If you are learning German, you’ll want to start digging into native materials sooner rather than later. News articles, podcasts, books, magazines, audiobooks – take your pick. You can find a lot of those things online for free, but some content – books and audiobooks, for example – are a bit more expensive, especially if you buy hard copies of books from overseas. And magazine subscriptions – well, some of those will really make your bank account say “Autsch!” Thankfully, the Goethe Institut is here to make your day and provide all of that stuff – for free.
The Goethe Institut is the cultural institute of Germany, promoting German culture (obviously) and the learning of German. They also administer German proficiency exams. In other words, if you’re really in love with German, you should become familiar with their website and what they offer. They offer a lot. For now, though, let’s focus on the giant heap of German language material that they are offering for free.
The Goethe Institut onleihe is an online library, providing free access to: German language books, magazines, newspapers, music, audiobooks, and radio plays. They have native materials, as well as a lot of material aimed at learners of German. By their count, there’s around 25,000 pieces of media in their library right now.
Quite frankly, I don’t know how I missed this resource for so long, because it is awesome.
Free German Books? Cool – How Do I Sign Up?
- You will need to create a My Goethe account, which you can do here.
- Once your account is created and confirmed (they’ll send you an email with an activation link), go back to the My Goethe login page and log in.
- Once logged in, in the left menu, at the bottom of the list, you will see either “My eLibrary” or “Meine Onleihe.” Click that link. On the following page, you will see “Activate eLibrary.” Click on the login button below this, and this will activate your onleihe account.
- And that’s it! From now on, you can either go to Goethe.de and login to access the onleihe library (from your My Goethe page), or you can just bookmark this page.
Do I Need to Know Anything Else?
A couple of things, yes!
First, this is still a library, so you do check the items out – you can’t just download the entire catalog and keep it forever! 🙂 While you don’t have to “return” items, they do expire after a certain amount of time. For most items, you have a choice of how long you want to check them out – a day, two days, a week, two weeks. This may sound like a really short amount of time, but don’t worry – the library has many copies of most of the really popular stuff, so if your item expires, you can most likely just check it out again. And if not, you can reserve items, so you’re put in line to check it out when a copy is available.
Second, you’ll need some special software to read the books and magazines. For PC / Mac, you’ll need to grab Adobe Digital Editions, which you can download here. For your phone / tablet, there are onleihe apps for both iOS and Android. The iOS app is here, and the Android app is here.
And lastly, if you’re at an intermediate level with your German, let me offer a magazine recommendation: check out Deutsch Perfekt. It’s one of my favorites.
Good luck with your learning, and viel Spaß!