New to Ebooks? Start Here

By Jamie W. Tue, May 7, 2013

Congratulations on your new e-reader, tablet, or mobile device! We hope you enjoy borrowing digital items from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Here's a quick guide to get you on your way. 

First of all, finding digital items to check out on the Free Library's website is simple. You can start at the pink 'Download Media' button on our homepage or by taking a look at the video below that introduces our various digital platforms and shows you how to get around our site.

The majority of our best-sellers and in-demand ebook titles come from Overdrive. For an introduction on how to use the Overdrive service take a look at the video below.

Now that you know how to checkout an ebook, there are basically three ways to download them. The option that's right for you depends upon the type of device you own. Find a guide for each below...

1.  Downloading ebooks for tablets, phones, and mobile devices (Including Kindle Fire, Nook Color and Nook HD)

2.  Downloading ebooks for Kindle (excluding Kindle Fire)

3.  Downloading ebooks to a Nook (excluding Nook Tablets, Color, and HD) or other dedicated e-reader

 Finally, you may discover that not every ebook or audiobook you're interested in is currently available from the Free Library.  Find out why here.


I find it discouraging that I can't play Audio Download books with my computer, which has the Ubuntu 12.4 operating system. It's the fault of the Download company, which chooses not to make a program suitable for Ubuntu. Ubuntu is on many computers used by underprivileged kids. Some of us load the system up on old computers and make those computers available to poor kids. So how about putting some pressure on the company? Thanks for your consideration.
Lance Culp - canonsburg Sun, July 28, 2013
I downloaded an e-book to my Kindlefire HDX7. Do I have to return (electronically wipe off with notification to FLP) or will it just runout and die on Kindle and be returned to library. I checked on Overdrive Media and they say how to do it but it doesn't work to return an item. Please advise John Landers
John Landers - Rockledge, PA Mon, January 13, 2014
Hi John - Your library ebooks will be returned automatically once your loan period expires. There is no action required on your part. With Kindle though, the expired title may continue to be listed in your Kindle library - though you will not be able to open it. To delete expired titles from a Kindle login to your account at and go to Manage My Kindle. As always, if you need more assistance, send us an email at the 'contact us' link at the top right of this page.
Jamie W - Philadelphia Tue, January 14, 2014
I am considering getting a Kindle or whatever. I assume the library has a limited quantity of each book title. Is the average wait time for an e-book any shorter than the average time for a real book?
Carolyn - Philadelphia Sun, May 18, 2014
Hello Carolyn - You are correct. Ebooks work just like print books. So, if the library buys 10 or a certain title, we can lend them to 10 people. When those loans expire we can lend them out to the next 10 people and so on. There are waiting periods for popular titles in both print and digital format. How long the wait is varies greatly from title to title though and it is hard to make a generalization. However, as a basic rule, ebooks do not necessarily have shorter wait times. If you are unsure about whether or not you want to buy an e-reader, that should probably not be the deciding factor. I hope this response is helpful to you. Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia Mon, May 19, 2014
Can I download a book to my laptop computer? I have a vision problem and cannot use the traditional tablets due to the print being too small. I'm new to this, so bear with me! Thanks....
Toni - Philadelphia Wed, July 02, 2014
Hello Toni - Yes, you can download ebooks to a PC or Mac computer. The simplest thing is to use the Overdrive READ in-browser reader to read ebooks in your web browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.). Find instructions to get started here:
Jamie W - Philadelphia Mon, July 07, 2014
can you explain to me why some books have a black book icon ( and I can borrow them) and some have a grey book icon (and I cannot click on them )? I am trying to read a series and some of the books are there but I cannot access them. very frustrating! I have a kindle fire hd , if that makes a difference.
carol g - mt carmel Mon, March 30, 2015
Hello Carol - the black and grey icons indicate whether or not the ebook is currently available. If the icon is black, the ebook is available and you can check it out. If it is grey, another patron has the ebook checked out right now and you will need to place a hold on it so you can check it out when it is available. Here is a short tutorial on how to place a hold:
Jamie W - Philadelphia Mon, April 06, 2015
can my son download the summer reading books that are assigned by school. they never seem to be available in print. I understand why. just looking for options. thank you.
bill - northeast philly Wed, July 01, 2015
Hello Bill - You certainly can download ebooks to be used for summer reading from our Overdrive collection. We make every effort to have the books that schools assign in our ebook collection and on the shelves of our libraries. However, not all the schools let us know what they're assigning ahead of time and not all books are available to us as ebooks. Take a look for the titles you need in our collection ( If you can't find it, let us know what book you're looking for using the Contact Us link at the top of this page and we will see if we can order it for you. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia Wed, July 01, 2015
I may be missing it, but I don't see how to renew borrowed e-books. Right now, I have one I'd like to renew. Love Life of Siamese Twins. It's due July 8th.
David Skolnick - Philly Mon, July 06, 2015
Can I get E-Books even if my card has fines? Also, If the library has it, does that mean that it is also an E-Book?
Bob - Freakadelphia Tue, September 15, 2015
Hi Bob - Yes you can use your card for digital items even if it has fines. Fines are really just to ensure we get our physical items back and since that's not a factor with ebooks or other digital items we do not consider fines when you log in with your card. As to your second question, no, we strive to have a good collection of ebooks, but we have more titles available in print. Also, not all books are available to us in ebook format (it is up to the book's publisher whether or not their titles will be available to libraries). You can browse the collections of our various ebook platforms at our Digital Media Page:
Jamie W - Philadelphia Thu, September 17, 2015
Hello, Our state's ebook selection is very small. I saw that your library has a non-resident membership for $50 and am considering it. What is the total selection of ebooks that you carry? Does membership include digital access to periodicals/newspapers? Happy Thanksgiving! Bill
Bill - Bedford, NH Fri, November 27, 2015
Hello Bill - a Free Library card allows you to use all of our digital content and other resources you'll find on our site. The best way to get an idea of what's available is to go to our Digital Media page and take a look at the various services we offer including Overdrive, Hoopla, and Zinio. Thank you!
Jamie W - Philadelphia Mon, November 30, 2015

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