person holding black Amazon Kindle E-Book reader inside tent at daytime

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to buy, I make a small commission for referring you. This helps me make a few cents for doing what I love.

Are you new to the world of eBooks? With so many different formats and devices available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. I have been at that exact spot in my reading journey. But don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! In this comprehensive guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about eBooks for beginners. We’ll explore it all, from the different types of eBook formats to the best devices for reading them. You’ll be reading your first eBook in no time!

A Bit About Me

Hi! I’m Emily Campbell, a full-time mom of two young kids and a reader extraordinaire. I built this blog to be a resource for readers wanting to know what is in their books. I’ve been disappointed so many times after picking up the latest and greatest on a book list after jumping in and realizing that the amount of language, graphic violence, or inappropriate sexual content did not fit my media standards. 

I love reading, but also very selective about what media I consume. Plenty of things in books out there do not need a permanent place in my mind. The Book Nanny is here to help you look inside your book. I break down the language, violence, and adult content so you can enjoy the reading process instead of getting an unpleasant surprise. If you want to get a personalized book recommendation or chat about your favorite book, let’s connect!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post! All thoughts and feelings expressed in this article are 100% my own. However, I am an affiliate of Booksio and Amazon. If you click on a link and decide to buy something, I make a small commission for referring you. This helps me make a few cents for doing what I love and lets me create more amazing content for readers like you.

Advantages of eBooks over paper books

a tablet sitting on top of a table next to a pile of books

There are so many reasons why I switched to exclusively digital books. First, I can fit hundreds of books in my pocket. I have an entire bookshelf worth of books on my phone and can take it with me. I have read many more books since I started reading on my phone. Now, instead of opening social media, I spend that time in a book.

Second, if I don’t have to wait for the next book in the series. I no longer try to calculate how many books it will take to get through the week. So long emergency library runs to get the next book in a series. Instead, I click a few buttons and can start reading within minutes. Or I can put a title on hold, and it will be immediately delivered to my device instead of making time to pick it up. 

Third, for all my friends with declining eyesight, chronic illness that makes reading difficult, or visually challenged readers, eBook apps and dedicated readers have fabulous accessibility features. You can enlarge the text, change the background colors, change fonts, and even use text-to-speech features. I love the text-to-speech feature, especially when my eyes are too tired to read, but I still want to experience a good story.

What are eBooks, and how do you read them?

person holding black e book reader

Ebooks are electronic or digital books that can be read on an electronic device such as a computer, tablet, smartphone, or e-reader. They come in different formats like PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. Similar to a paper book, you can check eBooks out from libraries or purchase your copy. The format of your eBook will depend on how you plan to read your book. Certain apps and devices work with specific formats. 

The most common way to read eBooks is with an app. There are lots of different ones. OverDrive, Libby, Kindle app, Apple Books, and Google Books are the apps I use the most. All of these apps are free to download and use. They can be found in the App Store or Google Play Store. Within each app, you can browse large libraries of books to download. Some books in the Kindle, Apple Books, and Google Books apps are free, but the vast majority are not. They are typically cheaper than their paper counterparts.

Check out eBooks from your Public Library

Black Tablet Computer Behind Books

Most libraries across the United States use OverDrive, an online library full of eBooks and audiobooks. You still need your local library card to check them out, and there are a limited number of copies, but there are many ways to get your books. Usually, you can find your library’s OverDrive library through their website. It is a separate website from their main catalog of physical books and movies. You can access OverDrive on a computer or in the app.

I highly recommend using the OverDrive app or the Libby app. These apps are available for both Android and Apple devices. Both apps have the same functionality and allow you to check out books and audiobooks. They also allow you to listen to audiobooks and read some formats of eBooks right in the app. Libby is slightly easier to navigate between browsing, looking at your shelf, and experiencing a book. Both apps allow you to add multiple libraries if you have multiple library cards.

If your library doesn’t have a specific book you want to read, just ask for it! Libraries purchase thousands of new books and audiobooks, and librarians want to buy books you will read. So, if you tell them that you want to read a specific title, there is a high chance that they will buy it. 

OverDrive and Libby Apps

The OverDrive and Libby apps are made by the same company. They are compatible with EPUB books, mP3, and .wma audiobooks. It is simple to download and return audiobooks and eBooks. These apps use up a bit more battery if you listen to audiobooks. As you check books out, double-check the eBook format. Some books are only available in Kindle format. You cannot read Kindle books in the OverDrive or Libby apps. Instead, you can check out these books and send them to a Kindle device or app.

Reading books through the OverDrive or Libby app is the same feel as most e-readers, with plenty of settings to adjust brightness, fonts, text size, and more. I’m fond of using the sepia setting because it’s a little gentler on the eyes. These apps don’t have all the functionality of a Kindle, but it is more than a simple text reader.

Free Kindle App

Stylish adult female using smartphone on street

Kindle has an app for both Apple and Android products. It essentially turns any smart device into a Kindle device. You can read any Kindle purchases or browse the Kindle store through the app. It also automatically syncs with your Goodreads account to seamlessly keep track of your reading. 

When you check out a Kindle book through OverDrive, it takes you to your Amazon account. Here you claim the eBook, and send it to whichever Kindle device you want, including a Kindle app. One nice thing about Kindle Books is you can read it on multiple devices, and it syncs seamlessly. OverDrive and Libby sync to other devices, but it can take longer. 

The Kindle app also accesses the Kindle Store allowing you to browse and buy books straight from the app in Android. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase books from the Kindle Store through the Kindle app on Apple devices for privacy reasons. Instead, it will open a web browser. However, you do still have access to all Kindle Unlimited titles. 

