subscription. Just install the app and read or listen… Well, there is one caveat. You will need a library card for your local library to get all these glorious freebies.


Lucky for me, I have a card from my local library which was also free. The Libby app asks you for your library’s name and your account number (on the library card) and voila, you now have access to digital versions and audio versions of your favorite books.

The Libby interface allows you to search on books by title and you can also search for books that are available to borrow immediately. Remember, it’s a library, so some titles may already be checked out, so you’ll have to “get in line” and put checked out titles on hold so you’ll get them when they become available.

I’m not sure if the borrowing period is the same for every library, but for mine, the audiobooks can be checked out for 12 days and the ebooks can be checked out for 21 days. I do not know (yet), if you can renew if the time expires before you’re finished. I also don’t know if the limit of 10 books is per my library or all libraries.

If you like, you can send your checked out books to the Kindle app on your device or you can read them directly through the Libby app. For audiobooks, you listen through the Libby app. The app’s interface is easy to navigate and there are some customization options like changing the playback speed for audiobooks and changing the font, text size, and color.

The built-in Libby eBook reader will also let you click to see a definition of a word and search on words as well as set bookmarks.

To say that I’m excited to have found the free Libby app/service is an understatement. I might have to wait a few days for a new book to become available, but it’s free and there are so many titles to choose from that it’s really a non-issue. Yay for libraries!!!

Another tip for readers is to check out It’s a site where you can keep track of all the books you’ve read and books that you want to read. The site also provides ideas for new books to read based on your read books or books in your want to read list.

Here’s a question for all of you. Do you think that listening to an audiobook should count as “reading” the book? I feel like it’s just another way to digest the info and see no reason why listening and reading can’t be considered the same thing.

28 thoughts on “How to listen to audiobooks and read eBooks for FREE”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
    1. Me too. I didn’t always think that way though. In the past, I couldn’t keep my attention on an audiobook or podcast and would find that minutes had gone by and I hadn’t heard anything that was being said. I guess my brain has evolved since then because I don’t have that issue now. 😉

      1. Agreed. I always say “consume” when reading or listening. I get the info either way, and sometimes I use both the audiobook as well as the Ebook and switch off.

          1. Only with the Amazon stuff – Audible “Whispersync for Voice”.

            If you have both the Audible book and the Kindle book and they are compatible, you drop one and pick the other up at exactly the same place.

  2. I love using the Libby app. I’ve listened to multiple audiobooks using it and I love it. As a homeschool teacher, audiobooks help me to keep up with all of the books my kids have to read so that I can grade their papers. Libraries are the BEST!!

    I too used to wonder if listening to a book constitutes reading the book. After asking around, I tend to think that it does count. However, I wonder if seeing the words, especially new words, helps to develop your vocabulary.

  3. check out Hoopla app… with a library card access and you don’t even need to place holds on books or check them out… also Librivox app has all the classics that are in the public domain also free

  4. Hoopla is another great app that uses your library card and lets you check out audio books and ebooks. There are also movies, but I don’t really look at those. I use hoopla and overdrive both to check out audiobooks and ebooks. Hoopla only allows 6 checkouts a month, but they’re is no wait list like overdrive. Sometimes they carry stuff that overdrive doesn’t and vice versa.

    1. The number of Hoopla checkouts per month is determined by the contract between Hoopla and the individual library system. Some can be as few as 3 or 4 per month and others can be 10. Depends on your library.

    1. The real beauty of Hoopla and Alexa, in case no one has mentioned it, is that unlike overdrive, it interfaces with Alexa. You can say “Alexa, ask Hoopla to play my audiobook”.

  5. I’ve been using Overdrive first and Libby when it was released for years. I love it
    My library system will automatically renew a book for you if there is no one waiting for it. If there is, back it goes. Sometimes it’s a lot longer than a couple of days to get a book on hold depending on how many people are ahead of you. I have one right now that estimates it will be more than 10 weeks before it is available.

  6. Oh I adore Overdrive/Libby and my local libraries. I’m especially spoiled for riches because where I live there is a city library system, a county library system and a state library system and I have accounts with all 3 so usually what one doesn’t have another does. I go through 2-4 audiobooks a week and couldn’t afford my audiobook habit if it weren’t for public libraries! I also use Hoopla, my library allows 10 loans a month. Word for those using Hoopla: sometimes your library will not show as having something in stock and I’d recommend checking back if that happens since you can’t put holds on items through Hoopla.

  7. Another great app is LibriVox. It’s books in the public domain read by volunteers all over the world. I’ve found a few readers I enjoy most. Some readers aren’t great, but it’s a free book.

  8. BorrowBox is another good app.

    Although that might be more common here in Australia. I know they’re based here.

  9. I have been listening to audiobooks for years. I actually started way back when they were CDs. I love reading also. I find the audiobook allows me to slow down and really enjoy the story. I read really fast and sometimes catch myself skimming the story. If there is a book I have really been wanting to get I try and get the audiobook to make it last longer. I listen in the car on my commutes and when working on projects around my house. The only thing I miss when listening to an audiobook is being able to look up definitions of words. I am currently an Audible member, but really need to see about doing the library thing.

    1. I tried doing the Audible thing a long time ago but found that I would tune it out and not listen. Something must have switched with my attention span because I don’t have that issue now and am loving it!

  10. Libby is a fantastic App, that saved my sanity on my 3-4 hour commutes. Absolutely a fan. You might like to check out an App called Kanopy too. It’s like Libby, but for movies. Free. They have an incredibly diverse collection of films to choose from. Enjoy!

  11. I’m trying to get my library hoopla app to work on my Alexa but can’t figure it out and there were poor ratings…any new info you have (that info was from 2018?)

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