5 Legit Ways to Download Free eBooks & Audiobooks

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a good book, must be in want of another good book. And books are expensive to buy, especially if you burn through them quickly like many of us do. So how can you (legally) keep yourself in reading material without spending a crazy amount of money?

Well, since this is a Library Blog, the #1 answer is obvious: use your public library card! But there are even more ways to get your hands (eyes) on free reading material. In this blog post I’m going to focus on downloadables (ebooks and audiobooks), and ways to legitimately get your electronic reading devices chock full of free stuff.  So many freebies, it’s easy to make “read more” one of your New Year’s resolutions. Thrifty readers rejoice!

1. Use Your Library’s Digital Collection. Free stuff is what libraries all about, and most have at least one e-book borrowing platform that their cardholders can access. At CPL, we have 3 (because we’re awesome like that): OverDrive, RBdigital, and hoopla. Each platform has slightly different borrowing rules, and a different collection of ebooks & audiobooks to choose from.  All you need is a library card and you can start downloading tons of free titles tonight!

2. Check out Open Library and Librivox.  Open Library features hundreds of thousands of scanned books, courtesy of the Internet Archive, offering classic literature, out-of-copyright, public domain works, and many modern titles.  eBooks can either be read page-by-page in a browser (requiring an internet connection), or downloaded to your device and read via the Overdrive Media Console app or a PDF reader. Librivox audiobooks are public domain works read by volunteers from all over the world. They are free for anyone to listen to on a computer, mobile device, or even to burn onto CDs.

3. Become a Reviewer with NetGalley and Edelweiss. Netgalley and Edelweiss  make digital ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of upcoming books available in exchange for honest reviews. In order to gain access to their catalogs of available ebooks, you may be expected to publish regular reviews of what you read, but hey, that’s a small price to pay for free advance copies of books!

4. Promotional Offers & Sales from Major Retailers. Retail sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google Play all offer free ebooks,  some are permanent freebies and some are for a limited time.  There’s lots of fiction and non-fiction titles, everything from new authors looking to get a sales boost, to established authors promoting their backlists. Check these sites regularly to grab some great deals.

5. And Speaking of Amazon…  Did you know Amazon Prime members have access to a bunch of free ebooks and audiobooks? If you’ve got Prime membership, you can take advantage of a lot of freebies through their Prime Reading program. Most are Kindle ebooks, but there are some audiobooks available through Audible.com, too,  including lots of podcasts from Audible Channels.

What is an MP3-CD Audiobook, Part 2 – Why We Still Love Our LPs

My blog post about MP3-CDs several years ago generated an unexpected interest – what was different about an MP3-CD audiobook? Did I need a special player? And how did they get an entire book onto one single disk? I answered the questions, but it bugged me that I didn’t answer them enough. And when I dug just a little deeper, I realized the answer might be why there’s such a resurgence in old-fashioned vinyl LP records (kids, ask your grandparents).

Format Development

Back in the 1980’s, as CD and digital technology was taking off, committees were formed to create the format, so that the technology could be used anywhere. JPEG, that familiar photo tag, was formed first, the Joint Photographic Experts Group (1986), and they set the coding and standardization of digital transfer and storage of still photographs. MPEG-1 committee followed a year later, the Moving Picture Experts Group, Phase 1, which included both video and sound. It remains the most widely compatible audio-visual format in the world, and we all know the MPEG-1 Layer III by its short form of  .mp3.

When CDs hit the market, they took off like wildfire. You didn’t have to worry about compact discneedle and dust scratches ruining the fidelity of a record, and even better, you could carry that music with you wherever you went, just like a tape cassette but without all the mess and rewinding. Not all musicians jumped on it, though. Just as John Phillip Sousa hated the invention of the record, Neil Young was one of the earliest critics of CDs and delayed putting his music onto digital format, as is David Crosby, two men who know just a bit about music and the recording industry.

The Battle for Quality

high res vs. low res imagesAnd here’s why: MP3-CDs use what’s called lossy compression, a form of psychoacoustics (your gold-star word of the day). What it does is reduce or eliminate sounds that the system thinks the human ear can’t hear, either because they’re out of normal frequency or other sounds might be louder and keep you from hearing them. Once all that “useless” noise is gone, the audio files are a LOT smaller – enough to fit that whole audiobook onto one or two discs. Of course, in doing so, you lose a lot of sound quality, like when you send a low-resolution photo over the internet, or use a cell phone inside a tunnel.

