Blog –Posted on Wednesday, Mar 10
It’s not hard to see why audiobooks have recently grown in popularity: there’s something uniquely magnetic about stories brought to life by professional actors who can add texture to various personalities. If you want to absorb stories while you walk, do your chores, or lie down with your eyes closed, audiobooks are your portable friends.
While audiobooks are generally more expensive than ebooks or print books, we can help you minimize your spending (and maximize your library) — start by browsing through this list of the best websites to find free audiobooks online!
This music streaming giant hosts a number of audiobooks on their service, and have even entered the game by producing their own series of high-quality, professional audiobooks. Both of these lists feature public domain works, meaning their 95 year copyright has expired and they’ll be fairly old classics — so put your sophisticated hat on, and get ready to start checking books off your ‘books to read before you die’ list.
Spotify also houses a large number of short story podcasts featuring works from around the world, so it’s worth searching for the authors or stories you’re interested in on Spotify’s search bar. A great starting point is the 1001 Classic Short Stories and Tales podcast. Just remember that you’ll need a (free) Spotify account to listen to any Spotify content.
LibriVox’s recordings are all made by volunteers, so audio quality can vary, and certain voices or accents can be a little difficult to understand if English isn’t your native language. That said, this nonprofit service provides a vast trove of free audiobooks with the mission of making audiobooks more accessible online, and was a pioneer in recording public domain books for the general public. If you have any trouble navigating their website, they also upload their recordings to YouTube — you can check out their channel here. And hey, if you’re feeling grateful, you can even volunteer to read a book yourself!
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Okay, we get that not everyone feels like reading the classics. If you’re looking for contemporary audiobooks, or you’re after a specific title that isn’t in the public domain, Amazon’s Audible offers a massive number of professionally narrated books. Though it’s ordinarily a paid service, you can sign up for a 30-day trial that comes with a free audiobook and access to a bunch of perks like Audible’s fiction podcasts (we recommend Sour Hall, based on a story by Naomi Booth) and a further selection of free audiobooks for Alexa users.
Lit2Go is a free collection of public domain books, offered by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF. Lit2Go’s collection includes some wonderful classic children’s books like The Secret Garden, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Little Women, and Peter Pan. Adults are spoiled for choice, too, with some of the best books of all time: to give you a glimpse, you’ll find classics like Great Expectations, Moby Dick, Dracula, and Wuthering Heights in their library.
Audiobooks.com is another service you ordinarily have to pay for, but their generous trial offer includes 3 free audiobooks. Like Audible, this is ideal if you’re after specific contemporary releases, or don’t particularly fancy the classics. Their professional-quality audiobooks are narrated by experienced voice actors, so it’s hard to go wrong no matter what you select. Audiobooks for your next road trip, anyone?
6. BBC Sounds
BBC Sounds is a free new app by the BBC. It’s now the home of its radio channels, hosting a wide variety of radio shows, podcasts, and even audiobooks. The BBC has a long history of working with the most prolific actors in the UK to provide dramatizations for radio, and it’s now branching out to free abridged audiobooks. As long as you don’t mind listening to abridged editions, you’re guaranteed some absolutely top-quality listening.
7. Rakuten Kobo
Operating similarly to other subscription services, Kobo’s audiobook list is quite extensive, so you’re probably going to find whatever it is you’re looking for here. Like Audible, it’s normally a paid service, but a free trial can get you a high-quality complimentary audiobook, so it’s worth a try! Just remember to cancel your subscription before you’re charged (and the same goes for all other trial periods mentioned in this post).
8. Open Culture
Open Culture has done all the compiling for you, and rounded up a long list of free audiobooks available on the web. For that reason, you’ll see some overlap with the public domains books found on the rest of this list — but their list is so incredibly handy that you’ll get over it.
9. Learn Out Loud
Learn Out Loud’s mission is to offer free multimedia for educational purposes, and they’ve been doing a great job of it since 2005. Their website features over 3,000 free audiobooks for you to expand your horizons, and if you’re feeling flexible with your listening habits, you can also check out their broader directory of audio and video content: in addition to audiobooks, it lists lectures, courses, speeches, and so much more.
