Free Library Ebook Guide

By Jamie W. RSS Wed, December 19, 2012

E-readers and tablets are among this year's hottest holiday gifts and of course, borrowing Free Library ebooks and audiobooks for your new e-reader or tablet is the hottest activity for those in the know.  In this guide, I'll offer tips on the following topics to get you started:

For more help with downloadable media, visit Overdrive Help or browse past posts on our blog

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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Hi. How do the tokens work for ebooks? I'm trying to download a book on my iPhone and keep getting limit reached as a message. However, I have not used this service in the past today would have been my first time. Thanks, -Mey
MC - Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hi Mey - It sounds like you are trying to use our Freading service. That's the one with tokens. Essentially, all Free Library card holders receive 2 tokens to use on Freading ebooks each week. A full explanation of how it works is found here: Our other ebooks service, Overdrive, does not use the token system. Get started with Overdrive here: If I've misunderstood your question or if you're still having trouble, submit a help request at our Ask a Librarian page ( and I will work with you more that way. Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Can the ebooks be used on the NOOK HD or other eReaders or iPads/iPhone? Thank you, Giovanna
Giovanna G - Philadelphia
Monday, January 28, 2013

Hi Giovanna - Our ebooks can be used on both Nook tablets (as well as all other Android devices) and Apple iPads and iPhones. See the links in the post above for decive-specific instructions.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, January 28, 2013

If the Free Library doesn't have an eBook version of a title, is it possible to request that one be purchased? If so, what is the likelihood that the request will be granted?
Christina - New Jersey
Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hi Christina - You can indeed recommend ebooks to us for purchase. When searching for a book or author in our Overdrive collection, try clicking on the 'Additional Titles' tab. This will show you ebook and audiobook titles that we do not have but are available to us. You can recommend them to us from there. Here is a blog post that goes into a bit more detail: Another issue though is the fact that several large publishers will not sell their digital titles to libraries. We have been advocating for a change to this practice for some time now. However, there are many popular ebook titles we cannot buy simply because the companies that publish them refuse to sell them to us. Here is some more information about that issue:
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Sunday, February 3, 2013

I have an ebook checked out to my kindle that is due to expire in a couple of days. I am not finished reading it, and would like to renew the loan. How can I do that? Thanks.
Jerry - South Philly
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hello Jerry - ebooks are not renewable in the traditional sense. You can check your ebook out again as soon as it expires though. However, the catch is that our ebook collection is so popular that there will likely be someone else on the waiting list for the book and they will get it when your loan expires. So unless no one is waiting on your ebook, you may not be able to check it out again right away. This is not very different from a print library loan though. You cannot renew a print book that someone else has on hold either. Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Thursday, March 21, 2013

can Ebooks be sent to home computers?
al a - Medford
Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello al a, Sure. You can download our ebooks to your home computer. You will need to add the free Adobe Digital Editions software first though. You can find that here: Then, browse our collection and checkout your ebooks in EPUB format. Also, most ebooks in our Overdrive collection can also be read in your browser. There is no need to download the title at all. For that option, just select, 'Read In Browser' after you checkout your ebook in Overdrive. Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, April 1, 2013

Hi looks good to a novice here. just got new Laptop an it can upload (as grandson would say to my computer)so I can read on my kindle.Look forward to learning this, an using the new technology.
Grace - Philadelphia
Monday, April 29, 2013

I've recently started using Overdrive to get library ebooks for my Kindle and computer. I can return Kindle books "early" via Amazon's Manage My Kindle page, but I can't figure out a way to do this with EPUB books. Is there any way to "return" or "delete" an EPUB book when I'm done with it, before the expiration date? Thank you!
JJ - Philadelphia
Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hi JJ - Good question. EPUB books need to be returned from whatever software it is you're using to read them. For example, if you're using a Kindle Fire you might have installed the Overdrive Media Console App from the Kindle App Store. In that case, you would return EPUB ebooks in the app. If you are using a PC and downloading ebooks using a Adobe Digital Editions to mangage your ebooks, you can return them from within Digital Editions. I hope this info helps. If not, click the Contact Us at the top of this page and send us an email for more individualized help. Good luck!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, May 13, 2013

IF I were to get an out of state card. Will I be able to use overdrive for ebooks?
Manuel Mejia - Kissimmee, FL
Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hello Manuel - Sure. All Free Library cards have the same access to our resources. Thanks.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I am using a Chromebook now and am a novice at using the Cloud primarily, rather than a full hard drive for my files. I believe I need to be mindful of the size of the files I download on my download drive (something like 9 KG). How large is a typical adult ebook file--say, 400 pages? Also, what are the advantages/disadvantages of downloading versus just browsing? Is it only useful if moving between devises? Can I put a book on a Flash drive for browsing without downloading? Excited about the possibilities, but a bit confused. Thanks.
Brenda - Philadelphia
Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hello Brenda - thanks for writing and I'm glad to hear you're interested in our ebook services. An average file size for an ebook is about 1 MB. However, since you indicated that you will be reading on your Chromebook, the best option for you might be to simply use Overdrive's in-browser Reader. Learn more about it and how to use it here: This will avoid any issues with file sizes and storage. As to your other question, while you can technically save an ebook file to a flash drive there would be a host of issues surrounding the Digital Rights Management (DRM) on the file and your Adobe permissions if you moved it from one device to another. It would likely be easier to avoid that option. Try checking out and reading an ebook with in-browser reader and if you run into trouble contact us directly at: Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Thursday, August 1, 2013

