Are you a reader? I am! I love all things books – reading, browsing bookstores, discussing books and attending author chats. One of the first things I search for in a new town is the local bookstore. They are my happy place. And it is very hard for me to go to a bookstore, specifically the independent bookstore, without making a purchase. After all, I have to support them, right?!
Realizing that if we move every two weeks and I visit a bookstore two to three times a month, those books will quickly add up in weight and number. I realized I need an alternative way to feed my book addiction. When you live in a RV, there is only so much space and I still have a number of unread and favorite books that I brought, so I really shouldn’t be adding to our weight load.
Luckily, we live in the digital age so there are a lot of options and sources for today’s readers! I love having multiple books in a variety of formats, so I can read wherever I am and to match my mood. This means I usually have an audio book, ebook and physical book in progress at any one time. A variety of apps allow me to get these books while we travel. I also use apps to track my reading and the books on my TBR (to be read) list.
So if you are a reader or want to read more, perhaps a few of these might help you…
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… This is my #1 app for free books. We domicile in Texas and before we hit the road, I got a library card from the local library. The Libby app allows me to check out books from the library and read them on my Kindle (you can also read them on libby). I can also check out audiobooks and listen through the Libby app as well as magazines.
Not only can I check out books, but I can also put them on hold, manage my hold deliveries when I get several at once, and tag books for future reading or as my favorites. Not all libraries use Libby, some use RG Digital or another system, but the concept is the same. You enter your library card number then can browse and check out books. The books have varying due dates and can be renewed if there are no holds. If there is a book that I simply cannot wait to read, I have the option to buy it, but lately, I find myself saying, “I can just get it from the library!” And I love it when a book comes in that I have been anticipating and has been on hold for a while, it is like Christmas.
Hint: I hear that if you put your device on airplane mode (it must be all devices that the book shows up on), you can keep the book longer than the due date. I have not tried this, just passing it along.
Additional bonus – If you add a chrome extension to your computer, it will display, when browsing that big online retailer for book ideas, if your library carries the book and its availability.
Note Must have a library card
There are a variety of e-readers, but I use the Kindle app on my ipad. I just don’t need another electronic device to plug in or keep up with so I like the ease of using the app. It syncs across my phone, allowing me to read a few pages when I am waiting in line and it will sync up on my ipad when I return to it. And I can keep literally hundreds of books on it. When we moved into the rig, I bought the digital versions of my cookbooks so I didn’t have to lug those around. Now, I just prop up the ipad and have easy access in grocery stores to ingredient lists for those spontaneous decisions on what to cook.
Cost: Free app, digital readers vary
I just found this app and love it! Every morning it delivers a bite sized chapter or so of a free book so I can start the day with a little reading. It is a great way to work through classics that you always meant to read as it has mostly older books like Pride & Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island. And you want to splurge and give them $2.99, you can support their work in adding more books and gain the ability to highlight and read ahead, in case you just have to find out what happens next. They have their books nicely categorized so you can easily browse based on your interests such as history, childrens, biography, etc.
Cost: Free with option to pay or donate
Note Books are limited, mostly classics and those in public domain
This is a fairly new app for me so haven’t tried it much, but it delivers books that are in the public domain so free. It looks fairly easy to read and has an extensive library of older books.
Note Books are limited, mostly classics and those in public domain
This is more a site but they do have an app for your library of books. Essentially, they offer books that have not been published yet (or were recently published but are not well known) in exchange for honest reviews. The downside is that you can request those red hot new publications, but you have to be approved by the publisher to receive them. They typically decide based on your reach and influence among other readers, so it works well for bookstores and reviewers or those with strong social media followings that discuss books.
That said, However, it never hurts to ask! And so cool when you can get the new book (and now audiobooks) for free before it is out to share your opinion! Start with some of the easier to get books, those that are already published for instance. Be timely in returning reviews and sharing with your instagram or facebook friends using their hashtags. A friend, who didn’t have a strong following, asked her independent bookstore if she could provide reviews for their Staff Picks shelves. When they agreed, she updated her profile to show she is a reviewer and gets great response on her requests.
Note Difficult to get approvals
libro.fm – I enjoy supporting independent bookstores whenever possible. Not only because I love visiting these unique stores, but also to support the incredible service that they provide to readers with author chats, personal service and a stronger local community. While Audible is the most well-known app for audiobooks, due to their association with the monster company that also starts with an A, Libro.fm allows you to purchase audiobooks and choose a local bookstore to benefit from your purchases. The monthly membership for $14.99 per month (about the same as Audible) allows you to choose one book each month and get discounts on other books.
Since credits don’t expire, you can hold them until you catch up on your reading or to wait for the newest book. You can also gift them to others. And they have a special if you are switching from Audible to Libro that starts you with two credits. You can search books by name, author or even narrator. With the popularity of audiobooks now, narrators are getting more famous (and even celebrities are joining the list) and you can find lists or reviews on good narrators.
Hint – If you start a book and find you just don’t like the content, narrator or anything about it, you can ask for a refund and Libro.fm will give you back a credit. Also, you can mark passages in audiobooks like in print and electronic books. A bit clunky in my opinion but possible.
Also, to those who think reading by ear doesn’t count as reading, science says it is essentially the same and yes, you can count those pages! And for those of you who have never tried audio or haven’t tried in a while, try Daisy Jones and the Six. Great story with a super cast narrating it.
