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“Only you can waste your time” my pastor Mike Burt said as he mentored me during my college years. Pastor Burt said that he never left home without his Bible and a good book. He would read while getting his oil changed, study Scripture while waiting for food at a restaurant and finish off his favorite novel while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

As a person from the newly designated “Xennial” Generation, I came from the time of typewriters and being in awe at my stepmom’s “car phone” that was literally bolted into her car. I listened to the sound of my stepdad’s 28.8 modem and was impressed when AOL loaded that much faster when we upgraded to the 56k.

But regarding handheld devices, I was an early adopter. I used a version of the Palm Pilot, starting early in my college career, and upgrading to a smart phone upon the encouragement of my buddy who was always on the cusp of new technology.

I was blessed with a generous church just after seminary, and they provided iPhones for all of us pastors, I’ve never gone back.

I’m writing today about a time-saving, knowledge-increasing, life and ministry blessing feature that is available at our finger tips in this era of smart phones. I’m talking about audio books, and because my mom taught me to be a thrift-aholic, specifically FREE audio books, I’m referring to Hoopla and OverDrive.

I discovered Audible (a pay service) in March 2017 when I completed a 2,400 mile round trip drive to Alabama for some Air Force training. Every few states I’d complete another book, and I found myself shelling out $15 each time zone I hit.

Audible is a well-developed service, and you can get the audio version of books almost as soon as they hit the shelves. But for most books, especially Christian classics, novels that are a few years old, and other great titles, they are available for FREE on Hoopla and OverDrive.

For simplicity, I will focus the rest of the article on Hoopla since that is what I have the most experience with, but both are great. Head to the app store on your Apple or Android device, and download the app for free. Then, if you don’t have one already, go get a free membership at your local/county library. The app will ask you for your library membership number and PIN code.

Once you input that info and establish a username/password, you are good to go! Hoopla allows you to “borrow” five e-books, audio books, audio CDs, and more digital content each month. For audio books, it gives you access to them for three weeks and then auto-returns them.

If you weren’t done listening to a title, simply click “borrow” again, and it immediately restores your access and puts you right back where you were. I recently splurged for some AirPods and have thankfully found myself using them multiple times each day.

I listen to audiobooks during my ride to work each day, the entire time at the gym three times week (that’s the goal), and even while on my lunch break. I only have to use one AirPod to listen, and most people probably have no clue that I’m learning about theology, studying a new subject or taking an adventure in a classic novel.

Even when limited to paper books, my pastor’s goal in college was to read one book for pleasure and one book for knowledge/ministry per week – a goal I’ve never come close to achieving. But now with services like Hoopla and others, I’m able to finish about a book every week or two, much more than when I was limited to paper books (I’ve never been able to get into e-books).

Here’s a quick tip: listen to books on 1.25x, 1.5x, or faster to make it through them that much faster. It’s okay to slow down sometimes and just ENJOY a good novel at regular speed as well.

Consider adding Hoopla or another free audio book service to your toolkit today.