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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 332 : Accessing audiobooks from your library

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Today, we take a look at audiobooks and how to access titles for free from your library. More at

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Actively listening to great books

As we're in warmer weather and venturing more outside, content is going to be a much needed companion for those commutes, jogs, walks, and more. Over the past year, I've rediscovered ebooks as we spent more of our time indoors. However, I didn't really gravitate towards audiobooks until very recently. I listened to a few last year and enjoyed them but they didn't become a regular part of my content consumption until about a month ago. So, as usual, I'm late to the party.

I had a few conversations over the past week with two people who like audiobooks or at least want to try them but aren't ready to dive into a service like Audible. While Audible is a great service, it requires a monthly subscription. If you're not a subscriber, paying for individual audio titles can be expensive since the pricing is based on length. What neither of them knew is that you can get (or rather "rent") audiobooks for free.

Last year, I covered accessing ebooks and video content from your local library (MF 283 and MF 275). But did you know that many libraries also allow you to check out audiobooks too? Below are the steps to accessing this incredible world of audio content for free.

  1. Get a library card. Check your local library's website as many are allowing people to register for cards online. You may have to upload proof of residency or pay a nominal fee if you want to get a card for a library out of state.

  2. See what digital content your library offers. Your library's website should have a listing of what is accessible online. Many libraries offer you access to ebooks, audiobooks, digital comics and even movies or TV shows, all without having to leave your home. Your library's website will also tell you how to access these resources. If you're not sure, email your library's help desk.

  3. Add the right portal(s). Many libraries across the US use one or a combination of three apps, which you can download for free onto your phone or tablet.

  4. Libby: Access and read ebooks and listen to audiobooks. Libby also allows you to beam many ebooks to a Kindle device or the Kindle app (which means you can use the Kindle without a Kindle device!).

  5. Overdrive: Access and consume ebooks and audiobooks.

  6. Hoopla: Access ebooks, audiobooks, digital comics, movies and TV shows. [Note: Hoopla is also available on many digital streaming boxes like Roku which is great for watching movies and TV shows on your TV.]

Once you've checked out an audiobook, you have the loan period (typically around 2 weeks) to enjoy it. The apps allow you to natively listen right from your phone or mobile device and automatically returns the title at the due date. A great time to consume audiobooks is while driving, especially if you're phone connects to your car's speakers via bluetooth.

Libby and Hoopla are the two I'm mostly familiar with. There are some slight differences between them. I find that Libby is optimal for ebooks and audiobooks. For audiobooks, Libby provides a very user-friendly interface to listen to audiobooks with your standard player controls. It also has a very handy 15 second rewind and fast forward in case you miss a passage and need to go back. By far though, my favorite feature on Libby is the sleep timer. You can set it to shut off after a certain period (eg 30 minutes) or at the end of a chapter. Hoopla is great for finding more obscure ebook and audio titles, though its catalog isn't quite as robust for ebooks. However, Hoopla is excellent for digital comics and video content such as movies or TV shows. As for Overdrive, I haven't used it in a while so I can't give as in depth an overview but I understand it's also very good for ebooks and I can confirm from its website that you can access audiobooks from there too.

Your library is an excellent place to tap into thousands of titles across many media. The people who work in libraries are also excellent resources to help you, whether its with a research project or a real-world issue. Take advantage of your library and the vast content inside to enhance your knowledge base and move forward.

Check out other episodes on library resources

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