By using the internet, you have more ways than ever to get your hands on a good book. Whether using it to source a rare copy of a childhood favourite, find a holiday blockbuster for the beach or borrow from your local library, far from damaging literature the web has opened up a world of reading opportunities.

Here are just some of them …

Buy books

Selling books was one of the first big success stories for early internet entrepreneurs, and now websites are rivalling the chain bookshops as the most popular way to buy books. Online-only retailers such as Amazon as well as established chains like Waterstone’s have huge catalogues of titles and will deliver free in the UK (depending on order totals and other conditions). Usually, you can even read quite a generous preview of a book’s contents.

Borrow books

Libraries are an important part of our culture, and the internet makes using them even easier to access. Depending on your local authority, your library should have a website that will let you browse the catalogue and reserve any of the titles you want. You can often renew books online and use some of the library’s reference services, such as the Oxford Reference Online. Some libraries may even offer an ‘e-library’ that lets you download audio and e-books that will delete themselves after a set amount of time.

Entering the name of your local library, or the name of your local council and ‘library’, into a search engine such as Google should help you find your local service.

Try e-books

There are even more opportunities available for reading if you’re willing to give up your attachment to physical books. E-books are entirely ‘virtual’ and can be displayed on a variety of devices. You can read e-books on a specialised reader (such as Amazon’s famous Kindle) or on a mobile phone, tablet computer or even your PC. The biggest selection of e-books are available for Amazon’s Kindle, but most online book retailers will offer virtual titles.

You may also be able to borrow books from your local Library  by using a Library app.  Using these apps will enable you to borrow ebooks and eAudiobooks from your library, if they are part of a scheme. The 2 most popular library apps are:  BorrowBox and Libby,


Get free online books

You can read almost any out-of-copyright book for free courtesy of Project Gutenberg – which includes many classics and hidden gems. Google’s book search facility also offers access to millions of titles to read online or preview

Alex Duin is a freelance writer specialising in technology.

Last updated June 2023


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