Affordably feed the need to read by borrowing library books on your Kindle or other e-reader

The Amazon Kindle 2

The Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No shushing here; let’s give a cheer for National Library Week!

Freshly enamored by a visit to the U.S. Library of Congress, I’m grateful for public book emporiums large and small, from the exquisitely carved, frescoed and gilded halls of our national jewel to my hometown Portage Lake District Library, a cozy waterside gem.

Today’s libraries are one-stop media shops offering much more than books and magazines. Among my library’s most appealing exhibits and presentations are an ongoing series on holistic health, summertime “brown bag” lunch concerts featuring live music and weekly one-on-one tutorials for senior citizens: Michigan Technological University students show how to set up e-mail, upload photos, Skype with the grandkids and interact in cyberspace.

I’m using my library more than ever since I finally learned how to borrow e-books. It’s easy – magical, really – and fun. I can borrow four at a time, but that’s piggish, because realistically I can only read two within the allotted time. Since I can’t predict when the books I place on hold on will be available, I often end up with more than I can read. In those instances I have to make a tough choice and return a book early. An e-mail notice informed me Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” was up for grabs this week. I jumped on it, sacrificing “The Newlyweds” by Nell Freudenberger. I leave titles I wasn’t able to read in my Kindle cue as a prompt to have another go. By the way, I’m going to talk about Kindle here because that’s the kind of reader I use. The general principles apply to tablets, laptops and other devices.

Using a library card number and pin number, you choose your participating library from a scroll-down menu and log into your account. My gateway, for example, is found at

Selecting books using your own or library-suggested searches can be entertaining, frustrating or both depending on  patience level. I like roaming the stacks in leisurely fashion, but also keep a running list of suggested titles and authors to prod me if I’m in a hurry. Once you’ve chosen titles, there may be a time limit on how long you have to complete check out. Be sure to click on the proper book format – enter that in your search to avoid doing what I did a few times, getting all excited about borrowing “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” from the Hunger Games series, or Willie Nelson’s autobiography when they are only available in audiobook or via USB to my laptop and not in a Kindle version.

Once you click “get book” you’ll be directed to the Amazon site (yep, can’t escape it, you’ll need an account) where you’ll receive your book at the click of a button the next time you’re wirelessly connected. On my Kindle, the built-in wireless connection won’t do. I have to be logged into my home internet or another wireless provider. After following the procedure a few times you’ll have it down pat. In seconds, there’s your portable book, ready to read anywhere. Brilliant!

There’s normally a waiting list for best-sellers. The library’s site tells you how many copies are available and how many readers are ahead of you in the checkout line. I waited three months for “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It was worth it because I was spared the expense of buying a book I won’t re-read.

You can also borrow books from friends if the publisher or rights-holder allows. My buddy Shar lent me “Hunger Games” but I couldn’t lend “Bird By Bird.”  To find out if you can lend and begin the easy process, look for instructions by clicking on the “Manage My Kindle” button in your Amazon account.

Some publishers and distributors favor the neither-a-borrower-nor-lender-be model. If you’re searching fruitlessly for an author or title that you have every right to expect would be in your library’s collection, it probably is missing from the electronic catalogue because of this stingy, short-sighted attitude. Penguin recently came back into the library fold.

The last Big-Six library holdout Simon & Schuster is reportedly testing a lending model in New York City libraries.

We get it. You want to be paid. As an author, I certainly share the goal of being fairly compensated for the work that goes into bringing a book to market. But I’m not going to whine about the money, even though I’m much poorer than Scott Turow. It’s unrealistic to assume that readers can or will buy every book they want to read. Denying citizens access to books denies access to education and from an economic perspective will only narrow the market. Reading is like any addictive activity: get your customers hooked for free and they’ll be compelled to pay for more — and to pay more for the primo stuff.

Why not celebrate National Library Week by visiting your own library? Sign up for a card if you don’t have one. Express your thanks for all that the staff, directors and community boards do to maintain a relevant, reliable community resource. If you can, make a donation. And put that card to use online or in person.

If you haven’t tried borrowing or lending e-books yet, what’s holding you back?

One thought on “Affordably feed the need to read by borrowing library books on your Kindle or other e-reader

  1. Pingback: April Reading | 3kids2cats1divorce

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