Free Online Audio Books: The Essential Guide

Free Online Audio Books: The Essential Guide

One of my favorite things to do is curl up with a good book. However, with a long commute and a couple of young, energetic boys (ages 2 & 3) it’s rare that I get time to kick back and read. That’s why I love audio books so much – they allow me to enjoy books while I’m on the go.

I typically listen to 3-4 audio books per month. Two of these audio books I get because I’m a member of Audible (the world’s largest provider of digital audio books). In the past I also downloaded the other 1-2 audio books from Audible, but eventually I got tired of paying extra for these and decided to see what free audio books were available online for download. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

1. Public Domain Audio Books

The first category of audio books available for free download are those in the public domain. This means that no one holds a copy right on these books and therefore anyone is free to distribute them. The following sites are the best places to download free online audio books in the public domain:

LibriVox has a huge selection of audio books available for download. According to the site, their goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books. I don’t, however, find the site particularly user-friendly which is why I like the following site.

Librophile provides a clean, simple interface for browsing audio books available from LibriVox.

Project Gutenberg has a decent selection of both human-read and computer-generated audio books (I suggest you don’t waste your time with the latter).

Learn Out Loud offers more than 2,000 free audio and video titles. In addition to audio books, Learn Out Loud has lectures, speeches, sermons and interviews available for download. The site is very user friendly, allowing you to both filter results and sort by most popular, member rating, etc.

Free Classic Audio Books offers a small selection of classic audio books.

It’s worth noting that public domain audio books are typically read by volunteers. For this reason the quality of the narration and production can vary. That’s not to say there aren’t good ones out there, rather you just need to be prepared to look a little harder.

2. Audio Books Shared Under a Creative Commons License

PodioBooks offers serialized audio books distributed via RSS, much like a podcast. There are over 300 audio books available which are spread through a wide variety of genres including chick lit, fantasy, humor, magical realism and thrillers. Unlike the above free audio book websites which offer recordings of public domain books, audio books available from Podiobooks are recently written works that the authors are freely sharing under a Creative Commons license. The audio books are typically recorded by the author so, like audio books distributed in public domain, the quality can vary.

3. Audio Books from Your Local Library

The third way to download audio books for free is via your local library. Many libraries have an agreement with either NetLibrary or OverDrive. These companies provide the infrastructure for libraries to distribute digital content (ie not just audio books, but also eBooks, music, and video). The best way to look further into this is to visit the website of your local library.  Another way is to use OverDrive’s Library Search Engine that allows you to search for a particular audio book or library. I couldn’t find an equivalent service offered by NetLibrary – their site is geared towards libraries and publishers.

The great thing about this way is that you can find the latest best sellers and the audio books are usually professionally narrated and produced. Often the audio book you want won’t be available for immediate download, but all you need to do is place a hold on the audio book and you will receive an email when it’s available. You can then download the title and listen to it on your computer, or transfer it onto a portable listening device (eg iPod). Normally you can loan the audio book for a period of 14 days. At the end of this loan period, titles will expire and be automatically ‘returned’ to the library (this means you will never accrue late fees with titles!).

If you liked this article you may also enjoy 10 Places to Download Free Audio Books and The Complete Guide to Free Audio Books Online.

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.

10 Comments

  1. Peter,

    Thanks for sharing all these resources. The only thing I would add is a tip on how to make time for listening to as many audiobooks as possible. I live in LA so the natural byproduct of that is spending alot of time in the car. As a result, I realized you can actually make the most use out of your time in traffic by listening to audiobooks.

    Reply
    • Hi Srinivas,

      I 100% agree with you about the benefits of listening to audio books in the car – that’s where I mostly listen to them as well. I also sometimes listen to them before going to bed. I find it’s a good way to rest my eyes as I spend quite a bit of time during the day looking at a computer screen.

      Peter

      Reply
  2. Nice list. Thanks for that – I once downloaded project gutenburg but never sat down to use it.

    Reply
  3. Hey Peter,

    Thanks for the pointer to PodioBooks

    I also listen to audiobooks and even ebooks from my library. I had no idea you could borrow them until recently, it’s so convenient – I just fire up my browser and download them

    Highly recommended, totally changed the way I absorb content!

    Reply
    • Hi Sid,

      Yes, the library is my favorite of the resources listed in this article. I also only recently realized that I could download audio books this way – it’s probably what prompted this article! The great thing about this way is you can download audio books that look interesting, but that you might not necessarily want to buy. It’s a great way to broaden your knowledge.

      Peter

      Reply
  4. now i know where to get audio books
    thank u Peter:)

    Reply
  5. I love Librivox. It has “As a man thinketh” which is a great and powerful old book similar to Think and grow rich.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for sharing these links Peter. Saves me time finding audiobooks. I still personally love reading but as you said with a lot of things going on in life it becomes practical sometime to listen to audiobooks instead.

    Charlie

    Reply
  7. Just to note: most of the human-read audiobooks at Project Gutenberg and Free Classic Audiobooks are copies of Librivox recordings. Another good site for free public domain audiobooks is Lit2Go, a project done by the University of South Florida and apparently aimed at school reading lists. I’ve put up a list of my favorite free audiobooks from all these sites and more over at my website, http://www.freelistens.blogspot.com . Hope you check it out.

    Reply
  8. So you and my coach have changed my life. This is great since this is the change blog after all. I am now on a crazy downloading spree and am listening at the speed of … well … sound. Anyway, what I omitted to do was give you credit, so I am going to update my Boost Your Productivity blog with a link to your article. You can see the update at http://www.coach2accomplish.com.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share This

Share this post with your friends!