If you’ve jumped on the audiobook bandwagon, you know how addictive it can be. The ability to “read” a book while multitasking is revelatory, and — if you’re anything like me — it will increase your book consumption considerably. The good news is that there are a slew of options for finding and downloading free audiobooks, so you don’t need to go broke getting your biblio fix.
This new, free app from the BBC is the home for all of its radio channels, and as such it grants access to a wide variety of radio shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. The BBC has pretty much perfected the art of radio dramatization, with A-list actors contributing some pretty amazing vocal work. Their audiobooks are limited abridged versions, but you’ll hardly even notice because you’ll be so engrossed.
Scribl is an online retailer of eBooks and audiobooks, but over half of their listed audiobooks are available to download for free. Many of the books they list are by indie authors, so if you’re into undiscovered talent, this is the site for you.
If you have a local library card, you’re in luck: by downloading the free app you can access old classics and contemporary releases through your public library. I’ve used this resource for years and can vouch for the fact that it is top-notch and really easy to enjoy. The only drawbacks are that you’re limited to the titles that your library gets rights to, so sometimes they don’t have what you’re looking for or you’re stuck on a waiting list for really popular titles. However, a little patience really pays off and it’s like Christmas morning when a book you’ve been waiting to read/listen to becomes available. (You get conveniently notified through the app and via email when your waiting list request is ready, so you don’t need to obsessively check to make sure.)
Only the Classics
Once a publication’s 95-year copyright expires, the work is entered into the public domain and can be used by anybody. A ton of sites provide professional recordings of these books, mainly because they don’t have to pay for the rights to do so. If you have a long list of classic novels that you’ve always been meaning to get to, this is a convenient (and cheap) way of doing so!
While Spotify is known more for music streaming, the company has jumped into the audiobooks game by producing its own series of high-quality, professional recordings. They also host a number of audiobooks produced by other groups, as well as several short story podcasts sure to tickle your fancy. All you need is a free Spotify account to listen to any Spotify content, but be prepared: there will be ads unless you spring for a Premium membership (which runs at $9.99/month.)
LibriVox is a nonprofit service that strives to make audiobooks more accessible online. The only downside is that all the recordings are provided by volunteers, so the audio quality (and narration) can vary significantly. They are also limited to works in the public domain, but we feel like their selection includes some more obscure titles that you won’t necessarily find on the bigger sites.
In addition, if you find the urge to contribute, it can be really fun to volunteer to read and record an audiobook yourself.
If you’re willing to manipulate the system just a little, you can have access to popular, contemporary audiobooks. Many of the big audiobook proprietors offer free trials that are accompanied by free downloads, but you have to remember to cancel your subscription before the trial period is up if you decide to go that route.
Offered by Amazon, Audible is probably the best-known audiobook app on the internet. The interface is easy to navigate, and they offer a massive collection of professionally narrated books. Their 30-day trial comes with a free audiobook and access to a bunch of perks (popular fiction podcasts and free audiobooks for Alexa users).
You can also stream hundreds of free audiobooks through Audible through an Amazon account (if you already have one), but you’ll be limited to mostly classics in the public domain.
As a paid subscription, Amazon Prime members receive even more perks, and there are two levels to choose from (Plus, which is $7.95/month, and Premium Plus, for $14.95/month.) So while it wouldn’t be catastrophic to forget to cancel your trial membership, it does add up.
The Kobo app is a one-stop shop for over 1.3 million eBooks and over 100,000 audiobooks , including current bestsellers. They divide their plan options into both eBook and audiobook formats or you can sign up for just one for a lesser price. (Kobo Plus Read & Listen is $9.99/month for eBook and audiobook access; Kobo Plus Read grants access to eBooks and Kobo Plus Listen to audiobooks for $7.99/month.) The one month trial is completely free, as long as you remember to cancel it before you’re automatically entered into a paid plan.
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