How to Get Books When Bookstores and Libraries Are Closed

How to Get Books When Bookstores and Libraries Are Closed

Readers who are used to spending their weekends in bookstores or libraries may be experiencing literary withdrawal. Many of these spaces have closed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

But there are still ways to keep a rotation of books on hand from your home. Many bookstores are adapting with pickup and delivery options, and for those trying to cut back on spending during this crisis, there are plenty of ways to access books for free. Here are the best ways to keep reading.

Yes! Libraries allow patrons to borrow e-books or audiobooks through online systems or applications you can download to your smartphone. Most do this with Overdrive, but some are also integrated with other user-friendly apps that are beautiful and easier to navigate. Libby and Hoopla, for instance, work with thousands of libraries across the country, from New York City to Nashville to Alaska. Visit your local library’s website for more information.

Many libraries allow you to register for a library card online. It’s a breeze and you can start borrowing books right away. The New York Public Library system allows anyone who lives in the state to apply, which means residents of Albany or Westchester can enjoy millions of books for free. You may have to wait a bit for the newest or most popular releases — as with physical books, libraries have a limited number of e-books to loan — but you can place a hold directly on the application you choose, and the book will be automatically checked out once it becomes available.

There are also thousands of books in the public domain — meaning they’re no longer under copyright in the United States — that have been digitized and uploaded in full online. Google Books has a massive catalog, and you can adjust the search settings to show only free e-books. Project Gutenberg also has thousands of free books that can be read on a computer or sent directly to your e-reader.

Sharing books with friends or family is a love language all its own, and e-readers like Kindle or Nook offer a way to continue the practice. This book swapping method also solves an age-old problem: getting books back. Loans are automatically returned to the owner’s device after 14 days.

Video chatting apps also make it easy to keep up virtual book clubs where members can discuss a common book together, while in their own homes.

Now that schools are closed, writers and publishing companies are stepping up to help fill the gap by offering programming to keep kids entertained. Audible, for instance, is offering children and teenagers the chance to listen to audiobooks for free, including hundreds of Audible originals, fairy tales or classic books in multiple languages. They can listen to Scarlett Johansson read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” or start learning elementary Spanish.

For adults, try Librivox, a digital archive of public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. If you’ve never tried Audible or Scribd — a subscription service where you can access e-books or audiobooks for a monthly fee — you may also be able to take advantage of a free trial.

It’s still an option to order books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers. Amazon is prioritizing the shipment of essential goods, so there may be a delay.

You might also consider buying books from an independent bookstore. Sites like Bookshop and IndieBound make it easy by giving access to a range of booksellers across the country.

Or you can call your local bookstore or visit their website or social-media pages to see what options they have available. Many are offering curbside pickup or delivery, and now that their physical locations are closed, bookstores are relying on online sales to keep paying employees.

And who knows? Maybe your book will be delivered by a dinosaur.


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