“How many books do you have in your camper?” is a question we’ve been asked a lot during our years of full-time RV travel. It’s a valid question for those who travel the way we do.
When our kids were young and we were living in our 25 foot Airstream trailer, we had a bunch of board books and reading books aimed for early readers. As the kids’ love of reading grew, we knew that carrying around large quantities of physical books was not going to be practical, especially when we decided to downsize our home again.
We introduced the idea of e-books slowly to the kids. It took a while for them to get use to the idea of having digital books but it’s not a novelty anymore. E-books are now the norm.
The main way we get e-books for free
It’s crazy to think how many books the kids have read over the years and it’s even crazier to think how much owning each and every one of those e-books would have cost us. We’ve saved hundreds, err maybe thousands, on e-books thanks to three words: THE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
So first thing first, go get a library card at your local public library. We have one with the Los Angeles Public Library system because that is where our official mailing address is located while we are living on the road. We needed to apply for a card using our local address there and a local phone number, as well.
How the card works
Now that you have signed up for a public library card, you need to download one of the following two apps onto your device(s):
Overdrive (android, iOS) or Libby, by Overdrive (android, iOS).
Both apps are made by Overdrive and it’s a personal preference for which user interface you prefer. After downloading the apps and signing up for a new account using your library card information, you will automatically have access to thousands of e-books, audiobooks, magazines and other perks as well. The number of books you can check out is based on your library district. The apps allow you to browse by category, age, reading levels, interests, popularity and availability. The app also allows you to put items on hold and download for offline reading/listening. You can also link your account to your Amazon/Kindle app if you prefer to read on your Kindle instead of inside the app itself.
Pro tip: If you can get additional cards from other library districts, go for it. We have an additional card from another city and it has been really helpful to us. This allows us to browse through different inventories, check out more books if we reached our max allotment from the other library, or check out books that are available when the other library doesn’t.
What the card gives you access to
In addition to e-books, audiobooks and magazines through the Overdrive and Libby apps, your library card also gives you free access to other cool things.
Hoopla Digital is a website and app (android, iOS) that gives you free access to movies, books, audiobooks, music and comics.
Mango Languages (android, iOS) is an app our whole family uses for language learning. Our library card gives us five free accounts. The kids are currently learning Croatian with it.
Other local perks for holders of a LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) card can be found here. You might do a quick Google search to see if your district has something similar as well.
Other ways we get e-books for free
In addition to all the perks of having a library card, the kids also like to use Epic! Reading. There is a website and app (android, iOS) as well. Since we homeschool our kids, we get to sign up as educators which gives us free access. Our kids like to use this app because of the cute interface and point system for reading. Our youngest really enjoyed the “read to me” feature that it provides while he was still learning to read.
There are a couple other ways to get free e-books that we haven’t used yet. Rivet looks like a good option for young readers. And if you check out Amazon, there are free e-books on there as well.
And that’s how we do it!
So do we have ANY books in our camper? Yes, we do. All the kids get a keep a handful of favorites. And you know what’s a real treat for them now? Trips to the bookstore or the local library where they can easily spend hours reading and browsing the day away.
Hope this has helped some of you. If you have any other ways for reading for free on the road, please leave us a comment! 🙂
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