Why the Singapore National Library is awesome

I’ve been a member of the Singapore National Library (or “National Library Board Singapore” or “Singapore Public Library”) for about a month now. I first learned about it at the Mobileread forums, but I didn’t think of actually joining until now. Probably having all my paper books packed away had something to do with that…

So! The Singapore National Library is free to join. Everything’s in English, including the website and books. You don’t need to be in Singapore to do it; you can register online from anywhere and have access to ebooks, audiobooks, and (I think) videos. The procedure for joining the SNL can be found here, so read that first.

The SNL uses Overdrive to lend ebooks, which means you’ll need a computer that runs Windows or Mac OSX. I use Linux, which Overdrive doesn’t support (boo), and I can’t make it work through Wine, either. Which means I can’t use Overdrive. But! There’s a mobile version of Overdrive that works on iPods/iPads/etc. and so I’ve been using that to check out ebooks. I just read them on my iPod Touch via the Overdrive app (review coming next week). You can download books directly to the app without having to go through your computer first, so it works out pretty well. Some formats (PDF) don’t work for some reason and neither do audiobooks1, but .epub is fine.

Part of my wishlist

The SNL has multiple formats of stuff, usually, but mainly it’s Adobe .epub and PDF format. To read ebooks checked out from the SNL you’ll need an ereader that’s compatible with Adobe’s DRM thing. Kindles? Won’t work. Sony Readers, Kobos, and iPod Touches will work. Other compatible things are listed here if you’re interested. Audiobooks are normally in .mp3 or .wma format. I haven’t checked out a video so I don’t know what’s up with them (sorry).

There’s a TON of ebooks available at the SNL. The majority of them are probably romance and self-help, like at any library, but there’s a good selection of YA, mystery, general fiction, non-fiction, and sci-fi as well. I’ve noticed that the uber-popular YA books tend to be in audiobook format than ebook, and I’m not entirely sure why that is.

Right now you can check out 12 ebooks (or audiobooks, etc.) at one time. The return dates are different depending on the book, I think, but the normal amount of time is about three weeks. You can put up to two (I think) books on reserve, and as many books as you want on your wishlist. Checking out books and so on is really easy and fast, as is finding books under certain genres/authors/etc. I use my wishlist to keep track of books I want to read next– it’s also handy because it’ll tell you if a book is available or not. Sometimes I’ve put a book that’s been checked out by someone else on my wishlist, waited a few days, and then grabbed it when it was free without having to “waste” a reservation spot. Nifty!

The only downside that I can see is that you can’t return books via the library’s website. You can do it through Adobe Digital Edition or through the Overdrive app, but nowhere else. Huh.

So far I’m a very happy member of the SNL. It’s quick and easy to use, and– best of all– it’s free! I do wish that some of the books that’re only available in audiobook were also available as ebooks, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If you’re interested in checking out ebooks from libraries and your local one doesn’t have much of a selection, check out the Sinapore National Library. I mean, why not, right?


  1. because they’re in .odm format, which means you have to download them to a computer to get the .mp3 and so on


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