How to get the Economist for Free

A photo of Tom in a field in Corsica. The sun is shining!
June 10, 2020
September 13, 2020

I was recently surprised to find that I can access digital copies of almost all of the magazines and newspapers that I subscribe to via either my local library or the British Library.

Already a member at your local library? You can sign up to RBdigital!

My local library sent an email showcasing a service called RBDigital. You can sign up for an account at . You will need to be already registered at your local library as you will need your library member number to hand. Signup takes about 60 seconds and then you're in!

There's an app available for iOS and Android, along with a really good website where you can access hundreds of titles for free. The system works on a loan / request basis, but as far as I can tell you can just loan out any magazine at any point without restriction.

The app seems to use a proprietary format, but you can page turn through digital versions of the magazines - which is a really smooth experience on iPad.

Yes! You can get the Economist for free!

I had a quick scan of some of the available titles - straight away I realised there were going to be some subscriptions that I could cancel.

My digital subscription to The Economist was coming up for renewal - but seeing as I can get access through RBDigital, I don't need to renew that subscription. There's tonnes of resources available right now, which is really useful if you're stuck inside during lockdown and looking for something to learn!

How much have libraries saved me?

Let's ignore the savings on books for a second. Between RBDigital and the British Library online archive, I have been able to get equivalent digital access to a number of publications:

  • The Economist - saving £179 per year
  • Harvard Business Review - saving £132 per year
  • MIT Tech Review - saving $35 or circa £28 per year

What a great resource!

Bonus content!

In addition, I've gained access to some new magazines that  I would not have purchased just yet. Some of the titles I've subscribed to via RBDigital include:

  • New Scientist - worth £220 a year
  • The Atlantic - worth $49.99 a year or circa £40 a year
  • Wired - worth £12 a year
  • Time - worth £39.99 a year
  • The New Yorker  worth $49.99 a year or circa £40 a year
  • Fast Company - worth $12.99 a year

That's about £380 of bonus value. But wait... it gets even better. That's post-tax money saved. So getting access to this content for free, is actually like getting a raise of :

  • £501.60 if you are a basic rate taxpayer (£380 + 20% income tax + 12% National Insurance Contributions)
  • £539.60 if you are a higher rate taxpayer (£380 + 40% income tax + 2% National Insurance Contributions for earning over £50k)

If you're already a member of a library in the UK I'd definitely recommend checking out RBDigital.

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