Every subscription you can cancel by going to the library


Public libraries are a community effort: A small percentage of your local taxes pays for books, other resources, and a gathering place available to everyone who lives in your town or city. All you need for access is a free library card. 

Your local library offers books, of course, and you probably know that you can generally also borrow ebooks. Many libraries offer ebooks using Libby, which is one of the best apps for reading on your phone. That could, in theory, replace an ebooks subscription service like Kindle Unlimited. But what about the other subscriptions that you’re paying for? There’s a good chance you could save money on those services by utilizing the library system you already pay into.

Every library is different, and not every library is going to offer all of the services outlined here. You will have to check the website for your local library—or head to the library and ask someone—to find out what your library has to offer. It’s also worth noting that some libraries (including the Brooklyn, Seattle, and Boston Public Libraries) allow teens and young adults from out of state to apply for a card and use their digital services as part of Books Unbanned. In other places, you can quickly get a library card online. Both options are worth exploring, but I also recommend physically visiting a local library as well.

All that said, here are some common subscriptions that could be replaced with a library card. 

BluRays, DVDs, and Kanopy can replace Netflix and other streaming services

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The library isn’t Blockbuster, but it’s close. Screenshot: Kanopy

Remember video stores? Before streaming services took over, local shops and big chains offered DVDs and Blu-Rays that you could rent for a couple of days. You might think places like that don’t exist anymore, but you’re wrong: Local libraries have taken up the mantle. Most public libraries in the US have at least some movies and TV shows to check out, and if not, you can likely request them from other branches. If you’re paying for Netflix to watch older shows and movies, you might be able to borrow them from the library instead (you could also, in theory, back up Blu-Rays that you borrow so you can watch them on TVs and tablets lacking an optical drive). 

If actually going to the library sounds like too much work, you’re not entirely out of luck. Many local libraries offer access to Kanopy, which features many critically acclaimed movies and TV shows. It’s not an outright Netflix replacement (it skews high-brow), but open it and you’ll find something worth watching. It’s a great supplement for regular trips to the physical library, where you can borrow discs to watch everything else. 

Free audiobooks can replace Audible

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Give your eyes a break with an audiobook. Screenshot: Washington Country Library

Listening to books is a great way to “read” while doing something else, so it’s no wonder that services like Audible are so popular. Here’s the thing, though: Your local library is already paying for audiobooks. There are also likely shelves of audio book CDs you can borrow right now. 

[Related: CDs are cool again. Here’s how to rip them.]

Or, if you’d prefer not to handle a disc, most libraries offer audiobooks via Libby or similar services, allowing you to listen on your phone. The only real downside is that, like with ebooks, you will need to wait for an audiobook to be available before you can listen. In my experience this is only a problem if you’re trying to listen to new releases, or a book recently recommended somewhere prominent, and even then you usually won’t wait more than a few weeks. 

Magazine and newspaper access could replace Apple News

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Libraries: Not just for books. Screenshot: Pressreader

Many libraries, in addition to books, have a room where you can read paper copies of magazines, newspapers, and other print media. As a journalist who mostly works online I enjoy spending the occasional afternoon seeing what’s going on in the world of print journalism. The problem: You generally can’t check such publications out.

Libraries have started supplementing in-person access to news with online subscriptions like Press Reader, which offer hundreds of magazines and (mostly international) newspapers. Some libraries also offer online access to The New York Times and similar publications. Because the libraries are paying for access, you can read subscription publications while also supporting them. 

Tables and conference rooms can replace co-working spaces

Any decent library has an assortment of desks, tables, and even couches for reading and studying. I’ve always worked from home but sometimes want to get out of the house—the library is great for this. Unlike coffee shops there’s no expectation to buy anything, which is something I appreciate a great deal. And some libraries even offer meeting rooms that you can book, which means they can be a decent alternative to paying for a co-working space that you only occasionally use. I can’t recommend it enough. 





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