These days, many people are reading ebooks, listening to audiobooks, and accumulating music playlists on their devices. I know I am.
Buying books, movies and music in electronic form can get expensive, but the Anchorage Public Library can help you cut costs and try new things without investing a lot of money with our free downloadable resources.
As always, start at the APL website (http://www.anchoragelibrary.org). From there, choose READ+WATCH+LISTEN on the top right, then EBOOKS, MUSIC & MOVIES from the drop-down menu. This is where you will find a treasure trove of free entertainment.
You have a library card, right? If not, make sure you get one. It’s free, and you’ll need it to access these gems.
Let’s start with the big daddy of downloadables: Alaska Digital Library.
People also know this as Overdrive because that’s the name of the app you need to use it, and many libraries around the country have access to this resource. Through Overdrive, you can download ebooks and audiobooks, and the Alaska State Library has accumulated an extensive catalog for use by all Alaskan library users. APL buys additional titles for our patrons’ exclusive use on top of that selection. This resource tends to weigh heavily on the ebook side with a smaller collection of audiobooks.
First, you’ll want to create an Overdrive account. It’s quick and easy. You’ll need to know your library card number and the name of your library (Anchorage Public Library). When your account is set up, you can manage your settings. You can choose 7 day/14 day/21 day checkout periods for your items. At the end of that period, your items will be automatically returned. On the plus side: no more overdue fines! On the minus side: it will return even if you aren’t finished yet. I advise starting with 21 days, and adjusting as you need to. There are other settings you can tweak as well. Play around and see what works for you.
One drawback to using Overdrive is that it treats these electronic items as though they were physical; one copy equals one person using it at a time. That means that if an item is currently checked out, you have to place a hold on it if you want to get in line. I know, it seems counterintuitive for something that’s electronic. Just go with it. Some items will allow you to return it before the due date if you finish early, thus freeing up one of your available checkout slots.
You can search for specific titles and authors if you know what you’re looking for, or choose the Subjects or Collections tabs on the top left of the screen. They also have tabs for Kindle Books, Kids, and Teens. When you’ve selected an available item to check out (it will indicate whether it’s available or if you need to place a hold), it will add it to your account.
So then how do you read it?
You need to download the Overdrive app from whatever source you use for downloading apps to your device. Once it’s installed, you input your library card number and library so it knows which account to access, and then you should be able to get to your ebook or audiobook.
I know it sounds complicated, and there are a lot of details here. Just come in to any public library, and staff will help you navigate. One more detail: you can check out up to 7 items at a time. If you max out and find another title you want, you can return one of the others to keep your total at 7.
If you don’t find what you want on Overdrive, try Hoopla.
You’ll find it listed right beneath Alaska Digital Library. Hoopla is interesting—it provides ebooks and audiobooks, of course, but also comics, movies, television, and music. The hitch is that you can check out a maximum of 8 items per month. Again, as with Overdrive, you need to create an account using your library card, and you need to download the Hoopla app to your device. But by now you’re getting the hang of that, so there you go.
Hoopla has a larger proportion of audiobooks than Overdrive does, and the catalog of titles is different. I always check both places if I’m looking for a specific author or title. I also find Hoopla easier to use, with fewer clicks to get what I want so I can start enjoying right away.
Ebooks, audiobooks, and comics on Hoopla have a 21-day checkout period, while movies and television shows are available for 72 hours after checkout. The music option on Hoopla enables you to download an entire album, but for only 7 days. At first, I wasn’t sure what the benefit to that would be, but then a coworker mentioned that she uses it to preview an album before buying it. Pretty smart!
Freegal (Free + Legal) provides legal music downloads free of charge, and the songs are yours to keep forever.
You’ll find it on the webpage with Alaska Digital Library and Hoopla. And again, you’ll need to set up an account with your library card. (Are you seeing a trend here?)
With Freegal, you get 5 songs per week, and 3 hours of streaming music from the website each day. I like streaming albums while I’m working on my computer, and I’ve built quite the playlist with my 5 songs per week. You can also create a wishlist of songs you want to download if you’ve reached your limit. As with the others, there is an app for this, though you don’t have to use it to access all the music here. What I’ve done is download onto my computer, then transfer it into iTunes so I can add the songs to my personalized playlists on all my devices.
The selection in Freegal is very broad, ranging from hip-hop/rap to country to Broadway to punk, and everything in between. It also includes the entire Sony catalog. Albums by artists/labels represented in Freegal appear when they debut elsewhere, so there’s no lag time in getting the new songs by your favorite artist.
In addition to music, there are also music videos available to download. Just be aware that downloading a music video will eat up 3 of your available music downloads for that week. But you can still stream them, so there’s that.
A recent addition on Freegal is audiobooks.
It’s a very small selection so far, and an eclectic too. Perhaps it will grow with time and use so we’ll have yet another source of audiobooks.
Take some time to explore, library card in hand, and I guarantee you’ll be amazed at the offerings you can access from the comfort of your favorite chair at home or elsewhere. I ran out of reading material on a trip a couple of years ago, and downloaded a new book from Overdrive from my B&B in Scotland. Have library card, will travel!
And if you have any questions, you know where to find us: Chugiak-Eagle River Library (APL) at the Eagle River Town Center. We’ll be waiting to help you.
Nancy Clark is a lifelong Alaskan raising her family in her hometown. She has more than 25 years’ experience as a librarian, and currently serves as manager of the Chugiak-Eagle River Branch of Anchorage Public Library. In her spare time, she reads, cooks, gardens, and writes fiction. To reach Nancy, email: firstname.lastname@example.org