I have a Nook Simple, how can I return a book?
laura - phila
Friday, December 13, 2013

Hello Laura -- You can return an ebook early from your Adobe Digital Editions software. Then next time you plug your Nook into your computer and synch to your Digital Editions, it will be removed from your eReader. Here are instructions -- -- if you need more help, contact us directly here --
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Friday, December 13, 2013

Is there a way to text/take notes and save for review after I have returned the book.
David W - Philadelphia
Sunday, February 23, 2014

David W: I don't work for the Free library, but I believe it depends on your device. For Kindle e-readers, you need to have the book on the device to access the notes menu. I know that Amazon keeps them in the cloud so that you will always have them if you get the book again, but it doesn't look like you can review them unless the book is on the device. More generally, I love that the library has embraced e-books. It allows them to maintain their mission while adapting to a more electronic younger generation. While the selection is huge, there are some more lesser-known books I'd like to see, but I realize that's probably in the hands of the publishers.
Peter B - South Philly
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do I need to wait until I receive my library card to use the ebook service? Is there any way to find out my card number now so I can access ebooks through the Overdrive app?
Jessica - Pottsville
Monday, March 24, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I read e-books from FLP using Overdrive. I recently read that the 14 day borrowing period that began some months ago had been changed back to 21 days, but when I check out books, they're still being charged out at 14 days. What is the current policy? Two weeks can be challenging for some books/readers!
Debbie - Elkins Park
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hello Debbie - Yes. You are correct, the loan period was briefly changed to 14 days but has since been changed back to 21 days. If your ebooks are still only being checked out for 14 days, login to your account at our Overdrive site, click the 'account' icon at the top right of the screen, and then click the 'settings' icon on the right. From there you can change your default loan settings. If you have trouble, please send us an email so we can help you one-on-one:
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How do I get started downloading e books.
sharon - Philadelphia
Monday, June 23, 2014

Hello Sharon - Great question! Take a look at this intoduction to our ebook services and the accompanying video tutorials and you'll soon be on your way:
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I was downloading a library book on my amazon account and lost internet connection. when I refreshed, the book was not on my amazon account but my library acct says I borrowed it. I was on a waiting list for this book and don't want to wait the 14 days for it to return itself and be put on a waiting list again. Is there a way to force a return so I can download it without having to wait again?
Lisa Quinn - Phila
Monday, July 21, 2014

Hello Lisa - sorry to hear that you're having trouble. This issue is likely too involved for us to fix over the blog. Please send us an email at the 'contact us' link at the top right of this page. Provide your library card number, the name of the ebook you're having trouble with and any other relevant info. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is One click available?
genie Selvey - Minnesota
Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hello Genie - I am not entirely sure I understand your question, but if you're looking for the OneClick Digital audiobook service, yes, we do offer that. You'll find a link on our Digital Media page - - If this is not what you're looking for, please send us an email using the 'contact us' link at the top of the page. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, October 6, 2014

does the ereading service support windows phone? thanks
bill - somerton
Monday, November 24, 2014

Hi Bill - You can use your Windows Phone with our ebook collection. Here's information from Overdrive (our primary ebook provider) about how to get started:
Jamie W - Philadelphia, PA
Monday, December 1, 2014

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Can I get ebooks or audible books from the free library on my Kindle Fire?
Mary - Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hi Mary - yes you can use library ebooks for your Kindle. If you have a Kindle Fire or HD, you can also use our audiobooks. However, the e-ink Kindles (like the Paperwhite) are not compatible with library ebooks. You'll find a link to our Overdrive collection here: You will also find set up and help information for your Kindle here: Thanks!
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, January 5, 2015

How do ebooks from overdrive work? After the 14 days of what happens if I don't return the ebook? Is there a penalty involved or does it just simply disappear from my tablet?
AJ - Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hi AJ - that's exactly right. At the end of your loan period (you can chose a 7, 14, or 21 day load in the settings tab at your Overdrive account) your file will expire. There are no late fees. The file on your device will become inoperative and the ebook will be free for someone else to check out. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia, PA
Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why are a lot of the new ebooks only being purchased in the epub format? I have a kindle and nook so just wondering if this is all you will purchasing in the future?
Bonnie - Philadelphia
Monday, February 16, 2015

Hello Bonnie - Thank you for your question. We do not purchase ebooks by format. When the library licenses a title, we get it in every format the publisher offers to libraries (Kindle, EPUB, Overdrive READ, Open EPUB, etc.). If certain titles are not available for Kindle it is because their publishers have chosen not to make Kindle versions available to libraries at this time. I hope this explanation is helpful to you. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Can you add Maximum PC magazine to the online Zinio collection?
Tim - Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Very basic question. If I get a Kindle and am interested in reading a book, is there any charge for downloading and reading the book from the Free Library?
Rod - philadelpia
Friday, June 12, 2015

