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Three Easy Steps to Free Books - The Traveling Alphabet
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Three Easy Steps to Free Books

Even from thousands of miles away, the public library system was invaluable. With each of the ABCD’s carrying a Kindle and our oldest devouring books more frequently than he changed his socks, it was extremely helpful to download so many of them from the library. It sure saved on our budget.

How you ask?

We used Overdrive which allowed us to download ebooks to our Kindle and audiobooks to our iPad. I tried Overdrive several years ago and found it clunky, but it has improved since then. It is still not as easy as buying something on Amazon and does requires several steps to get a book on your device. However, once you become familiar with the site, it only takes a minute or two and is worth the time.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get a library number and PIN. That’s right, you need a PIN so make sure to work with your library to set this up before you leave on your trip. Because each library has a different selection of books, I recommend getting library cards from multiple library systems. We visited 8 around the San Francisco Bay Area.
  2. Log into Overdrive  and start searching for books. If the book is available, you go through several steps to move it to your device. If using Amazon Kindle, it will prompt you to log into Amazon and select the desired Kindle. If the book is checked out, you can always place it on Hold and will be sent an email when it is available.
  3. Sync up your Kindle. Turn on your Kindle and its WiFi then sync up your new book(s) through Amazon.

Here are a few tips we learned over the course of a year on the road.

  • In many cases you are allowed to check out books for 21 days. If you feel you need more time, just put your Kindle into Airplane mode. The book will stay on the Kindle past 21 days until you turn your WiFi back on. Colin figured this one out.
  • Get a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We used Nord but there are a variety out there. Here is a rating of the Best VPN Services of 2018 by PC Magazine. When you are logged into Overdrive, it brings up libraries close to your location (as determined by your IP address). We often had difficulties getting books when in other countries because it recognized we were not in the US. So, I would turn on my VPN and set it to a US location and all worked fine. While it may sound intimidating, they are surprisingly easy to use.
  • Popular books may be difficult to get so I would often put myself on the waiting list (or Hold) at multiple libraries.
  • You can log in using your Overdrive account username/password or your library number/pin. I recommend always logging in using your Overdrive account as it is easier to move back and forth between libraries and search throughout the entire system versus one library.

Enjoy your next book.

Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. The upgrade from Overdrive is “Libby”.
    Overdrive can be sync’d to Libby with a simple click.
    Overdrive will move your requests over to Libby.
    Libby truly is easy to use (and you know I’m a Luddite).
    There’s a function where you can delay receiving a book indefinitely: 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 2 months, etc. whatever you need.
    Your name still will move up the waitlist, and as soon as you disconnect the timeline hold, you’ll be next for the audiobook.
    The Danville Library recommended I go to the SF Library and register with them – simply with your ID. No fee – as you know. Don’t need to be SF resident. The SF Library said their database is the largest in the country. The employees are extremely proud of their Library and it’s vast.
    Libby is awesome, easy, and worth a BART ride to Civic Center San Francisco Library.

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