The Return of the LP

And for all those people who said LP records were dead, here’s why more than 14 million of them were sold last year (14% of ALL album sales).  By the early 1900’s, when records became a thing, they were made of shellac (that bug resin), had a wide, noisy, grinding groove (think of those 1920’s recordings), and at 78 rpm (the speed they spun at), you could get no more than 5 minutes of play to a side – no American Pie, no Thriller, and forget In a Gadda Da Vida. That lasted until 1949, when Long-Playing (LP) records came out on vinyl (good ol’ PVC). At a speed of 33 rpm, with a finer groove that runs almost a third of a mile, they played more than 20 minutes of music per side, with a much higher sound quality. Stereo, which recorded two channels and put one on each side of the same groove, giving you that left and right sound, came in 1957. In a vinyl record, the sound waves from the microphone are transferred directly by needle to a core, which is transferred to a metal master, which is then pressed into vinyl. A needle then rides the groove, transferring those same exact soundwaves to the speakers. With proper speakers and tuning, the result is a rich, deep, acoustic sound much more like live music. Listen to enough LPs, and you really can hear the canned music effect on a CD recording. There is no comparison if you are a music purist.

Vinyl is Final

So, what’s playing on modern LPs? Ed Sheeran’s Divide was a top seller in 2017, and the old/new sound track to Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix No. 1, but so were the classics – Sgt. Pepper’s by the Beatles, Abbey Road, Thriller, and still, forty five years later, the champion of staying power, with more than 1,000 weeks on the top-200 best-selling albums, STILL selling more than 8500 albums a week, Pink Floyd’s 1973 Dark Side of the Moon.Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon album cover

For audiobooks, where one or two voices may recite a book in a calm, steady voice, you might not notice just how much sound is missing when you listen to it – enough to cut out six or seven discs worth. For music, I urge you to find a friend or a library that still has music LPs and players. Listen to the album (Dark Side of the Moon is amazing with serious headphones and a very dark room), and then listen to the digitally compressed MP3 files, missing highs and lows and the depth they provide. It might take a few tries, but you will start to hear the differences, and while MP3s are so fabulously convenient and almost foolproof, it just can’t compare to a good LP.

Fun fact: There is a gold-plated LP traveling the galaxy. Sent aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 with recordings of Earth music, it is now more than 11 million miles away. MP3s only made it as far as the Space Station.

SYNC Up Free YA Audiobooks This Summer

Sync audiobooks for teens, sponsored by Audiofile magazine

What if I I told you that you could download 26 audiobooks this summer, and keep them as long as you want,  FOR FREE? It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The SYNC Summer Reading program has been giving away free YA (also known as Teen, but adults love them, too) downloadable audiobooks all summer long since 2010, and they’re at it again this year.

Starting April 26, 2018, SYNC will give away two complete unabridged audiobook downloads per week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. This awesome program is sponsored by Audiofile Magazine and titles are delivered though OverDrive.

SYNC titles aren’t part of the library’s regular OverDrive collection, however. They are part of a separate collection from audiobooksync.com. Head to their website to preview the titles that will be available this summer. The first two titles, available April 26 – May 2, are The Great War : Stories Inspired by Items From the First World War and A Study in Charlotte: a Charlotte Holmes Novel by Brittany Cavallaro.

What do you need to know about SYNC?

1)  Each pair of audiobooks is available for 1 week only. Per agreement with the publishers, the free audiobooks are not available after their original Text synca to 25827download week. The files are available from Thursday morning 7am Eastern Time until the following Thursday morning at 7am Eastern time, when the new audiobook titles become available. You may download more than once if you have more than one device. You can sign up for Text Alerts when new books become available, so you won’t miss out. Text  synca to 25827 or visit audiobooksync.com to arrange alerts.

OverDrive app icon2) You’ll need to have the original OverDrive app (not the newer Libby app) to download the SYNC audiobooks. You can listen to the audiobooks directly through the OverDrive app, download and transfer from Windows or Mac computers to MP3 compatible players.

3)  The audiobooks you download are yours to keep, but bear in mind they can take up a lot of space on your mobile device. If you are using a mobile device SYNC iconlike a smartphone or tablet to listen to the audiobooks, it is recommended that you download to a computer and transfer the audiobooks over as you want to listen to them.  When you’ve finished a title, you can then delete it from your device but still keep the original file on your computer for as long as you want.

Take advantage of this opportunity to build up a collection of quality YA audiobooks, absolutely free. Just think of how you can expand your reading time by listening in the car, around the house, waiting in line. Multitasking was never so enjoyable!

