CHOICE membership

Is an online library subscription worth it?

There are threads that deal with various online subscription services and with ebooks. As far as I can see there is only one online ebook lending service Kindle Unlimited (KU) operated by Amazon. If anybody knows of another please say so.

The deal is simple; for $13-99 per month (paid monthly) you get unlimited access to the KU library, provided you don’t have more than 10 books out at any time. This limit seems rubbery and sometimes I think I go over it but maybe I can’t count.

The Good

  • The library is huge, you will find books on almost any subject. This include many classics as well as contemporary authors.
  • Once set up access is almost instant any time of day or night. Can’t sleep and want a new book at 3AM? No worries download from the comfort of your chair or bed.
  • The e-reader software for whatever devices you have is free and AFAIK all tablets, phones and PCs are supported. I am unsure about specialised readers. The reader software functions well as a reader on my Android tablet and PC but there are other problems - see below.
  • You can register many devices and each can have a copy of your library and they are well synchronised.

The Bad

  • Some find the price too much. This is entirely up to you. Most ebooks (whether KU or not) are about $2 to $15 to buy. Some specialised non-fiction and best seller fiction may be more. If you read say 3 books a month on KU you will be in front. I read much more so I save more.
  • You do not get access to the full Amazon catalog, many best sellers are not available. This still leaves a huge catalog. You can download and pay for the non-KU books too and read them on the same reader.
  • The Amazon catalog is populated with thousands of ebooks, mainly fiction, that are not up to standard either as literary works or in presentation, the chances are that nobody would have published them as they are in hardcopy. This includes books that have not been bothered by a proofreader and are full of errors. This applies to all Amazon ebooks, they appear to take no editorial responsibility at all but just publish what they are given. However, this problem applies to those in KU as well. The reader rating system is very uncertain, I have read books that get all 4 or 5 stars that were rubbish.
  • The reader software is integrated with the Amazon web site. But it isn’t done very well. Different functions exist or not and are treated differently depending on how you access the library. The transition from reader to web (to get a new book) and back to reader (to then read it) is not seamless and frequently crashes. You don’t lose anything but have to go back and do it again. This is more an annoyance than a show-stopper.

The Ugly

  • The Amazon search engine is an unpolished turd. Just taking books, there is no option to search by title, author or subject as with the usual library software. The lead developer imagined they were clever enough to take a single input string and work it out: they proved that they are not that smart.
    Take an example; I used the search string “picture framing”. I input it with the quotes in an effort to restrict to just that phrase. It doesn’t work. Initially I got over a thousand hits. The list included romance novels with bare-chested heroes, how to build a diving robot, how to perform some special kind of tapestry and how to tie strong knots. I managed to shorten the list by applying some extra filters down to 84. I may have excluded some real hits but I wasn’t going through 1000s of them a page at a time. My best guess is there were 7 real hits on picture framing and allied subjects like matte cutting.
    It looks to me that this problem of huge numbers of false positives is partly incompetence and partly deliberate. They seem to think if they throw in enough random stuff you will buy something sooner or later and promoted material is compulsory regardless of relevance.
    The same applies if you search by author name. They seem to think that if you want to read John Smith then you must also want to read anything by any author whose name includes John or Smith and whose works include anything that could remotely look like the works or subject matter of John Smith. You will get the works by the John Smith you want but they are not necessarily at the top of the list and it can be long!

If you read a lot and can put up with the flaws in the system it can be very economical and accessible. They have a month free trial to find out but don’t forget to unsubscribe in time if you don’t like it or they will bill you at the start of the second month.


I used the free Borrow Box from my local library. App on Android, download from a limited suite of books when home on WiFi and listen/read while driving etc. Can search OK, not brilliant, but easy to find by author, title, subjects, short stories, fiction etc. Rarely use it now - too busy.


Your local library might have ebooks/e audios, and you should be able to access these for free. If you travel at all, you might be able to join as a ‘visitor’ at other libraries not in your district, and get access to more titles. Not all libraries use the same compatible app, so there are a few different ones. If you find multiple libraries using the same app, they will have each paid for their own catalogue, so you should get a better selection to borrow from. You may have to log in and out of each separate library to access each specific catalogue-watch that you don’t lose your downloads when you do this-often this is noted on the app. Some apps will let you ‘add a library’, so if you find more than one library using the same app, you might be able to toggle between the separate library catalogues instead of having to log in and out.


