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8 Ways to Get Audiobooks for FREE!

5 Ways to Listen to Audiobooks for FREE

Last week, I wrote a post about how I’ve fallen in love with audiobooks and my thoughts on the Top 3 Paid Audiobook Services. Today, I’m going to tell you why we decided not to pay for any audiobook services and a variety of creative ways to get audiobooks for free.

Before we talk about the various ways to get audiobooks for free, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions to determine which platforms/services/apps would work best for you:

  • When Will I Listen to Audiobooks? When would be the ideal times for you to listen to audiobooks? Are you planning to listen while you clean, while you work out, while you commute, while you get ready in the morning?
  • What Device Will I Use to Listen to Them? Based upon your answers to the above question, would it only work for you to listen to audiobooks on your phone? Or could you listen on a CD player or on your computer?
  • What Kinds of Audiobooks Do I Want to Listen To? I’ve found that I prefer listening to audiobooks that I’m okay with not catching every single word and aren’t the kind of books I would want to underline. I’ve also found that long books that kind of intimidate me to read (such as All the Light We Cannot See or Unbroken) work well on audiobook for me — because I might struggle to sit down and read them, but I will enjoy listening to them!

5 Ways to Listen to Audiobooks for FREE

Now that you’ve answered those questions, let’s talk about the best way to get audiobooks for free:

FREE Apps from Your Library: Overdrive, Hoopla, OneClickDigital

Before you look anywhere else, RUN to your library’s website and see what they offer as far as audiobook apps go. Many libraries offer amazing apps like Overdrive, Hoopla, or OneClickDigital — for FREE!

You can download brand-new releases, old classics, and just about everything in between through these apps. You can even download magazines! And did I mention that it’s all FREE??

You just download the app, link it to your library card, and then go in and request which books you’re interested in. If the book isn’t available right away, you can put a hold on it and they’ll send you an email when it’s available.

We. are. in. love.

Seriously.

At the rate Jesse and I are listening to audiobooks right now, we figure that the library is saving us at least $100 to $150 per month in audiobook fees. How crazy is that??

5 Ways to Listen to Audiobooks for FREE

Now, there are a few drawbacks:

There are often a lot of people who have placed holds on books you are interested in. Which means you have to place a hold and wait your turn. It might take a week or two — or up to a few months or more — to get your turn to listen to the audiobook.

If you place a hold, you are at their mercy as to when a book becomes available. Depending upon the app and how new the book is, you might only have a 7 to 14-day window to listen to the audiobook. Also, if you’ve placed lots of holds, a bunch of them might come available all at once. Which means you’ll probably not be able to get through them before you have to “return” them to the library.

They don’t have all the audiobooks. The apps offer a wide selection of audiobooks, but it isn’t as comprehensive as what’s offered through Audible. However, free is free and I’ll take it! So far, I’ve had no problem finding plenty of great listening material… and don’t see that I’ll be having a shortage any time soon! 🙂

You can’t download them indefinitely. Unlike Audible or other paid audiobook services, when you download a book from the library, you only get it for a set period of time and then the download expires. This time period is usually somewhere between 7 and 21 days. Depending upon how new the book is and how many holds there are on it, you may or may not be able to renew it.

Overdrive has adult magazines on their homepage. One thing I was bothered by with Overdrive is that the app has had adult magazines advertised right on the homepage — that you can download for free. I would definitely use caution if you allow a child to use the app because of this. (Update: A few readers said this is not the case with all libraries and you are able to change this in your settings.)

5 Ways to Listen to Audiobooks for FREE

All that said, to have access to hundreds of thousands of audiobooks for FREE is pretty downright amazing. And I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about paying late fines… because a book just expires on the app once your checkout time is up.

Plus, you never even have to make it to the library to check out or return books. You can request and download and “return” books all right from your phone in your living room!

Note: If your library is small and doesn’t offer free audiobook apps, consider checking into other larger libraries in your state. You may be able to get a free library card to another library in your state or area that does offer audiobooks. Or, they may offer a paid library membership to out-of-area residents. If you go through a lot of audiobooks, it may be a much less expensive option to buy a membership than to pay to download individual audiobooks from other sites.

Other Places to Download Audiobooks for FREE

Librivox — This site offers thousands of public domain audiobooks — for free. The audiobooks are read by volunteers so the quality isn’t always as professional as what you can download from the library. However, they are free for anyone to listen to on their computer, iPod or other mobile device, or to burn onto a CD. (Note: One of my readers mentioned in the comments that many of the classics have multiple versions available read by different readers, so try a few different versions to find the reader you like best!)

