Open eBooks App Offers Thousands of Free Digital Books to Kids in Need

Kids now have a new way to access free digital books. It’s called the Open eBooks app.

The new app offers thousands of free books to students from low-income and military families. It’s also available for students who receive services, which includes many students with learning and thinking differences.

The app has many popular and award-winning books—more than $250 million worth of books, in fact.

Open eBooks is a partnership between three nonprofits: the Digital Public Library of America, the New York Public Library and First Book. The partnership was facilitated by the White House.

Funding for the app came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Digital publisher Baker & Taylor helped create it. And 10 major publishers provided the books.

“This is a big deal in the world,” says tech expert Jamie Martin.

The biggest source of free, accessible digital books is Bookshare, says Martin. Bookshare, a program of Understood founding partner Benetech, is an online library of more than 390,000 books. These books can be read aloud with text-to-speech. But to use Bookshare, a student must have a documented print disability. That can include reading issues like .

The Open eBooks app has fewer books than Bookshare. But students don’t have to have a documented print disability to access Open eBooks. According to Martin, Open eBooks could help low-income kids with reading issues who may not qualify for Bookshare.

Martin says the Open eBooks app lets users:

  • Choose from three different fonts
  • Read with night view, which uses white type against a black background
  • Change the font size and screen brightness

The app can be downloaded to Apple and Android tablets and mobile phones. Users can have books read aloud with the built-in text-to-speech features in iOS or Android.

So how can your child get access to the Open eBooks app?

Here’s how the program works. Teachers and librarians who work mainly with low-income and military families, or with kids in special education, can sign up for an account with First Book. (Parents can’t sign up themselves.)

Then, those teachers and librarians can request access codes for students. They can give the access code to students, who can download the app and use the code. Each student can check out up to 10 books at a time.

Parents will have to contact their child’s teacher or librarian to see if she qualifies for the app.

Looking for more inexpensive ways to help your child with reading? Check out where to find free audiobooks and digital text-to-speech books. And get information on other free or low-cost ways to help your child.

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About the author

About the author

Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for