When I was taking regular weekly German lessons, I think the turning point in my experience was when my tutor encouraged me to try reading novels. Admittedly, she suggested a children’s book — The Island of Blue Dolphins — which she provided by way of a copy in English and a copy in German. It took me quite a while to get through that first book but it gave me the confidence and the motivation to keep trying. In the past couple years I’ve probably read a dozen or so books in German and I love it. It’s a great way to get some German reading practice and it just has a different feel to surfing German language websites. But depending on where you live, access to German language books can be difficult and potentially expensive. Or so I thought until I found Onleihe.
Onleihe is a German language online lending library. They provide their services to quite a number of public libraries in Germany. But they also provide their services via the Goethe-Institut. I recently signed up for Onleihe’s Goethe-Institu elibrary via the New York Goethe-Institut and have spent a couple of weeks using the service.
They have a fairly large selection but I have to admit, their selection isn’t really my taste in many ways. But for German reading practice, there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a long, long time. In addition to books, they’ve also got videos and audio books that are great. They’ve also got a large selection of classical music. My favorite part has to be the selection of newspapers and magazines. I like to skim the latest Der Spiegel or Die Welt am Sonntag.
The service isn’t without its faults, however. The weekend I signed up Onleihe had regular problems with the digital rights management which meant I couldn’t use any of the media they provide. While that’s understandable and acceptable (problems happen, things break) what was disappointing was the lack of notification from Onleihe. Eventually they did post a note but it was only after hours of me thinking I had something set up wrong. Keep an eye on their online forum. It looks to be very active!
My other major disappointment is with the media management. For some peculiar reason, they do not allow ePapers, as they call them (the newspapers and magazines), for mobile check out — I can’t view them on my tablet. Now, I have a bit of a workaround that involves me using remote desktop software to access my desktop and view the PDF that way but that only works if I’m on the same wifi network as my desktop. In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that an online lending library has limitations on mobile devices. But it is what it is.
So how do you get access to Onleihe? If you’re in Germany, you may already have access via your local public library. Check with them. If you’re outside of Germany, check with your local Goethe-Institut. While those of us in the US have to pay the Goethe-Institut a nominal fee ($10 per year), I did notice that those near another Goethe-Institut were provided access for free. Definitely not a bad deal! So be sure to check and see what is available to you.
If you’re looking for access to more eBooks for German reading practice, stay tuned. I have a post scheduled shortly with tips on where to look.