I’ve been using my library card to read digital magazines for many years now, though it has not always been easy for me to access these apps as a user with low vision. However, my experience has dramatically improved since I started reading magazines with the Libby app offered through my local library, as I have been able to use the same accessibility settings that I have configured on my device to read my favorite magazines, as well as discover new favorites. Here are my tips for reading magazines with the Libby app, based on my experiences as a user with low vision/visual impairment.
What is Libby?
The Libby app is a free application that allows users to link their library card and check out digital copies of books, magazines, audiobooks, and more- for the purposes of this post, I’ll only be talking about checking out/reading magazines with the Libby app. Users can check out as many magazines as they want at once for 7-, 14-, or 21-day loan periods with automatic returns, though they can also choose to renew the magazines as many times as they want if they want to keep them longer. Libby is available 24 hours a day and is available from over 90% of public libraries in the USA/North America, as well as 78 different countries.
The Libby app is available for iOS on the App Store and for Android on the Google Play Store. Users can also access Libby content on their computer using their web app, though magazines are not available.
How to sign up for Libby
Once the user has installed the Libby app or visited the web app, they will need to search for the name of their library and login to their library account with their library card number and PIN/password, if applicable. For users that don’t have a library card, Libby can help with locating a nearby library and sharing information about how to apply for a library card- each library has their own requirements, though some libraries allow users to get instant access to digital collections with their online application process.
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Choosing magazine(s) to read
After signing up for Libby, users are taken to their library’s digital collection screen that shows featured titles and formats. To search for magazines, users will need to do the following:
- Open the Libby app
- If needed, select your library within the Menu tab
- Select the Search tab at the bottom of the screen
- From the Explore With Filters section, select Magazines
- Alternatively, search for magazines by name or topic using the search bar and within the Preferences menu, select Format and then Magazines
Libby has thousands of different magazines from all around the world with many popular titles such as National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and Highlights for Children, as well as more niche hobby magazines. My personal favorite magazines revolve around design, healthy cooking, and nutrition, though there is something for everyone!
How to read magazines with Libby
After choosing a magazine, users can borrow the issue of their choice by choosing how long they want the loan period to be and then selecting the Borrow button. Once the title is downloaded, users can instantly access the issue within the Libby app.
Reading magazines in the Libby app is like reading other digital books- users tap or swipe on the right side of the screen to turn the page, use the pinch gesture to zoom in, and can take a screenshot by pressing the power button and volume down key on their device (unless they have another screenshot method for their individual device). There are also options to search within the text of the magazine and add bookmarks/highlights. Bookmarks and highlights are saved within the magazine so if the user borrows it again, their bookmarks and highlights will be available.
Reading Libby magazines with large print/screen magnification
Increasing text scale
While this does not work with all magazines, users can increase the font size of their magazine by increasing the text scale within their Magazine by selecting the Appearance button (which looks like an uppercase A) and increasing the text scale. Users can increase the text scale even further by enabling accessibility sizes with the slider underneath the Text Scale section.
Using the Zoom function for magnification
While the Libby app can be used with built-in device Zoom and Magnification features, another option is to use the Zoom function within the Libby app. To enable the Zoom function, select the Zoom button at the top of the screen and pinch to adjust the scaling accordingly. Users can drag their fingers across the screen to browse the page.
Reading magazines with Article View
My favorite thing about reading magazines with the Libby app is the ability to use Article View, which displays article text in a simplified text display with large print and a high contrast background, eliminating additional graphics. To enable Article View, select the Article View icon, which is at the bottom of the screen in the center, and then scroll to read the article. Users can also use the forward/backward buttons on the bottom left of the screen to move between articles and view the Table of Contents to get more information about articles.
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Reading Libby magazines with a screen reader
The Libby app has shared that it is compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack mobile screen readers and can also be used with on-demand screen readers such as Select-to-speak. While images in magazines do not support alt text, users can borrow magazines and read articles with Article View, or use Read Aloud mode by double-tapping with two fingers.
Keyboard Access with Libby App
Libby also supports keyboard access for users that have an external keyboard. The full list of keyboard shortcuts within the Libby app include:
- Open Navigation: Shift N
- Add or remove bookmark: Shift B
- Articles/Article view: Shift T
- Close book: Shift Q
- Read from here: quotation marks
- Previous page: left arrow key
- Next page: right arrow key
- Previous chapter: Shift left arrow key
- Next chapter: Shift right arrow key
- Contents: Shift C
- Bookmarks: Shift M
- Search within book: Shift S
- Appearance: Shift A
- Dictionary: Shift D
- Recent places: Shift H
- About this magazine: Shift O
- Zoom: Shift Z
Additional tips for reading magazines with the Libby app
- Some libraries offer eCards or limited use library cards that can be used exclusively for checking out digital materials, which includes access to the Libby app
- Users can add multiple library cards to their Libby account so they can view collections from different libraries- some library systems offer reciprocity agreements so users can get access to a larger collection
- Text can be copied from Article view and pasted into other applications
- Magazines can be read offline once they are downloaded to the device