LoyalBooks — This is another HUGE directory of free audiobooks and ebooks. This site used to be called BooksShouldBeFree. It offers a wide variety of public domain audiobooks.

YouTube — Believe it or not, YouTube offers a number of free audiobooks. Some of these are illegally recorded, others are not. To find an audiobook on YouTube, search for the name of the book + audiobook to see if it pulls it up. There are a different YouTube channels that offer free audiobooks, too, such as Greatest Audiobooks and AudiobooksFree.

Open Culture — This site offers a listing of 700 different audiobooks you can download free. Most of the links are to iTunes downloads or MP3 downloads.

Free Classic Audiobooks — This site offers free audiobook downloads in mp3 and in m4b audiobook format for iTunes and the iPod. It’s a pretty old site, but it looks like they update it with new audiobooks fairly regularly.

Learn Out Loud — This site has a Free Audiobook section where they offer 3,000 different audiobooks for free. There are quite a few good selections to choose from. They list free audiobooks from across the web plus some you can download directly through LearnOutLoud.com.

Podcasts — One of my readers recommended the Sparkle Stories and StoryNory podcasts. They offer free audiobooks for kids.

Never Pay for Audiobooks Again!

What are YOUR favorite ways to get audiobooks for free? I’d love to hear!

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48 Comments

  • Tammy says:

    Thanks for all the great tips! I have loved and used libraries all over the world as we’ve lived in many places as a military family. Many current movies at the theaters are available to reserve before they are even out on DVD at my local library!

    Our entire family has always loved audio books and especially loved the Adventure in Odyssey series from Focus on the Family. After listening to them for over 20 years, the characters feel like old friends.

    And, I can’t help myself, but I just have to say – these wonderful items available at the local library are not “free”. Libraries are funded by our taxes.

    • Ha! Well since we pay taxes regardless, we might as well take advantage of all they offer, right?? 🙂

      • Tammy says:

        Exactly! I’m always telling people to check out the library! Besides books, magazines, DVD’s and Audio books, my local library also offers a variety of board games (great way to check try them out), art prints (I know people who like variety so they borrow framed prints from the library regularly), as well as workshops on resume writing, computer skills, after school tutoring, language classes (we have a large refugee community), a seed library etc. I love the library!

    • Letia says:

      Right! 😂 But I say I’ve already paid for it so why pay again!

    • Karleen says:

      I grew up on Adventure in Odyssey. I still have my old tapes from when I was a kid. I grew up with no television so these were such a treat for me.

  • These are great tips! We used to BooksShouldBeFree.com a LOT. Now we get audio books on CD from the library and listen to them in the car, especially during longer car rides.

    The headphone port on my phone is broken but as soon as I’m eligible for an upgrade, I’m going to check out the library apps you mentioned & listen while I cook and clean!

  • Mary says:

    As a librarian, I can fill you in a bit on some of the details. First – my library DOES NOT have the magazines linked in OverDrive – it varies by library and what package is subscribed to on behalf of tax payers. Tell your local library you don’t appreciate that, perhaps they’ll reconsider.

    Second, the way OverDrive (and Hoopla, and 3m Cloud (another service which you do not mention) charge is based on the number of patrons a library has in their tax district. Therefore, you cannot use another libraries collection of downloadable materials in most cases. You may be able to check out books, dvds, physical materials, etc within a consortium in your area, but most likely, only patrons with a card SPECIFIC to that library will be able to access digital materials.

    The number of materials, which titles are available, etc. are only partially controlled by your home library. There are some authors and/or publishers, who restrict what materials are available for digital download via libraries. Also, libraries pay for each title (anywhere from $30 to $150 with the 3M Cloud Library (for which I’m responsible at my library)), so most will take “purchase suggestions” if you call or email in a request. no guarantees – some things , as I said above, simply aren’t available.

    Finally, be aware that all of these services (3M, OverDrive, and Hoopla) also offer E-Books which can be read via Kindles (3M does not do Kindle, the others do), Nooks, and tablets (Ipad, Galaxy-Android, etc). Great for traveling with a slew of books to read in one lightweight package!

    • GinnyV says:

      I was also going to point out that my library’s Overdrive does not link to magazines, either. However, there are adult books available to download, so be aware of that.

      Most of the time, my kids don’t go on the website. I’ll see a book I think they’ll like and download for them, so it’s not as big of a concern for me. 🙂

  • kara says:

    I’m not sure if this applies to magazines but you can set “audience filters” or “maturity levels” on the app and it looks like you maybe able to hide adult cover images.
    (http://help.overdrive.com/customer/portal/articles/1647469#nextgencontent)
    My kids are still too young to use the app so I haven’t tried it yet but hopefully it helps.

