Shelter-in-place orders across the country have not only crippled the economy, but also frozen civic infrastructure. Sure, water is still flowing from our taps, the police and fire department are still on the job, but your local library probably isn’t considered an essential service. But that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome this scourge with a stack of good books by your side, they might just be of the digital variety.
Your first order of business should be to check into your neighborhood library branch. Systems across the United States have begun offering “second line” services – from free 24-hour wifi and homeless services to emergency childcare and food bank distributions. – to help their communities through these difficult times.
Additionally, even if your local doesn’t have physical books to borrow, many now offer a variety of online services to augment their closed locations. A recent study by the Public Library Association found that while 98% of the system’s 2,500 respondents had to shut down their buildings to some degree, of those, 76% continued, extended or added online renewals for previously borrowed books. while 74% built or expanded their eBook and streaming media collections.
The San Francisco Public Library, for example, offers an assortment of online classes and workshops, online books and magazines, newspapers, music streaming, and virtual storytimes for little ones. LA County closed its central branch and all 72 satellites in response to COVID-19, but also offers music, movies, books, magazines, distance learning resources and workshops through its web portal . The Chicago Public Library System has also closed its branches, but is offering to direct e-books directly to your Kindle for 1-3 weeks. You don’t even have to worry about “returning” them, they will automatically remove themselves from the device once the borrow window closes. Public libraries in Boston and New York followed suit.
If you’re a college student, be sure to register with your campus library for its e-book collection and access to a variety of temporarily free distance learning and teaching apps. University presses around the world, including MIT, Cambridge and Duke, are offering free quarantine e-books and course materials to their students and faculty. And if your school is licensing content from Project MUSE, a multidisciplinary collection of online e-books and journals, you’ve reached the common thread. More than 80 publishers have pledged to make their content free during the outbreak.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to the global academic ecosystem and its institutions. This decision is our way of helping to ease the burden on students and instructors so they can continue their research and courses as well as possible, as well as honoring the work of our authors by making their research available when the world needs nuances and rigour. scholarship the most,” said Tony Sanfilippo, press director at Ohio State University, in a recent press release.
The beauty of online public libraries is, of course, that they are just as free to use as their physical counterparts. If you want to buy a Kindle so you don’t strain your eyes with hours of screen time, Amazon offers the basic Kindle for $65, the Paperwhite for $95, and the Oasis for $279 (all with the option of three free month Kindle Unlimited, but if you subscribe to Prime, you already have this access). However, all you need is a library card, a free smartphone app like Hoopla and Libby, and a compatible device.
Most library systems don’t actually manage their own digital content offerings, they’re hard-pressed as they are. Instead, libraries often partner with digital streaming platforms to effectively outsource this content curation. Libby (formerly called OverDrive), for example, specializes in e-books and audiobooks, while Hoopla also includes a range of comics, music and movies. Users can access this content either through their local library portal or directly from the streaming platforms themselves.
Local libraries may be your first option for finding free books to read during quarantine, but they’re not your only option. In late March, the Internet Archive launched the National Emergency Library, “a temporary collection of books that supports emergency distance learning, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities , schools, training centers and libraries are closed.” the website reads. Reading levels range from preschool and kindergarten through high school and college.
To access this content, you will need to exchange your email address for a username and password, but no library card is required. Here you will find a massive collection of texts on a number of subjects, from dinosaurs to drawing and design, from medical texts to science fiction and fantasy novels. Be warned though, since the site’s launch authors and publishers have spoken out against it, arguing that the Internet Archive engages in digital piracy during a plague.
“With pre-crisis average writing incomes of just $20,300 a year, authors, like others, are struggling even harder — from canceled book tours and the loss of freelance work, jobs supplemental income and speaking engagements,” the Authors’ Guild wrote. in a March statement.
“And now they’re supposed to swallow this new pill, which deprives them of their right to introduce their books into digital formats as hundreds of intermediate authors do when their books are out of print, and which virtually guarantees that the revenue of authors and publisher revenues will decline further.”
If borrowing from the emergency library makes you uncomfortable, the Internet Archive also operates the open library with an equally wide range of titles. Of course, there’s also Project Gutenberg, offering over 60,000 ebooks and Kindle titles, most of which are no longer covered by US copyright law. I mean, if Shakespeare wrote King Lear during his plague, the least you could do is read it during yours. Similarly, Manybooks offers a mix of classic and contemporary strong with some 50,000 titles.
People who would rather listen to their books than read them also have options. Amazon’s Audible offers a variety of popular titles, including the Harry Potter series, for $15/month. For those who would rather not support Jeff Bezos’ bid for global economic dominance, Spotify has also started offering audiobooks on its streaming platform. However, they are quite well hidden, you will have to search in the “Word” category to find them.
For some of us, no convenience or technology can replace the simple joy of reading the printed word that can be touched, held and felt. But with many bookstores closed due to quarantine, buying physical media can be a challenge. But that’s where Bookshop comes in. This site acts as an intermediary between customers and their local independent bookstores. Simply find the store closest to you and place an order. 100% of the proceeds from every order goes to the store and so far over $1.2 million has been raised through the site. Granted, you’ll actually have to pay for your books, but it will help ensure that your bookstore is still around once the shelter-in-place orders are lifted.
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