Cost: Free app, pay by book or for $14.99 per month membership
Chirp is to audiobooks as Bookbub (see Discount books below) is to electronic books. They offer heavily discounted prices on a variety of audio books and an app to store and listen to them. With some books as low as $1.99, you can load up your ears with all kinds of fairly recent books.
Cost: Free with varying cost per book
Another option similar to Libro.fm and Audible with monthly membership. I really haven’t used it except for a preview book I was given so cannot say much.
Usability: Easy to use, though I found interface to be less inviting
Cost: Monthly membership with introductory offer of 3 free books
Geared towards students in middle school and high school, the app is part of the Overdrive family of online books and audiobooks. From spring to summer, though, they offer two free audiobooks each week to keep kids reading. The good news is you don’t have to be a student to get these books which you are able to download and listen to at your leisure. Each week, they choose two books which pair well together and offer them for free. Since they target students, the books are usually middle grade or young adult but can offer great insights and reading. You do have to download the books that week, though, as they go away when the next pair are introduced. If you have a student in your life, they can likely get greater access with their school email address if the school participates.
Note Limited selection with short window to download
I enjoy using Goodreads to track my reading, post reviews and connect with other readers. When you friend someone on this app, you can see what they are reading or have read as well as share comments and reviews. Other features allow you to set and track your own reading challenge. It will even tell you if you have fallen behind. You can connect it with your Kindle so any book you start reading and highlights you make are added to your account. Once done, you can post a review public or private review and share your notes for comments if desired. I also love the year-end report that it gives you of what you read that year, number of pages, favorites, etc.
Some people don’t like the review and star system in Goodreads, since it is so subjective. My suggestion is not to look at reviews or the stars until you have finished the book or have formed an opinion, especially if you feel it will color your opinion or you are worried about spoilers. After I am done with a book, I enjoy reading them to see if others agree with my assessment and occasionally to help explain sections.
Note If you join, reach out to me at debracbenton
While this app can track your reading, I mostly use it to know what books I have in my inventory. The app allows you to scan the barcode on the back of your books so you have an electronic list of your library so you don’t accidently buy the book again. Let’s face it, if the book sounded good once, you might not remember you bought it and get it again. Just saying it could happen! Of course, I have never done it myself?! Hah!
I really don’t use it for its other features of tracking my reading as it felt more difficult than Goodreads, but can be a good alternative if you just want to know for yourself what books you have in your inventory.
Usability: A for barcode
Other Bookish delights
Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club-
This is my number one on the road book source for new titles and bookish talk. Anne Bogel, founding book nerd and podcaster, runs this online book club, the podcast What Should I Read Next and the blog, ModernMrs.Darcy.com. She shares her vast reading life and, since she is a strong influencer and author, she often has the inside scoop on new releases. Last spring when all the book tours were cancelled, she held a virtual book tour with several authors on their new books.
I am a member of her online book club which gives you access to some bookish classes and a forum where you can talk books with other readers. Every month, Anne chooses a book along with a book flight (a second book that pairs nicely with the first one) for the club to read, then we get together online via Zoom to discuss it. Anne and Ginger, who runs the book club, talk about the book, often with the author, and the rest of us are in chat adding to the conversation and asking questions. It gives me a monthly “outing” on books that feeds my soul. I know there are a lot of celebrity book clubs these days, but Anne is a delightful and approachable wife and mom who has built a strong bookish business that includes a wonderful staff who feel like my bookish friends. Less wine than a IRL (in real life) book club, but much more book talk.
Cost: Blog and podcast are free, book club is $15 per month and there is also a patreon group for $5 per month
Note If you join, send me a message in the book club messaging center so we can talk books.
“Reading brings us unknown friends” – Honoré de Balzac
Discount books –
If you haven’t heard of Bookbub or Bookriot, these are two sites that send out daily emails for discounted books (ModernMrs. Darcy also offers a link to discounted books). You can select genres that interest you and they send you a list of books that are usually only $1.99-$3.99 for a limited timie. I have had to purposefully delete the emails at times to slow my one click madness! I love getting the emails offering discounted digital books and the kindle makes it super easy (too easy) to buy that $1.99 book in one click so I am assured I will never run out of reading material! Book Riot offers a lot of other great reading information including a great annual book challenge that really takes you out of your reading box.
Independent Books –
As I mentioned, I like to shop independent bookstores. They have so much more personality and I love to actually touch and browse books before picking one. Plus the staff are usually so much more knowledgeable and helpful than some large bookstores that will not be named. If you have trouble finding independents, try Indiebound which helps you locate the nearest one but also shares great info on books. If we will be in town for a couple weeks, I will check the local bookstore to see if they have any events like a book club or author chat happening and add it to my calendar. I have made great local friends doing this and have seen great authors.
And in case you don’t have a favorite independent bookstore, may I suggest Page 1. While they do have a brick & mortar store, they do a lot online. Since it is so personal, I have easily ordered books and book boxes from them, then contacted them with an updated address for delivery as we travel around. They are located in Evanston, IL and have a great subscription box program. I gave it to my son last year for Christmas and he enjoyed the monthly selection they sent. After filling out some information on the recipient, Page 1 hand selects a book that specifically for them, instead of whatever is the new release. If the recipient already has the book or doesn’t like it, they will send you another for free and suggest you pass on the first book instead of returning it. Great service and pretty packaging!
So did I miss an app that you like to use? Tell me in the comments. And let me know what you like to read. Happy reading!
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis