An e-book on an e-reader in front of books at a library.
Proxima Studio/Shutterstock.com

Your local public library likely offers many free online resources: e-books, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, digital newspapers, online courses, and more. Even if your local library is closed, you may be able to sign up for a library card online.

How to Get a Library Card Online

If you already have a library card, you don’t need to do this—just visit your local library’s website and check out the free resources they have available. The same library card you use to borrow books in person will give you online access. You can also use an app like Libby to find and borrow e-books with a library card.

If you don’t yet have a library card, the exact process for signing up online depends on your local library. Browse your local library’s website and look at the instructions for applying for a library card. You might see an “Apply Online” button, an email address, or other instructions. Be sure to check that the application process doesn’t require you to show up at the library in person. Some libraries even let you sign up through the Libby app.

As long as you’re within your local public library’s coverage area, you can get a library card for free.

If you don’t see any information about applying online, you might want to give your local library a call or send them an email. Look for the contact information on your library’s website. If someone is working at the library (or even just working from home), they might be able to help you get access to your library. It’s worth asking.

RELATED: Not Just Books: All the Free Digital Stuff Your Local Library Might Offer

How to Get Digital Access to Remote Libraries

Some libraries even offer “non-resident” borrowing privileges. They’ll let you pay a fee for access to the library’s catalog. In addition to borrowing privileges at the library’s physical location, this will also give you digital, remote access to the library’s resources. Here’s a list of libraries that offer non-resident access.

Be sure to check whether the resources you want are available before paying for library access. There are long waiting periods for many e-books, even during the best of times.

RELATED: Easily Borrow eBooks From Your Library on Your Phone or Tablet

How to Download Free Public Domain E-books

A free public domain ebook of Treasure Island on various tablet and e-readers.
Standard Ebooks

Even if you don’t have access to a library’s resources—or if the e-books you want to read have long hold periods because many people are waiting for them—you can access many free e-books online. Many classics have entered the public domain and are completely free to download.

Standard Ebooks offers beautifully formatted public domain e-books. It’s one of many different websites where you can find free e-books. If you’d rather listen to books, you can find free audiobooks online, too.

RELATED: How to Find Thousands of Free Ebooks Online

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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