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription library that gives you access to over 1 million titles! This is more titles than a local library, but it is a paid service, and many books are self-published. They do have quite a few popular books. You are allowed fifteen Kindle Unlimited books at once, similar to a library. However, you can have the book for as long as your subscription lasts. Once you hit your limit, you choose which book is returned to check out a new one. 

Kindle Device

turned-on Kindle tablet

If there is a Kindle app that turns any smart device into a Kindle, why would I buy a Kindle reader? I asked myself this question over and over again for years! I loved the idea of a Kindle, but I wasn’t sure if it would upgrade my reading or if I just wanted one. Well, I got one for Christmas a few years ago, and I love it! I turn on Voiceview all the time and transform any Kindle book into an audiobook for free. My favorite part is how easily I can switch back and forth between reading and listening.

I also love how long the battery lasts. I have the 10th Generation 2019 Kindle. Since I got mine, they come out with a newer budget Kindle in 2022 with twice the storage space. If I turn the backlight off and have it in airplane mode, I can read over six hours a day for over three weeks. To say that I love it is an understatement. I can see everything without the backlight, and when I read in the dark, I like to keep it on the lower side (1-5, but lower than 10). You do need Wi-fi to download new books or sync to a Kindle app, but other than that, I keep it off to conserve my battery. I also turn off Bluetooth unless I’m listening to a book with VoiceView.

Kindle VoiceView

Kindle VoiceView is my secret to reading as many books as I do. I love switching between reading and listening to the same book, depending on what I’m doing around the house. But it is so hard to do! Before I learned about Kindle VoiceView, I had to get both the eBook and the audiobook versions. Sometimes I couldn’t find the audiobook, or I couldn’t check them both out at the same time. 

On the off chance the stars aligned, and I got both of them at the same time, I still had to switch back and forth. It is easy to find your exact place in an eBook or audiobook but translating that location to the other format is not a walk in the park. I spent longer trying to find my spot than reading the book. 

Then I discovered VoiceView on my Kindle. I can check out any eBook and read it on my Kindle. Then when I want to listen to it instead, I turn on VoiceView in the accessibility settings. Instead, of me reading the book and turning the pages, my Kindle starts reading it to me and turns the pages as it goes. So when I want to start reading, the book is in the right spot.

To make this work, I connect Bluetooth headphones to my Kindle. Listening to books via Bluetooth takes a lot of battery. Much more than listening to an audiobook on my phone. If I listen for three hours or more, my battery is drained or hovering around 5%. Usually, I plug my Kindle into the wall and wander anywhere in the house.

You can do something similar on a phone or a tablet, but it’s more difficult to set up and navigate. Plus, each app reacts differently to the screen reader. Some of them only read a page at a time and make you manually turn the page, or you have to restart it at the beginning of every chapter. With some apps, the screen must stay on for the audio to continue to work. Which means the battery on your device drains quicker. So it’s feasible but difficult. I prefer listening on my Kindle instead of doing the equivalent on my phone.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about Audible. Audible is not worth it because you can get more audiobooks for free through a public library. Granted, a library may not have the same selection, but the price wins out because I go through so many books and audiobooks. Audible is not a viable choice for me. It gives you credits to purchase an audiobook each month and access to a limited number of original audio productions. I listen to more than one book a month and tend to not reread or relisten to books.

Other Apps and eBook Readers

black tablet computer on brown wooden table

There are many other eBook apps and readers out there that I haven’t covered in this post. I’ve tried other apps, and none of them stuck with me. I haven’t tried other e-readers like a Kobo or a Nook. If they are willing to send me devices, maybe I’ll make another post comparing the reading experience. 😉 

I have also used Scribd, which is similar to Kindle Unlimited, but with a different library. Scribd has some titles I couldn’t find on Kindle Unlimited, but it is also more expensive.

Free eBooks

white and brown book on brown woven surface

Some public libraries don’t have good eBook libraries. There are a lot of free eBooks that you can get through the Kindle store and various websites online. One of my favorite free books from the Kindle store is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. It is hard trying to find good free books on the Kindle Store and the Google Play Store.

Many of them are self-published and haven’t gone through the long editing process before a book goes to print through a publisher. Also, a bunch of them are short (30-100 pages) or are the first book of a series where you have to purchase the rest of the books to finish the main story. Some of these can be good but check the reviews before getting a book. Usually, at least one review will mention if the book ends in a cliffhanger to try and make you buy the next one.

If you do a Google search for a specific free EPUB book or PDF book, you might be able to find it. However, the websites where these books are found are super sketchy, and you feel like any wrong mouse click could bring down a computer crashing virus. 

Please be careful with these sites. Yes, you may be able to find the PDF version of the book you really want, but these sites are illegal, and you are downloading a pirated copy. This means the author, who took the time to write your book, isn’t getting paid for their work. It is better to wait for the title to become available or go on sale. Remember to ask your local librarians for the eBooks you want. They will probably make sure you get to break in the first copy.

Quick Recap

kindle, paper white, book

Download the Libby, OverDrive, and Kindle apps, or a combination, to access fantastic free books through your public libraries. If you get bored with that, check out Kindle Unlimited. And for the optimal switching between reading and listening, get yourself an actual Kindle.

Please reach out with any questions about these apps or services. I would love to walk you through the process, so you can enjoy eBooks as much as I do.

For a long list of eBooks to read, check out this comprehensive guide to fantasy books with tons of recommendations!

Happy Reading!

All photos from and are used for review purposes and they retain the copyrights for their respective photos.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to buy, I make a small commission for referring you. This helps me make a few cents for doing what I love.