Free ways to enjoy the 'unprecedented levels of media' people are consuming in lockdown


As a result of recent lockdowns, "we're consuming unprecedented levels of media to keep us entertained," according to the World Economic Forum.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, 20% of millennials say they've either started reading books or have begun reading more, 35% have said they've started watching broadcast TV or are watching more of it, and 41% have said they've started streaming television online or have increased how much they watch, according to market research company Global Web Index, which surveyed 4,000 internet users across the U.S. and U.K.

While parts of the U.S. have begun to open up, many Americans are still social distancing and staying indoors. And for those still self-isolating, finding affordable entertainment options has taken on a new level of importance. 

Luckily, there are ways to lower costs without cutting back on entertainment. "There's definitely a lot of options for people to not accumulate bills on content," says Alex Elias, whose company Qloo owns cultural recommendation site TasteDive.


The average price of a hardcover book of fiction in 2018 was $26.80, and the average price of a hardcover book of nonfiction was $29.95, according to the School Library Journal. 

Depending on how much and what you like to read, switching to audiobooks could be a good option, but those don't come cheap, either. A subscription to Audible will set you back $14.95 a month. 

Free apps like Hoopla, Libby, and OverDrive let you input your library card information and get access to thousands of eBooks and audiobooks, ranging from new releases to old favorites.

There's definitely a lot of options for people to not accumulate bills on content.
Alex Elias
Founder, Qloo

If you're interested in diving into the classics, Project Gutenberg is a digital library of more than 60,000 free eBooks ready for download. Most of the works available on the site were published before 1924. Some of its most recent popular downloads include "Pride and Prejudice," "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and "Frankenstein."

"We have seen a lot of shift towards classic novels," says Elias about recent recommendations for books on TasteDive. "'Anna Karenina' has had a huge spike."

If you're looking for inspiration or community built around what you're reading, there are plenty of free online book clubs to join. The Reddit Book Club's thread features recommendations and discussions and the Silent Book Club has been featuring virtual book club meetings around the country. You can check out various virtual book chats on the Meetup app, too.


Depending on your plan, the cost of a monthly Netflix subscription ranges from $8.99 to $15.99; the cost of a monthly Hulu subscription ranges from $5.99 to $60.99; and the cost of an Amazon Prime membership, which includes Amazon Video, is $12.99 per month or $119 per year. If you subscribe to all three, the costs can really add up. 

Free alternatives Hoopla and OverDrive both offer the option of streaming movies. Similarly, Kanopy lets users log in with a valid library card and choose something to stream from thousands of films. Options range from classics like Orson Wells' "Othello" to cult favorites like "Donnie Darko."

YouTube, too, offers a variety of streaming films with ads, including favorites like "The Usual Suspects" and "Supersize Me." And IMDb offers free streaming of films and TV shows from "The NeverEnding Story" to "Eat Pray Love." The site does include ads but all you need to do to watch is create a free profile.



Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are also known for their original shows, and if you're excited to watch the latest seasons of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "The Handmaid's Tale," or "Stranger Things," all three offer a free monthlong trial.

Free trials often work to get you hooked, though, experts warn. "Our data shows that the conversion rate from 30-day trials to continuing to pay" for Amazon Prime "is higher," says Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. So be sure to set phone or calendar reminders to cancel the services within the allowed time frame if you don't want to end up paying for them.

Throughout the month of April, HBO enabled free streaming of shows from its catalog, such as "The Sopranos," "Veep," and "The Wire." As of mid-May, HBO is still letting viewers sample the pilot episode of a wide assortment of its shows, from "Sex and the City" to "Chernobyl" to "Game of Thrones." You may not be able to binge an entire series, but at least you can see what the fuss is about.

You have other options, too. There's the TV and film streaming service Crackle, a partnership between Sony and media company Chicken Soup for the Soul. Its shows may not have received much media buzz yet and they do feature ads, but they are free to watch.

The Roku Channel is free to stream and as of mid-May offers episodes of shows like "Veep" and "Charlie's Angels." Sling lets you stream live TV or watch shows like "Vanderpump Rules" and "Rick and Morty" on demand, with ads, after creating a profile. Similarly, Pluto TV is a free streaming service offering both various channels' live TV and on-demand content like episodes of "3rd Rock from the Sun." It does feature ads but only requires you to create a free profile. 

You can also watch a lot of network TV shows on the networks' websites for free but episodes may include ads, and some networks request that you connect to their programming through your internet provider.  

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