I am a member of the local council library but none of the content is available online only the catalog.

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An opportunity for their improvement? Our Yarra Plenty Regional Library has an extensive ‘ecollection’ of books, magazines, videos, and audios if you need a reference to ask your library why they don’t. Their answer may be so simple as funding? Or ‘just because’?


In smaller council libraries this can sometimes be the case, especially in rural areas. Smaller libraries often obtain their collections ‘on loan’ from their State Library.

Do you ever travel to an adjoining shire/council? You could check maybe by phone or email to see if they are more independent and you could join their library service.


Of course. When if ever this might happen I will look into it.


Its mad and maddening. The council area is diverse and spread out with the current service being little sub-libraries in some of the larger towns. The service isn’t very good and from my point of view is dying of neglect. New books are a great rarity. Surely an opportunity to spend less on bricks and mortar, and inventory and tying up staff on library duties by going online. But no.


As others have mentioned, Borrow Box is an online book service many libraries subscribe to. My local library moved from Borrow Box and now uses Libby. As you know, borrowing is free to members.

A couple of years ago I too looked into a service like you wrote about, but decided to find another way to access many different books, some of which my Sydney metro public library did not have in its collection.

Whenever I was in part of town that had a decent library, I walked in and signed up. I joined 4 libraries other than my local library, but let membership on 2 elapse. Now I have access to 3 libraries, in very different parts of Sydney and ALL offer online borrowing.

And ALL 3 use Libby and once the app was loaded on my mac, that’s it. Read away. No need for other devices eg Kobo, Kindle, eBook etc

What is great is that I set up the app to remind me when its 3 days to return a book (in case I forgot to pace my reading) and if, heaven forbid, I forget to return the eBook on time, it is done automatically for me.

By no means go out of your way to large libraries that may well meets your needs, but next time you’re near such a library, regarless of how far it is from your home, work or stomping ground, pop in and join.

My focus is non fiction and with the three libraries I access, the range is decent as is the quality of the offerings.
Of course none will have every book I want to read and all 3 may come up short in a specific subject, but so far I have avoided signing up to a service you mentioned, with once having to request a book from interstate that cost $28 to borrow (for 4 weeks, renewable).

$28 may sound like a lot, but I was in that situation only once in 2 years. So I think what I’ve done and suggest you do is great value.
If that means signing up when you’re in a big town, say Sydney or Melbourne, then do that and mention to staff only if they remark on your address that “you work in this area, very often and wanted to make use of the local library” and, if they prove difficult, you could add that " I plan to move to this area".

I can speak only for what I have seen in metro Sydney and that is that the days of limiting library membership to folks in the local area are long gone. Members are few and far between. Potential members are too busy on FB and Instagram to find time for a library. Staff welcome anyone who wants to join, so long as they have valid ID.


My local council has free online books. They use Libby which works well as a borrowing system, and on my Galaxy pad device very readable.
Last time I looked they had 24,000 books.

If I cannot find something there to borrow, then I guess I’d rather spend my time posting on social media sites. :grimacing:


My local (Newcastle) uses BorrowBox and Axis360. But I have found I can join other libraries even though I am not resident. Lake Macquarie is one and Warringah is another. You don’t need to lie about your status, both just accepted my Newcastle address. I also have Prime Reading, and as with Libraries, a book will expire after a certain time (and its a long time, but no idea exactly how long)…


I hope some of these will help meet your needs:

OverDrive: ebooks, audiobooks, and more for libraries and schools

Free eBooks | Project Gutenberg


The Online Books Page ( (a non https site)

Welcome to Open Library | Open Library | Download free Fiction, Health, Romance and many more books

Free Professional and Technical Research Library of White Papers, Magazines, Reports, and eBooks ( (this one can be annoying for the emails they send you but easy to ignore)

50,000+ Free eBooks in the Genres you Love | Manybooks

eBooks & eLearning / AvaxHome (

PDF Books Library To download free eBooks (

Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free & Borrowable Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine

Wiley Online Library | Scientific research articles, journals, books, and reference works

About this Collection | World Digital Library | Digital Collections | Library of Congress ( Read Books Online for Free

Authorama - Public Domain Books

Perseus Digital Library (

For those with children
ICDL - International Children’s Digital Library (


To add to your list:

Plus: Use Calibre (free) to keep a semblance of order in your downloaded books.


