There is no shortage of online retailers that allow you to subscribe and download audiobooks. Some of the most popular are Audible, Scribd, and Storytel. What if you are on a budget or do not want to pay for audiobooks? There is plenty of options to download them for free. You can get a digital public library card or access Librivox.
The most popular online distribution company that the vast majority of public library systems do business with, is Overdrive. They have over 100,000 audiobooks. All you need to do is contact your local branch and find out if they have an Overdrive collection. Next, you simply need to apply for a digital library card. You can normally do this within the Libby app, but some libraries do not support this, so you have to call them or visit the branch. Audiobooks normally have a 14 day window to listen to them, before they are automatically returned. Overdrive also has aquirered RB Digital, which was a competitor in this space.
Many libraries do business with Hoopla, because they offer their entire collection to libraries, and they only pay when someone borrows something. They have almost 90,000 audiobooks in their system and all you need to do is contact your local branch and find out if they offer audiobooks by Hoopla. Next, you need to download the Hoopla app and you can listen to content on your smartphone or tablet.
LibriVox audiobooks are read by volunteers from all over the world. LibriVox audiobooks are free for anyone to listen to, on their computers, iPods or other mobile device, or to burn onto a CD. The vast majority of their content are royalty free and open source. The project has also been featured in press around the world and has been recommended by the BBC’s Click, MSNBC’s The Today Show, Reason, Wired, the US PC Magazine and the UK Metro and Sunday Times newspapers.
All audio books on LoyalBooks.com are in the public domain. This means that no one holds a copyright on these books and therefore anyone including LoyalBooks.com is free to distribute them. Enjoy these free audio books and use the share button on LoyalBooks.com to tell your friends about all these great public domain audio books.
Open Culture has combed through the same audiobooks offered other places online, and compiled them into one list to browse. While you’ll still find many of the same classics offered elsewhere, like Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz audiobooks, you’ll also find stories by James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, and Virginia Woolf. Or poetry by Maya Angelou and Charles Bukowski. Or, even a video of Neil Gaiman reading Coraline.
As the oldest digital library online, Project Gutenberg has been working to archive as many books as possible since its founding in 1971. The site’s catalog now consists of over 60,000 free ebooks downloadable as mp3 files. That number was made possible by the site’s practice of approving 99% of the requests it receives to turn books into audiobooks or ebooks. Similar to LibriVox, Project Gutenberg asks readers to donate their voices if they’re willing and able. Volunteer voices contribute to their human-read audiobook collection, and the site also houses a computer-read audiobook collection. If you’ve got a book you’d like digitized that Project Gutenberg doesn’t already have in their catalog, send them an email. Otherwise, the organization is powered by donations.
Here’s a little known tip. If you open Spotify, click “Browse” (in the left hand nav), then scroll way down to “Word,” you will find a number of free audiobook collections–readings by Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, and Dylan Thomas; old time crime and sci-fi dramas; a big H.P. Lovecraft compendium and more. But that way of navigating things really only scratches the surface of what Spotify has to offer. You don’t even need a subscription to listen to them.
Storynory offers free audiobooks for kids, with a mix of classics, fairy tales, and original stories. They’re meant for kids, of course, but they’re really for anybody who wants to hear Brothers Grimm folk tales, Aesop’s fables, or stories from 1,001 Nights again.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.