OpenDyslexic Font Option for Library eBooks

For many of us, reading is a pleasurable and relaxing way to spend time. For people who struggle with dyslexia, it can be a source of frustration and stress, and the opposite of relaxing.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, and how it manifests itself can vary greatly from person to person. At its core, though, is a difficulty with reading words, and with identifying how speech sounds relate to letters and words. Many people with dyslexia have trouble “decoding” certain letters or numbers that they see, they don’t always interpret them correctly. For these people, different font types can make a difference in how they see the letters and words they are trying to read.

In 2008, Dutch graphic designer Christian Boer,  who struggled with dyslexia, started working on a font that would help him read more easily. The Dyslexie  font used heavier line thickness to emphasize the bottom of most characters. This was to try to “anchor” the letters since some people with dyslexia may have trouble getting letters on the page to stay still.  In 2011 a similar (and free)  open-source font was released, called OpenDyslexic. It has been updated continually and improved upon based on input from dyslexic users.

 

 

 

 

OverDrive began offering OpenDyslexic as a font option for its ebooks back in 2015. The wider spacing, bottom heavy and unique character shapes can help make it more difficult to confuse letters. If you or someone you know has trouble “decoding” printed words, try downloading an eBook from our OverDrive collection and using the OpenDyslexic font to read it. While it’s not a cure-all, it may make reading a little bit easier.

For more information, Cheshire Library also has many books on dyslexia,  in both print and  audiobook formats.

Little Starlings

I am a deep introvert. I’m perfectly fine talking only to the cat or TV. Hence, when my son was born, I figured if I didn’t start talking to him, he’d never learn to talk (my first mistake), and thus began thirty years of talking to myself and narrating what I’m doing.

Research published in the book Meaningful Differences, by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, showed a direct link between the number of words a child heard at home by the age of three, and their academic performance in Grade 3 (the age of 8). Children in poor/welfare homes heard, on average, 600 words an hour. Children of working-class homes heard 1200, and children of professional parents heard 2100. That racked up to children of professional parents hearing 30 million more words by the age of three than a poor child. So?

Exposure becomes verbal fluency. Verbal fluency is required for reading proficiency, and reading proficiency is required for academic proficiency.  The child who has minimal language is going to lag far behind on reading and academics.

How many words is your child really hearing?

Based on these studies, along comes VersaMe’s Starling, a handy-dandy little device that tracks just how many words your baby hears during the day.  It’s just a little clip-on star that records the number of words a baby hears, not the actual words (no one will hunt you down because of what you said when that [jerk] cut you off ). It’s convenient, easily rechargeable, and holds a charge for up to three days, so you don’t have to worry about plugging it in every night. It uses Bluetooth technology to report in real time to your smartphone, so you can track as you go. The clip is rather strong – the first day, it took my 14 month old 4 hours to wrestle it free, and by the next day, she wasn’t paying it any attention. It is fully waterproof, drool proof, and not particularly chewable, which was nice.

The first day we broke 10,000 words, the second day 11,000, and the third day for some reason, even though we went to a party with lots of people talking to her, it didn’t record, which was disappointing. Our best was 16,000.

Per day, 11,000 words seems like a lot, but when you figure the child is only awake 12-14 hours, and take out an average of three hours for naps, we didn’t even hit Middle-Class. Yet, I have a toddler who is off the charts in vocabulary and language skills.  Even the authors of the original study admit that quantity is nothing in the face of quality. Ten minutes spent reading a book with your child will go farther than three hours of TV.  And no, Starling can’t differentiate between people and TV.

Should you try Starling?

If you are a new parent with questions, if you’re the parent of a developmentally delayed child, if you’re just curious about yourself, then by all means give the Starling a try. It’s easy, it’s fun, and interesting to see the results. But remember, worrying about arbitrary marks isn’t good. Children, toddlers, babies all need critical down time to process all that information they’re learning.  Imagine someone following you around talking to you every waking second. You’d lock yourself in the bathroom for just 5 minutes of quiet. Your baby is no different. Language is important, but so is quiet alone time.

Starling is fun. It’s informative. Use it as an investigative tool, maybe increase some quality time or have an extra imaginary conversation on a play phone. If you want to try out a Starling, you can borrow one from the library.

For a helpful look on the making of brilliance and achievement, check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. For a fascinating look on the importance of auditory language, check out I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the science of Sound and Language (it’s not as sciency as it sounds), by Lydia Denworth. It’s awesome!