Thanks for that. Some of these like Project Gutenburg consist of only works that are freely distributable, ie out of copyright. Would the rest be the same? I do read some classics but I also like contemporary non-fiction and fiction.

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Some supply what are white papers and magazines that are current. You would need to check through them all, some have a limit on monthly access, some are through Universities and include current research, most would be public domain (as in out of copyright) others are made available under Commons of one sort or another.

Some of the library access ones are current eBooks, you have to test your library membership (your local library) with the service to see if your library is covered. In some cases you can request that your library be added to the service.

OverDrive: ebooks, audiobooks, and more for libraries and schools (Libby) is one of the access to eBooks with a current local library access card.

Welcome to Open Library | Open Library is another.


Asked one of my local library services and they said you may be able to find a Library service in your State that allows you reciprocal rights eg your library membership is recognised by the same State service, they suggested you contact your State Library as a starting point.

In Qld they generally have recip rights across the State but not beyond, however the suggestion was made that Ipswich Library may allow you to sign up as a online access only member. This joining requires that you provide your residential address and if the system works it will only then allow you to access the online apps such as Libby, BorrowBox and cloudLibrary

Sign up page is found at:

Register online | Ipswich Libraries (

The Newcastle regional area Library service has access to the cloudLibrary, to try it you will need your Library Card Number and your pin. I hope it works for you.

Featured (

NSW State Library access should be available to you


You can access most of the Library’s eresources from anywhere, anytime using your own device if you’re a New South Wales resident. You just need a Library card or have a registered NSW public library card.

Visit the Library to get access to the complete eresources collection.


You can read the Library’s ebooks online or download them to your computer, tablet or mobile device. You can’t download ebooks to Library computers.

You need to be a New South Wales resident and have a Library card or a registered NSW public library card.

Learn more about using ebooks from the Library’s collections.

Coffs Harbour have an online access join up that you may be able to access (they accept recip rights in NSW)

Join the Library | Coffs Harbour Libraries (

What they provide online

eBooks and eAudiobooks | Coffs Harbour Libraries ( (these are through the usual online library services sites/apps eg cloudLibrary)


This is now officially very weird. My spouse is a volunteer at the local Council library and works there every week, sorting and arranging, doing loans and returns etc on hardcopy books, CDs and DVDs. They do nothing and know nothing about ebooks.

I went to the main council web page and found the library service pages. As well as the standard info about physical libraries, opening hours and access to the online catalog, which I already knew about, there is now a series of pages about ebooks. At some time before today they have subscribed to not one but several ebook services and as a library member I am automatically entitled to use them all.

I have now joined one (BorrowBox) and logged on and all is well. I am embarrassed that I said there was no such service but having a someone who actually works there I felt I knew what was going on.

I am also furious that the Council staff responsible are so slack that there has been no advertising campaign to say the service was available and they did not see fit to tell their own workers! Until now I thought the paid staff at head office treated the volunteers rather poorly but this is the pits.

Thanks to all those who prompted me to investigate this.


The main thing is you are now able to enjoy access. That was the best answer possible for you!

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Reddit has a community for free books.

It also has a thread.

Amazon Kindle, at least the US version, often offers free books for a limited time. A lot are rubbish, some are first in a series i.e. the publisher hopes you will buy some of the others. Many of those listed in the Reddit r/FreeeEBOOKS are free Kindle books.

It used to be possible to browse Kindle bestsellers by ‘paid’ and ‘free’, but that ability appears to have been removed.

Amazon Prime Australia membership comes with ‘over 1,000’ ebooks, which are apparently rotated from time to time. I was able to read Girt and True Girt through this, and the Prime membership is currently AU$59/year. Comes with a few other benefits (movies, free shipping, free games…).

Freading is another option to borrow books.

One thing I can state definitively based upon past searches for freebies - if you like bodice-rippers, there are plenty out there for you. If your tastes tend more to the cerebral, you may enjoy the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno.

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In many places you don’t have to live in the same area as the library you want to join.

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