It has been a tough few months for healthcare professionals in this country as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and the new normal takes its place. For most of us, this pandemic seemed to turn upside down the way we normally work. The word 'unprecedented 'has been liberally banded about when describing this situation but I think this description is accurate and appropriate. Without doubt, this has been a stressful time for all healthcare professionals, wherever they have worked in the health or social care sector.

Probably now, more than ever, healthcare professionals need protected time to relax and chill and forget about work for just a while. For some, that could be watching something on a suitable screen and nowadays that could mean using the many streaming services now available.

Others may want to read for leisure and of course you can buy or borrow a print version of a book, newspaper or magazine. However, the digital world is full of wonderful reading services and some are free whilst others may cost a relatively modest amount for an excellent and huge choice of reading material, which is almost instantly available. So this is a good time to take a look at just a selection of these digital reading services.

Learning to relax after the stress of the pandemic

I will look at the leisure aspects rather than reading for professional development and review digital only services (subscription as well as free). Generally speaking, I read these digital publications on my iPad although when on the move, I will use my iPhone and accept the smaller screen.

There are two reading services that I personally pay for and I think they are both excellent and great value for money. Interestingly they both cost £7.99 per month (though there are free introductory offers) and can provide a wealth of reading material. I use and like Kindle Unlimited, which is one of the subscription reading services provided by Amazon. Once this service is activated by using their Kindle app (for the smartphone, tablet or computer), a user can “borrow” up to 10 titles at any one time. Once a title is returned, you can borrow something else, up to the maximum limit. There are over 1 million titles, thousands of audio books and a few selected magazine subscriptions as well as one off magazine editions (which changes regularly) included within the monthly subscription. 

Meanwhile over at Readly, 5000 magazines are available for unlimited use and there is an impressive array of popular UK (and foreign) titles available. Again, via an app, the magazine can be read on a smartphone, tablet or simply read on a computer screen. You can collect your preferred magazines under “my content” section and there are current as well as previous editions available. There is also the ability to share your account with family members by being allowed to create up to five separate profiles.

Accessing free books and magazines on the internet

There is also plenty of free content out there and some of it is well worth exploring. Project Gutenberg has a collection of more than 60,000 digital books. There is no fee and no need for registration or customised apps required but the catch is that usually the literary offerings are fairly old whose copyright has expired. For some people interested in older publications, this is a great treasure trove and is quite a good place to start your explorations of this large site.

It might also be worth checking out the colossal, Internet Archive’s book collection as some books can simply be downloaded whilst others can be borrowed. Also check out the Internet Archive’s home page, which showcases the vast amount of products available.

Another Internet giant who has muscled into the book scene is Google who have a Google books section. It allows you to buy books, but also offers the facility to view free books. You might want to use their impressive (perhaps not surprising coming from Google) in house search engine but it does require some tweaking in the search options to find what you want, especially finding the free publications.

Potentially one of the most useful free digital offerings could come from a surprising source; (well to me anyway) your local public library service. Of course, each locality may offer a different service with variable amounts of free electronic publications. I recently registered with my local library service (during the Covid-19 lockdown) and I was delighted and impressed with what was available at no charge. A simple search on your preferred search engine should find your local library service and the highlight the path to becoming a member.

I made an online application to my local library service and within minutes received an autoresponder with a code to apply for an app and website where I received free access to the latest edition of some digital versions of popular magazines. In addition, I was also allowed free access to a huge number of current digital editions of popular newspapers for both the UK and abroad. I found this to be a superb offering and a gem of a resource. If you have not done so and qualify to use local public library facilities, then go ahead and register and find out what is available for your area. When the lockdown eases, I will be collecting my library card!

This article just scratches the surface on what is available, but reading is proven to reduce stress and increase relaxation. And we could all do with some of that right now.


 Dr Harry Brown is a GP, Leeds and Medical Editor of GM Journal.