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I read a lot. Well, I used to read a lot before Baby Flamingo entered the scene. These days I have a little less time but still manage to read (or listen to) 2-3 books a month, most of them on personal finance, investing, financial independence, and mindset. In this article, I will share how I manage to read almost all my books for free, using a mix of free services offered by local libraries and free trials for paid subscription services.
Let’s get started. Here are the resources I use to read personal finance books for free:
The local library (obviously)
Ok, this one is obvious. But as I’ll explain in this article, there is more to a library membership than meets the eye. If you are not a member of your local library, stop reading this article now and sign up. Seriously, you are missing out!
If your local library doesn’t own a book you want to read you can usually request it from another public library service for a small fee ($1 for a book available at a different branch of the same library and $3 for a book from a different library service).
Need some inspiration? Check out the list of my favourite personal finance books of all times to get you started!
Pro tip: There is no rule that says you can only be a member of one library. Different libraries have different offer different services. For instance, I am a member of my local library but I have also joined the City of Sydney Library. Having two (or more) library membership is great because you get access to more than one library catalogue. Plus, digital service offers vary from library to library, so the more choice you have the better (see below).
OverDrive is a free app that allows you to borrow digital content (ebooks and audiobooks) offered by public libraries you are a member of. The way the service works is very similar to a bricks-and-mortar library: Your library owns titles in OverDrive’s catalogue and these can be borrowed by one member at a time. This means that you will have to place a hold on any ebooks and audiobooks that are currently on loan. The good thing is that your holds will automatically be checked out for you and added to your loans when they become available (you’ll get an email confirmation when this happens).
Pro tip: Every library owns different titles within the OverDrive collection. If you have more than one library membership you can add all of your memberships in the OverDrive app and browse each library’s collection. I often find that ebooks that are on loan in my local library’s OverDrive collection are available through my secondary library membership. You can use the Find a Library function to find libraries that offer OverDrive:
Libby is an app by OverDrive. It has the same collection of titles (ebooks and audiobooks) as the OverDrive app, so in theory, it is just a different platform that lets you access the same library collection. However, I have noticed that some titles that were on loan in the OverDrive app were available via Libby. So it is always worth checking the Libby app if a book is on loan in OverDrive. Just like with OverDrive you will need your library ID to access Libby.
Libby doesn’t have as many features as the OverDrive app and I find it a bit less user-friendly, but it’s still a great option to read ebooks for free.
BorrowBox is a fairly new service now offered by most libraries. BorrowBox has a great selection of ebooks and audiobooks and there appears to be a focus on Australian authors. The BorrowBox app is easy to use and new titles are added all the time. The actual content available to you through the app depends on which titles your local library subscribes to.
Kindle Unlimited offers thousands of ebooks that you can download and read in the Kindle app (or a Kindle ebook reader if you have one). Most of the titles are self-published and there are some great personal finance titles – particularly in the Financial Independence genre (see below).
Kindle Unlimited is a paid service, but you can get a free trial and as long as you cancel the service before the trial is up there is no cost. Pro tip: You can get Amazon to send you a reminder 3 days before your free trial is up in the Kindle Unlimited section on their website. Click here to start your free trial. You’ll need an amazon.com.au account to access Kindle Unlimited.
Here are some of my favourite personal finance books on Kindle Unlimited:
The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
How to Retire Early by Robert and Robin Charlton
Work Less, Live More by Bob Clyatt (a great book about semi-retirement!)
Can I Retire Yet? by Darrow Kirkpatrick
How Much Can I Spend in Retirement? by Wade Pfau
Scribd is a fantastic service I have been using for years. It offers a massive selection of ebooks and audiobooks (often titles are available as both ebook and audiobook versions). You can get a free 2 months trial with my referral link!
Scribd costs US$8.99 per month (after the free trial ends), but it is actually one of the only paid subscription services I happily pay for every month because it offers so much value for money. To give you an idea, here is a list of some of the titles I have recently read/listened to on Scribd:
If I can’t find an audiobook via the sources listed above, I usually get them from Audible. Buying audiobooks outright is quite expensive, so I have an ongoing Audible membership that gives me one credit per month (there are also options for more credits). The good thing about Audible is that you can return an audiobook you don’t like for free and that you can pause your membership for up to three months to use up any credits you’ve accumulated. They offer a free 1 month (and sometimes even 2 months) trial for new members. Click here to check out Audible’s library of personal finance books.
Nothing beats physical books!
I use the services listed above to read new personal finance and investing books for free. For some books that’s all I need. There seems to be a new book on FIRE every month or so now and in many cases, there isn’t much new information. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy reading/listening to these types of books, but I wouldn’t add them to my personal library.
However, there are some books I keep coming back to on a regular basis (you can find a list of my go-to finance books here). When it comes to my favourite finance books, I much prefer the physical version. I usually end up buying the print edition of the books I re-read regularly because it is simply more convenient and it allows me to add my own highlights and notes.
I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way and prefer physical books. I still think using free, digital resources is a great way to “get to know” a book before you decide whether it deserves a spot in your personal library.
Bonus: Money Magazine
You can read Money Magazine and The Economist for free using the RBdigital app – most public libraries offer this service! (no link here, you’ll have to access RBdigital via your library’s website)
Do you have any tips and tricks to add to the list?
What are your favourite personal finance books?
Do you prefer physical books or are you an ebook fan?