10. All You Can Books
Think buffet, but books. Like Audible, Kobo, and Audiobooks.com, this is a paid service. However, signing up for a free 30-day trial with All You Can Books means that you are free to consume as many audiobooks as you can within that period of time — and yes, that’s a challenge!
🚨We do have to note two things, though:
- Despite the fact that this service provides more than just public domain books, its 40,000 audiobooks don’t tend to include hot new releases, which may be a significant drawback for many readers.
- Many of this service’s online reviewers say they had trouble cancelling their trial, or had difficulty getting through to customer service when they’ve subsequently been charged for failing to cancel, so be careful. Don’t leave cancelling to the last day of your trial!
OverDrive is a distributor of digital content to libraries. If you’re a member of your local public library, you may have access to OverDrive through your online account — that’s something to ask your librarian about. They’vealso launched an app called Libby to help facilitate a smoother reading experience for their users. This is an excellent, professional-quality resource that includes old classics and contemporary releases alike. And most important of all, you’ll make your librarian happy!
Scribl is an online retailer of ebooks and audiobooks — but over half of their listed audiobooks are available to download for free, so their site is well worth a browse. Many of the books they list are by indie authors, so if you do listen to their offerings, make sure to leave a review. Reviews mean the world to indie authors!
🎁 If free books in exchange for a review sound like your kind of thing, why not sign up to be a Reedsy Discovery reviewer? There’s a whole bunch of ebooks to choose from.
13. Free Classic Audiobooks
Still hungering for the classics? Free Classic Audiobooks is a straightforward website that’s just what it says on the tin: it allows you to download MP3 or M4B files of classic works. Sure, it’s just another option for public domain books, but the great thing about having so many options is that you can really take your pick of narrator if you hate someone’s voice. The web is spoiling you. Appreciate it.
Educational content, fairy tales, full-length audiobooks: Storynory has your child’s audiobook needs covered. From Oscar Wilde’s tales to Greek, Indian, or Norse mythology, little readers are bound to find something they’re happy with in this wonderful collection. In fact, we might catch up on some mythology ourselves. It’s never too late.
15. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is the world’s oldest digital library, and run by volunteers. Like many of the services above, it provides exclusively public domain works, but it stands out because of its linguistic diversity — the site provides audiobooks in 50+ languages. Do check that the audiobook you select is narrated by a human, though, as this website also lists computer-generated recordings that are nothing if not a bizarre experience. (Okay, you’re probably curious, so here’s a computer-read version of Middlemarch by George Eliot. Enjoy!🤖)
16. Mind Webs
Mind Webs used to be a dramatized radio programme hosted by Michael Hanson. Its archive of over 100 speculative and sci-fi short stories is now available online, and it makes for magnificent listening. These high-quality half-hour shows are guaranteed to transport fans of sci-fi audiobooks into different worlds.
Sync is an annual summer reading marathon for teens, held by AudioFile Magazine in collaboration with OverDrive. (Don't worry, it doesn’t really have to be a marathon: you can simply choose to read some books and not others.) You can learn more about how it works on Sync’s FAQ page, but the gist of it is that participants gain free access to two thematically linked audiobooks every week over the course of the summer.
18. World Book Day
You'd be wrong if you assumed that World Book Day only offers audiobooks for a single day. Instead, they provide a selection of free listens for children for six months, starting mid-February (with the exception of books published by Penguin and Hachette, which only stay up for one month). From picture books to options for teens, they cover a wide age range — and all of them are professional recordings.
You may remember Digitalbook from the old days when it was called Librophile — it’s a website that operates as a search engine for free audiobooks in the public domain. Through their site, you can find specific titles from the various sites listed here, as well as retailer sites like Amazon. With its focus on simplicity, Digitalbook really helps streamline the process of locating specific books.
Finally, RBDigital operates in the same way that OverDrive does: it works with local libraries, providing access to a large collection of professional-standard audiobooks. You’ll probably find that your library is subscribed to either RBDigital or OverDrive. Both boast excellent lists of reputable titles, so don’t worry, your library will have you covered whichever they choose!
We hope these resources lead you to some amazing reads — do check out our lists of free Kindle books and the best places to find free books online if you’re looking for more freebies, and happy reading!