Did you know you can listen to free audiobooks? Audiobooks give you a way to “read” fiction and non-fiction while you’re involved in other activities, such as exercising or doing household chores. They’re also great for road trips and long flights. The convenience of audiobooks has contributed to the format’s growing popularity. In 2011, 11 percent of people in the United States listened to audiobooks. In 2018, 18 percent of people listen to them.
For people who get through at least one audiobook per month, Audible.com offers an inexpensive way to enjoy the latest titles. At $14.95 per month, an Audible.com subscription makes sense for voracious audiobook… readers? However, that expense doesn’t make sense for everyone.
So, if you want them but you don’t want to be out of pocket, you should know how to listen to free audiobooks. You’ll still get to enjoy your favorite authors, but you won’t have to spend any money.
How to listen to free audiobooks
Library apps and services with free audiobooks
Many public library systems in the US let their members check out digital audiobooks for free. OverDrive and Hoopla stand out as the two most popular distribution services for libraries. Some benefits of using these apps include:
- Online access to thousands of free audiobooks
- No late fees
- Short or no wait times to access titles
OverDrive works with local libraries to give patrons a convenient way to download and listen to audiobooks. In return for payment from library systems, OverDrive manages digital rights and software, making it easier for individuals to access titles without infringing on the publisher’s rights.
According to OverDrive, it works with more than 28,000 libraries and schools around the world. Each library gets to choose which titles it wants to share with its members, so your library may have different audiobooks than those in other cities.
In addition to free audiobooks, OverDrive gives library patrons access to eBooks, music and videos.
Hoopla offers similar services as OverDrive. The company works with more than 5,000 publishers, including Britannica, Disney, Andrews McMeel Publishing and HarperCollins Publishers.
Your public library system gets to decide what audiobooks to offer. The amount that your library pays Hoopla depends on how many titles and copies are available. These audiobooks are offered at no cost to library users.
Other free audiobook services
Unfortunately, not all library systems have the desire or the resources to embrace audiobooks. If your library system doesn’t, or if it doesn’t have the titles you want, there are other ways to get free audiobooks legally.
Open Culture has a collection of about 900 free audiobooks. Most of the audiobooks are recordings of classic literature by writers like Shakespeare and Mark Twain, but you can also find works by modern writers, including Paul Auster, J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick.
LibriVox gives you access to public domain audiobooks. Since the titles are public domain in the United States, LibriVox doesn’t have to pay writers or publishers to distribute them. You can browse works on the website by author, title, genre and language.
LibriVox relies on volunteers and donations to keep its organization running. Volunteers read public domain materials aloud, which means that the audio quality can vary from title to title. The publishing process does include proof-listeners, though, so you can count on getting accurate readings without obvious mistakes.
Lit2Go is a project started by the University of South Florida to give students and teachers access to audiobooks. The website relies on fair use, which lets people use copyrighted material for educational purposes. Because of this, you can only use up to 25 works on a single project.
Lit2Go has an extensive library, but it doesn’t contain many works by contemporary writers. If you love reading classic works, then Lit2Go will have some titles that interest you.
If you’re looking for more educational resources like podcasts, online courses and videos, check out our list of helpful (and free) resources for homework help.
For more opportunities to hear audiobooks, look for companies that offer free introductory trials. Audible.com, for example, offers a 30-day trial that you can use get a sense of what the service has to offer… and whether you deem that worth paying for.