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Saturday, March 2nd
Libby, developed by OverDrive, provides easy access to free digital content from your library. Designed for an enhanced user experience, Libby allows you to borrow digital audiobooks, ebooks, and even magazines from your local library. Stream titles via internet connection, or download them to read offline whenever and wherever you are. To get started, all you need is a library card. Libby can be accessed on your computer or through the Libby app, which is entirely free, with no subscription costs, in-app purchases, or risk for late fees, as digital titles automatically return on their due dates.
Get out your library card
When you get to Libby's website, you'll be asked if you have a library card yet. If the answer is no, you'll be taken to a screen where you can enter your zip code or search for the name of your local library. We probably don't need to extol the benefits of having a library card to you if you're already here exploring audiobook services, but we appreciate how from the very first step in the process Libby is all about libraries. If you have a library card, all you need to do is select your library branch, enter your card number and PIN, and you're free to start checking out books from their online catalog. This includes audiobooks as well as ebooks.
Stay connected to your community
We love Libby's homepage because it's tailored by your local library to showcase titles and categories specifically chosen for its patrons. For instance, if you lived in the fictional town of Mapleton where they celebrate the "Maple Leaf Festival" every year to honor the onset of fall and the town's rich history with maple trees, during this time the Mapleton library might highlight content on Libby related to maple trees, fall-themed books, and local history about maple farming. While other audiobook services often capitalize on wider-reaching trends, Libby offers a way for you to stay connected to your own unique local events and traditions like these.
Catalog size depends on your local library
To see which audiobooks are available, click on the three-bar menu, scroll down to where it says "Format", and select "Audiobooks". Depending on your library, this could include tens of thousands of titles. Because this is a library checkout system, not everything will be available immediately, but often libraries will purchase multiple digital copies of their most popular titles to keep wait times down. Of course, you can also choose to be shown only titles that are currently available for checkout. You can also sort and filter titles by popularity, release date, genre, and even language.
Get notified of shorter wait times
If you have library cards for multiple library systems, Libby makes it easy to switch between catalogs by clicking the three-bar menu at the bottom of the screen and clicking on the card of the library you want to use. Also, when you go to place a hold on an unavailable title, Libby will notify you if one of your other libraries has a shorter wait on that title. You can place a hold on it through the library with the shorter wait while remaining signed into the catalog of the library you're currently browsing. Nifty!
Holds are basically managed for you
Your library sets the length of time you can check out an audiobook. When you borrow a book, you can click on the number of days and choose from the options your library sets. For example, when we tried this through our library, we had the option of 7, 14, or 21 days. If you have a book on hold and you're not ready to listen to it yet, you can choose a later delivery date to avoid losing your place in line. If you miss the 3-day pickup window for a hold, it will be automatically rescheduled. This happens once per hold. If you still don't act on the hold after it has been rescheduled, it will be canceled.
Complete range of playback features
The fingerprint button pulls up a menu called "Recent Places" that shows you different points in the audiobook where you stopped and how long ago you were listening to that part, so you don't need to leave a bookmark to find your place again. With one tap or click, you can return to any timestamp. By clicking or tapping on the pointing finger button, you can choose whether Libby displays how far into the audiobook you are or how much further you have to go. You can easily fast forward or rewind by 15 seconds, set your playback to any speed you like, ranging from 0.60x to 3x, or set a sleep timer. When you set a bookmark, you can also type in a note. Set bookmarks for single moments or, by holding down the bookmark button while the audiobook plays, highlight an entire clip. This will show up as a colored bar in the audio track, so you can easily find your way back there at any point.
The "Shelf" tab displays your current listens, past audiobooks, and allows you to manage your wish list. With the "Tag" feature, you can categorize books into labels such as "want to read" , "book club" , "my childhood favorites" , or any other designation you fancy. You can even use a singular emoji as a tag name. We adore this feature because many bookworms seem to enjoy intuitive ways to organize their physical bookshelves, and it's delightful to see this flexibility mirrored in the digital space.
Personal touches we love
Libby's logo is a smiley-faced girl wearing a blue bookmark as a hair ribbon. A fun little feature: by clicking on the logo at the top of the screen, you can change her skin tone to match your own. And when you return a book before its due date, Libby showers you with a little bouquet of flowers on your screen and shows you a "thank-you" message.
Our top choice
Overall, we're big fans of Libby. It's free, supports your local library, fun to use, and chances are, your catalog will have exactly what you're looking for. The only reasons you might want to use a different service is if waiting on a hold is a deal-breaker, you don't qualify for a library card, or if some of the titles you'd like to listen to are exclusive to certain services. Two thumbs up from Top Consumer Reviews.
The world of audiobooks has seen huge growth over the past decade, with industry surveys showing a double-digit increase for ten years in a row with no signs of slowing down. Various platforms for listening to audiobooks have popped up, each one catering to different user needs, budgets, and preferences.
The recent boom in the popularity of audiobooks can be attributed to a few different factors, but one of the biggest reasons is how well they fit into our busy, multitasking lives. You can listen while you're commuting, working out, or even doing household chores like folding the laundry. It's a great way to access intellectually engaging entertainment while getting some drudgery done.
And, thanks to technological advancements, it's easier than ever to access audiobooks. It used to be that you had to confine yourself to a room with a CD player to listen to an audiobook, but now, anyone with a smartphone has thousands of audiobooks available at their fingertips. Plus, as audiobooks have grown in popularity, so has their production quality.
Audiobook narrators aren't merely reciting the words on the e-reader in front of them in the recording booth; they are acting out the story. Accomplished actors and seasoned voice artists can bring stories to life, adding an auditory dimension to characters and settings that can sometimes rival or surpass the imagination. Narrators are often chosen because the story resonates with them personally, adding an extra layer of emotion to the performance and making it feel more human.
For those apprehensive about putting on their headphones instead of picking up a book, it's worth addressing some common misconceptions about audiobooks. Contrary to the belief that listening to a book is "cheating" or less intellectually engaging than reading, many studies show that the comprehension levels between reading and listening are strikingly similar. What's more, audiobooks can be particularly beneficial for those with reading difficulties, allowing them to enjoy literature they might otherwise struggle with. They are not a replacement for traditional reading but rather a complementary medium, broadening the horizons of literary engagement.
When it comes to audiobook services, there are several types to choose from. First, there are library-based services which partner with local libraries to allow users to digitally borrow audiobooks. Much like a traditional library, you can "check out" titles for a specific time frame using your library card. However, be mindful that sought-after titles might have waiting lists. Another option is subscription-based services. With a recurring fee, usually monthly, users can access a broad range of audiobooks. Depending on the service, you might get a set number of credits to pick audiobooks each month or even enjoy unlimited listening. Lastly, there are pay-per-title services where, rather than a subscription, you buy each audiobook separately. While there's no monthly commitment, the upfront cost for each audiobook can be higher. The upside is that you typically get to keep the audiobook forever once you've bought it.
When deciding on the right audiobook service, several considerations can help guide your decision:
If you want a detailed overview of the best audiobook services out there, Top Consumer Reviews has your back. We trust our ranked evaluations will guide you to the audiobook platform that best matches your listening habits and lifestyle!
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