Kindle on a book
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You might think that the only way to get ebooks on your Kindle is to buy them from Amazon. But the truth is that you have access to a literal library of free books. All you need is a library card.

That’s right. Switching from physical to digital books doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the benefits of a public library. The process of checking out books isn’t quite as simple as walking into a library and getting lost in the bookcases, but it does work well once you get past the initial setup.

How does this differ from checking out physical books at a library? Well, actually, it’s quite similar. There are only a certain number of ebooks available. If they’re all checked out, you can place a hold. You are allowed to have the ebook for a set number of days, after which it’s automatically returned.

What You Will Need

  • The most important thing that you’ll need is a Kindle e-Reader—such as the Kindle Paperwhite—or a device with the Kindle app. That could be a Kindle Fire tablet or an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
  • Second, you should check to make sure that your local library or any libraries that you’re interested in joining support lending with OverDrive. This is the service that’s officially supported by Amazon, and it’s what we will be using in this guide. Head over to this page and search for your library.
  • Lastly, you will need to obtain a library card from the library that you want to use. Some libraries allow you to get these online, but others require you to visit the physical location. Every library is different, so consult with yours.

TL;DR: You need a Kindle or the Kindle app and a library card from a library that participates with OverDrive. That’s it!

RELATED: How to Set a Book Cover as Your Kindle Screensaver

How to Find ebooks from Your Library

The first thing to do is find an ebook to rent from your library. To do this, you’ll need to visit the website for the library that you have a card with. The screenshots below are specific to my library, but it should be a similar process.

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Find your library on the OverDrive search map using a desktop web browser such as Chrome and select “Visit Library Website.”

Select "Visit Library Website."

This will take you to your library’s website or to the network that your library belongs to. Click “Sign In” and enter your library card number. You might have to select your specific library if you’re on a network website.

Click "Sign In" and enter your library card number.

Next, search for a book that you want to read. From the results, use the search filters to see only “Kindle Books.”

Use the search filters to see only "Kindle Books."

Find a book that’s labeled as “Available” and select it.

Find a book that is labeled as "Available" and select it.

Now, simply click the “Borrow” button.

Now simply click the "Borrow" button.

Choose how long you want to borrow the book. The options are usually 7 or 14 days. Then, click “Borrow.”

Choose how long you want to borrow the book. Then click "Borrow."

A confirmation pop-up will appear with some extra information. The next step is to click “Read Now With Kindle.”

Click "Read Now With Kindle."

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This will take you to the Amazon listing of the book. Make sure that you’re signed in with the same account as your Kindle e-Reader or app, and then click “Get Library Book.”

Click "Get Library Book."

Amazon will confirm that you have checked out the book, and it will appear on your Kindle devices and apps the next time they perform a sync.

How to Borrow ebooks on Your Phone

The process described above was done in a web browser on a computer, but you can also check out books with OverDrive’s handy “Libby” app. The process is similar, but we’ll show you how to do it.

Download the Libby app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device.

Libby in the App Store.

Once it’s installed, the app will ask whether you have a library card. Tap “Yes.”

The app will ask if you have a library card. Tap "Yes."

Next, you’ll have a few options for selecting your library. The “Yes, Guess My Library” option will use your location.

Choose a method to find library.

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After you’ve selected your library, you’ll be guided through entering your library card number.

Entering your library card.

Once that’s all taken care of, you’ll be ready to search for ebooks. Use the Search tab at the bottom to do this.

Use the Search tab at the bottom.

Use the “Refine” tool on the results page to select “Kindle” in the “Supports” section.

Use the "Refine" tool on the results page to select "Kindle" in the "Supports" section.

Find a book that says “Borrow.” Books that aren’t currently available will say “Place Hold.”

"Borrow" a book.

Tap “Borrow” on the book information page.

Tap "Borrow" on the book information page.

Select how many days you want to borrow the book, and then tap “Borrow.”

Select how many days you want to borrow the book, then tap "Borrow!"

From here, you’ll want to open the book with “Kindle,” which will take you to the Amazon website.

Open the book with "Kindle."

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Make sure that you’re signed in with the same account as your Kindle e-Reader or app, and then click “Get Library Book.”

Tap "Get Library Book."

Amazon will confirm that you have checked out the book, and it will appear on your Kindle devices and apps. If you’re already on the device where you want to read the book, tap “Read Now in the Kindle App.”

Read Now in the Kindle App

This all might seem like a complex process, but it’s pretty easy after you’ve finished all the initial library searching and signing in with your card. From here on out, it’s just a matter of finding books and sending them to your Kindle. Happy reading!

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Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has close to a decade of experience covering consumer technology and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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