Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FreeFlix: Free Movie rentals and much, much more!

Okay, here is probably one of the best kept secrets to surviving after cutting the cord (and also all-around great resource for saving money).  Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster, etc. profit greatly when we don't use it.  It is your dusty old public library.

Go ahead and have a good laugh...  get it out of your system...  Ready now?

If you live near a major US city, chances are really good that your library hasn't been sitting still through the Internet revolution.  You may not have been back to the library since you were in school so be prepared for a bit of a shock.  If you have kids, the odds are better than you've noticed that the library offers more than just books.  You might even be lucky and are near a newly remodeled branch that looks and feels more like a Barnes and Nobles cafe/store than the old library of your childhood.

Here is just a short list of the many things that you can borrow at the library that you may not be aware of:  movies on DVD, CDs (of all genres), Video games (no, I'm not joking), Audio Books on CDs, Magazines, Newspapers, etc.  Also, your library probably has an on-line portal as well with even more services (which I'll cover in a minute).

Okay, for movies, you are probably thinking (what could they possibly have)?  While it is true that they don't have the selection of a Netflix or Amazon, you might be surprised at what they do have (or can get for you from nearby branches).  It is also not just old movies as new titles show up all the time.

Here is another thing I like about the library.  Ever since Netflix (and others) drove my local video store out of business, I missed the ability to just browse around (in person) and pick a movie to watch.  Sure, I subscribe to Netflix and can watch streaming movies instantly.  However, sometimes you just want to flip through a few DVDs and pick something to watch.  Doing this with a web browser and/or waiting a couple of days for it to arrive by mail just isn't the same experience.

Did I mention that it is all free?  Kind of hard to beat that!  Of course it really isn't free.  We all pay for it with our taxes (so no need to feel guilty).  However, that is all the more reason to take advantage of such a wonderful resource.  By using it, you also help insure that it will be there for future generations.   Stop using it and I'm sure the mega-retailers of the world will not shed a tear when the competition goes away.

So, let me give you a quick tour of just some of the things that you might find at your new public library.

First, let's start with how the library has kept up with technology.  I'll use the Santa Clara County Library as an example (here in the south bay area of Silicon Valley, California).  Hopefully your local library is similar or even better!

Your library is online!

Find out if your library has a web site.  Login in with your library card and start to explore some of the services that they provide.  What is that you see?  Facebook, Twitter, and a Blog too?  This isn't the library you probably remember!

Check out their online catalog, there is where you can search for (and request from other branches) any book, movie, CD, etc. that you might want:

You can even do this with a mobile app via your iPhone or Android smartphone:

Electronic Media

What about electronic media?  Well, your library probably hasn't been sitting still there either.

Streaming music

For example, here is a selection of Smithsonian recordings available for instant streaming to your computer.

Note: 2,812 albums to choose from!   They also have an even larger selection of classical music (4,174 albums!).  All available for instant streaming.

Now clearly this isn't a huge or very diverse selection of streaming music, but it is free for you to enjoy and explore.

And downloads too

There is also downloadable music via a service called FreeGal

I haven't used this much, but there is a much wider variety of music and you can download 3 free songs a week.  Not bad!  I checked out the tracks from Glee and they were awesome (I love that show!).   If you have an impulse to get a song, check here first!  It's free!

Other services

Finally, let's check out some of the other aspects of the library portal:

Look at what is available:  Job/Career resources, Small business resources (got a startup idea?), Meeting rooms, Adult education and more.

The Library:  as a video rental store?

Even if you still have a local video rental store, you might want to consider using the library too.  At my library I can check out 10 DVDs at a time.   If I have a favorite title and it isn't at my branch (or is checked out), I simply reserve it and I'll get emailed when it is available (I have 3 days to pick it up).  Note:  I've heard that some branches charge a nominal fee for inter-branch transfers (mine, however, is free).

If you want to watch international movies, you might find a section with a variety of foreign languages:

My library also has a large collection of childrens' videos on DVD (and even some on VHS!):

Not just Movies

You can also find lots of CDs, (a few) Video Games, and many Audio Books too!


So, is your local library a replacement for Netflix?  Well that is up to you (and depends on your library).   It is free and is certainly well worth your time to check out.  You will be amazed how they have changed and kept up with technology.

There is no doubt they are a valuable public resource and are under-appreciated!  Now, go get a library card and use it often!


  1. Mt local library charges $1 a DVD for rental so Redbox/Netflix ends up being a wash pretty much

  2. Which library, if I may ask? Anyone else want to chime in about their local library?


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