Frugal Entertainment

No New Books! Or why I stopped worrying and learned to love my library.

I’m a reader.  I have always been a reader. Even before I could read, I would listen to my parents and grandparents read to me from my favorite books every night.  I listened to those books so much I memorized them and could catch my parents when they skipped pages! Before I knew how to write I was crafting my own stories from my coloring book pages, demanding that my aunties and my mom write down the words for me.

For a long time I had a deep, emotional connection to my books.  I started collecting them as a child, and my library really exploded when I was an undergraduate student. At the end of each school year I would pack my books into boxes and put them in the dorm storage rooms because they were too much to pack up and take home over the summer. Things got worse when I was grad student. Books upon books upon books.  Books I never read. Book I had just because of the social capital they bestowed on me. But it got to a point where my books defined me more than what I was actually reading. My books had become a burden to me, and I felt distanced from this sacred act that I had loved since I was a child.

It became clear to me then that I needed to get rid of this burden. I could have earned a lot of money selling those books online, but I weighed that cash against the time and energy it would take to post every single one of those hundreds of books. I also could have gone the consignment route, but there wasn’t a place nearby where I could easily do that.  So instead I hosted a book giveaway. I invited all my friends over for an open house one Saturday afternoon—I made treats and had drinks on hand for folks to enjoy while they perused my library. In the end, I managed to whittle my collection down to a few book shelves and that burden I felt before instantly left.

More important, getting rid of my books—these things stacked upon each other, weighing down my shelves and my mind—has led me to reconnecting with reading! I’m lucky to live in a part of the country where I have access to several city library systems and a county library system. Anything I want to read is out there somewhere in the city, waiting to be delivered to my home branch whenever I want it. I have never waited more than a couple of weeks for a book, even more popular releases.

On top of the book selections, I’ve also started using some great electronic resources available to me through my libraries.  Here’s a brief once over on some of my favorites:

OverDrive—Accessible as apps on my Amazon Fire tablet, my ASUS laptop, and my LG smartphone. I can access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks, and sync multiple library accounts across all of my devices. The book selection is excellent, but my libraries don’t have great choices for streaming video.

Freegal—Excellent music streaming service! You can check out full albums for two weeks at a time and stream them across all your devices. I listened to the Hamilton cast recording over and over and over and over again, which helped me decide I should probably just buy it. Same thing with Adele’s 25, except I wasn’t super into the album.

Zinio—Access hundreds of magazines for free!  You can check out as many as you like through your library account, and you can keep them forever. No disappearing magazines once your rental period is up. I’ve used Zinio on my Amazon Fire tablet, and it’s really saved my sanity on some boring cross-country flights.

Your libraries might have different deals with these digital services, so check with your providers about access and lending periods. Remember you’ll need to access these services through your library websites to get free content. If you create accounts directly with the apps, you might have to pay. Keep in mind too that these are services designed primarily for libraries. Don’t expect meticulously designed user interfaces. It took me a while to figure out how to use OverDrive, but it’s a staple in my entertainment options now and the selection was definitely worth slogging through the app.

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