Hello Rod - Ebooks checked out from our collections are always free of charge. For Kindle books, checkout our collection at Overdrive ( For Android, Apple, Mac, and PC users, we offer Overdrive, as well as Freading (ebooks), OneClick Digital (audiobooks), Tumblebooks (kid's ebooks), Hoopla (audiobooks, ebooks, comics, as well as movies, TV, and music) and eBooks On EBSCOhost. You'll find links to all of these resources on our Digital Media page:
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, June 15, 2015

I find that Overdrive doen't work on my first generation IPad. Is there a part of the ebook collection that I can access?
Joanne - Radnor
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hello Joanne - Unfortunately, a first generation iPad has the Apple 5.1 iOS and does not support the Overdrive app (iOS 6.1 required) or the Overdrive READ format for in-browser reading (iOS 7.1 required). Sorry to disappoint. You can still read Overdrive ebooks on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac though, if that's an option for you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Can you add Maximum PC and PC Gamer magazines to the online Zinio collection?
AJ - Philadelphia
Monday, October 12, 2015

Can I donate my Kindle ebooks to your library? I own a lot of novels in the ebook format. I am not a person who reads a book over again so they are just sitting.
Ross - New Castle, PA
Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thank you for your comment and your offer. Unfortunately though, ebooks cannot be donated. Ebooks are protected with Digital Rights Management software (DRM) by their publishers. This software, which is intended to prevent piracy and protect copyright, does not allow transfers, donations, or gifts of ebooks in the traditional sense. An unfortunate truth of the digital age is that when you purchase an ebook, you are not so much purchasing the book itself, but rather licensing access to it. This access is limited to the person who bought the book and is often limited to the device the person bought it for (for example, a person who owns both a Kindle and a Nook cannot usually transfer books between them). However, if you are interested in supporting the library or our digital collections you can visit our donations page:
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Sunday, November 1, 2015

I lost my library card, so I got a new one on Friday. However, when I went to sign in on OverDrive, my account is showing that I have no ebooks out or on hold - which I did prior to switching to a new library card. How do I fix this?
Lauren - Lansdale
Monday, November 16, 2015

Hi Lauren - we can fix this for you. However we need your library card and account information to do so. Please get in touch through the Contact Us email link at the top right of this page. That way we can work with you one-on-one. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, November 16, 2015

The newest editions of Maximum PC are not yet available online on Zinio. You are 3 issues behind. When will the new issues be available?
RJ - Philly
Saturday, December 12, 2015

Thanks for letting us know about Maximum PC. We are working with Zinio to get this corrected.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, December 14, 2015

How many ebooks are you allowed to check out?
John - California
Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hello John - each Free Library cardholder may checkout up to 6 ebooks/digital audiobooks from Overdrive at one time. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Friday, January 15, 2016

I would like to know if there is a senior citizen discount for out of state residents? I'm 70 and on a fixed income.
Bernette Beals - Neosho
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Can't log in to EBSCO Host database. Assisted at my branch to create a user ID and password, but EBSCO will not accept them.
Adrian Levytsky - Philadelphia
Monday, March 28, 2016

Hello Adrian - sorry to hear you're having trouble with EBSCO. It is difficult to troubleshoot on the blog though. Please send us an email using the Contact Us link on this page and we can work to get this sorted out. Thank you.
Jamie W - Philadelphia
Monday, March 28, 2016

What does the "automatic download" mean in my Overdrive account? Do I have to click on the e-book, or will it auto appear on my Kindle? Will I be notified that the e-book is now available?
Pat / - Northeast Phila
Friday, April 1, 2016

How do I Sealy return an eBook from my kindle fire? Thanks!
Auryn - Philadelphia
Thursday, May 12, 2016

Steven Sanford - Alabama
Monday, November 14, 2016

Wanna to read it
The good earth - South philly
Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I have severe vision problems and am partially disabled. I can read ebooks.
Julia TSnyder
Saturday, September 19, 2020

Jaden Xaiver velez - philly
Friday, September 10, 2021

I have a kindle fire. Why can I not get ebooks? I do from my local library.
Jeanne garrett - Lancaster
Friday, May 6, 2022

David L. Burrier - Scranton, Pa.
Monday, July 3, 2023

How do I renew my Overdrive digital library card for my Kindle? I believe it has expired. I have been a user since 2020, however, I never remember how to renew. Thank you!
Linda Kozak - Johnstown
Monday, January 15, 2024

Hi Linda, To renew, log into your account on our website at and click on the link to renew. Once you complete this process, our system will give you an expiration date two months off. You then need to log out, then log into your account again (this refreshes the display) and look for the link to verify your account. Once you verify your account, you will be given a full year. If you have additional questions, you contact us via the Ask a Librarian link on our homepage:
Sharyl O. - Free Library of Philadelphia
Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Guide to download ebooks and audiobooks
Helen Raykhman
Tuesday, June 18, 2024