5 places to listen to free audiobooks

From Spotify to Libby: You don't have to pay to get your audio fix.
audio book concept with stack of books and headphones
Lose yourself in an audiobook. Image: DepositPhotos

Physical books will always have their loyal fans—and rightly so—but there’s a lot to be said for the audiobook. They let you get through your reading (or listening rather) while you’re doing household chores, or driving the car, or out on your morning jog, and some of us just prefer hearing words spoken than reading them on the page.

Even better, you can get free audiobooks too, if you know where to look. Now clearly these productions take time and effort to produce, and so we wouldn’t recommend obtaining them through any illegal means where the writers and production team aren’t compensated—but these are all legit ways of getting hold of free audiobooks.

1. Spotify

Many major audiobook outlets also offer free trials. Screenshot: Spotify

If you didn’t know, it’s Audiobook Appreciation Month, and Spotify is celebrating with an extended free promotion for its audiobook offerings. Until the end of June 2024, if you live in the US, you can sign up here for 15 hours of free audiobook listening—enough for 2-3 audiobooks. After that, you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month to stay with the service.

Speaking of 30-day free trials, you can also find them at high-profile audiobook outlets such as Audible and B&N Audiobooks. And by the way, if you’re already paying for Spotify Premium for your music, that comes with 15 hours of free audiobook listening as well—though it’s not so much free, as included with your other subscription.

2. Libby

screenshot of libby app with an audiobook of 'how it all began'
Extend the benefits of your local library. Image: Libby

If you have a standard library card, you can use Libby to check out free audiobooks just as you would with physical books—except they’re delivered digitally to your device of choice. The underlying service, OverDrive, supports ebooks as well, and with tens of thousands of libraries signed up to support the scheme, you can probably find one close to you.

When you’ve done all the necessary signing up and registering, the Libby app itself couldn’t be any easier to use. You can look through what’s popular with other users, manage loaned books through your digital shelf, and listen to the audiobooks via a clean and elegant player that includes a sleep timer and a choice of playback speed settings.

3. Open Culture

screenshot of open culture with audiobook page open
Dive into the classics. Screenshot: Open Culture

Open Culture isn’t an audiobook repository as such, but it does host a curated list of free audiobooks you can find on the web. Most of them can be downloaded to your computer or phone as audio files to play online or offline in any app you like, though some must be streamed directly from the web, and you’re not going to have to pay anything for them.

This isn’t the widest selection of audiobooks you’ve ever going to come across, but there are plenty of classics to enjoy here, including novels from the likes of Charlotte Bronte, JG Ballard, Jane Austen, and Jonathan Swift. If you’ve got time, have a click around the other categories on the Open Culture site, because there’s a lot more free stuff available.

4. Digital Book

screenshot of digital book search page
Fill hours of time actually reading the books you pretended to read in high school. Screenshot: Digital Book

You can get both free audiobooks and free ebooks from Digital Book, and the site is super easy to navigate and explore. You can either type what you’re looking for into the search box, or you can dive into different genres and see what’s available, or you can check up on what’s popular and trending with the rest of the site’s community.

The reason that these audiobooks are free is that they’re all in the public domain, so it’s very heavily weighted towards old classics. There are works from Jules Verne, Emily Bronte, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain here, for example—and hours and hours worth of audiobooks in total, so plenty of material to keep your ears busy for a while.

5. LibriVox

Screenshot of LibriVox
You can even volunteer to read an audiobook on LibriVox. Screenshot: LibriVox

LibriVox is another repository of public domain works converted to audiobooks, and as well as the website there are also apps for Android and iOS available. The aim is to make all of this reading accessible to as many people as possible, and to that end it uses a team of volunteers to read the literature aloud (you can have a go at reading too, if you want).

You won’t find the latest bestsellers here or any celebrity voices, but you will find a wealth of classic material—from Moby Dick to Peter Pan—and it’s all very neatly organized and arranged for you to find. If you’re not sure what you want to listen to right away, check out the genre categorizations on the web, or the newly released titles listed in the apps.