  • GrammaH says:

    I’ve been an audiobook junkie for many years–all free from the library! I use Overdrive, Hoopla and One Click Digital. One thing that I didn’t see you mention was that on Overdrive if you search for a book and you don’t find what you are looking for, there is a button to “Add titles you can recommend.” I’ve used this many times! Sometimes I want an audiobook vs a Kindle book, but the library only has a Kindle version. More often than not, the library will add the book I request to their collection. They will either notify me via email or put me on the hold list, if they add the book. Yes, do check with your local library to see if they have “reciprocal agreements” with other libraries. I have 3 different library cards, so sometimes I am able to get a book right away, as opposed to waiting on a hold list. Audiobooks rock and free is ALWAYS good!

  • Corrie says:

    Another site you didn’t mention for free audiobooks is Christianaudio.com. They offer a free featured book every month and typically they are great! Some of our favorite audiobooks have come from this free download.

  • Karina says:

    Thanks for all the links!
    As my children grow, I find that there is less and less time for reading. But maybe if I integrate more audiobooks into our home (and car!), I could regain a portion of what I’m missing!

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    ~Karina

  • Linda says:

    I have a confession to make… I have over 10 different library cards. I live in the Los Angeles area and what I did was I took buses/trains everywhere when I was in college and always checked to see if there was a library nearby my stops that had a card which I didn’t yet have. I LOVE to read and there’s always aircon inside libraries.

    So I’ve just kept renewing them over the years, but they come in handy with ebooks on my Kindle Fire.

  • Victoria says:

    Noisetrade is another site for free audio books. You need to click on the music tab and then scroll to AudioBook . There isn’t a lot of selection but there is some and they do feature some good full length titles from time to time (there are also a lot of one where you just get the first chapter so make sure to read before you download).

  • Nicole says:

    I love audiobooks. I listen during my commute to work, while doing tasks around house, while food shopping, etc. I mostly get my books from the library. I would like to join another library that has a more extensive availability of audiobooks. Could you recommend one? I know I would have to pay an out of county fee, but it is usually minimal. Thanks for your help!

    • Maybe check the libraries in your state and see which ones have great audiobook apps available on their site and see if they offer out-of-county memberships? It seems like larger cities have better selections and options.

  • Margery H. says:

    I *really* love Librivox. I respectfully disagree with Crystal’s comment that the volunteer readers “aren’t great.” Yes, some of them are not great, but many of them are wonderfully engaging to listen to and have professional quality. Often times, a popular classic book has several different versions with different readers, so I might try out a couple of the versions to see which reader I like. I’ve listened to “Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Jane Eyre,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and other classic books and have thoroughly enjoyed them. As a homeschool mom with three teenagers (7th, 9th, & 12th grades), this allows me to “read” their literature while I’m working on other things about the house or in the car. Librivox.org is the website where you can download the books or stream them. My fave, though, is the Librivox app for iPhone. I’m also enjoying catching up on some of these classics which I missed while I was in school.

    Best of all, it’s free.

  • Debbie says:

    Thank you for this post about the audiobooks available from the library! I didn’t know. Now I’ve got the app, and have been listening to some great books. 🙂

  • Megan says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I’m leaving on a missions trip to the Philippines today and was desperately wanting to find a way to download some audio books for the 15-hour flight. Now my phone is armed with hoopla and several books I’ve been wanting to read anyway! Thanks again!

  • Joyce says:

    Thanks so much for this tip. I checked it out and my library participates! Your post is a gem!

  • Alicia says:

    We have loved listening to audiobooks on hoopla. We listen to lots of children’s books as a family, and I just finished listening to “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” on my own. 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I just found out about Hoopla. So awesome! My local library doesn’t offer it, but another library in my state lets anyone get a free card, and then you can use it to access Hoopla and other resources. I just downloaded an audiobook I’ve been dying to listen to, and the rest of the series is right there waiting for me. I’ve noticed some books are SO MUCH BETTER in audio version.

  • Beth K says:

    I’m a librarian as well. Our version of Overdrive lets you change the setting to have 21 days to listen or read (but you have to change the setting in your account BEFORE you check out the title).

    Also, in Overdrive, you can suspend your holds so that they don’t all come at once.

  • Elizabeth M says:

    Hi, there’s also Christian audiobooks.com that provide a free audiobook each month for being on their email list. You don’t get to pick the book, but I have gotten several great books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

  • Jessica says:

    Libby is another library book/audiobook app. It is owned by Overdrive.

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