The Complete Guide to Free Audio Books Online
Your time and money are precious. Audio books help you make the most of your time because you can listen to them while commuting to and from work, at the gym, doing chores around the home or performing repetitive tasks at work. And audio books don’t need to be expensive; in fact, there are many excellent sites you can download audio books for free.
This article will help you discover the best free audio books the internet has to offer. These audio books fall into the following categories:
- Public domain audio books. If a book is in the public domain it means that the copyright on the book has expired and therefore anyone is free to distribute it. LibriVox, the largest publisher of free audio books , has a public domain wiki page if you would like to learn more about this subject.
- Audio books available under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses allow the distribution of copyrighted works. This easy to understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of the six main Creative Commons licenses.
- Audio books available from the library. Companies such as OverDrive publish audio books which are available to download from your library to your personal computer or portable device.
Where to Download Free Audio Books Online
LibriVox is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers. It has a catalog of 4,000 unabridged audio books and shorter works available to download. Approximately 90% of the collection is in English, although recordings are available in a total of 31 languages.
Audio books published by LibriVox are available as MP3 downloads or podcasts. The site is not particularly user friendly, so you may prefer Books Should Be Free or Librophile which both distribute LibriVox audio books (see below for reviews of these sites). Also, the site’s policy is to allow any recording to be published as long as it is basically understandable and faithful to the source text. This means that some recordings are of less-than-optimum audio quality in comparison to professionally-recorded audio books. There are still plenty of gems to be found, you just may need to do some digging.
Books Should Be Free delivers free audio books available in the public domain (published by LibriVox) in a fun and visual way. You can view the book cover, Top 100 downloads, drill through the genres or use Google search to find a particular title. For each audio book, you can listen to a short audio preview, read an excerpt or check out the Wikipedia links on the book and the author. Audio books are available in MP3 format or you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.
Librophile provides a clean, simple interface for browsing audio books published by LibriVox. You can either use their search tool or click the Free button and then go through the listings (which can be sorted by genre). You can listen to the audio books in your browser, download the MP3 files in a ZIP file or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.
Learn Out Loud has more than 3,000 free audio and video titles available. These are either published by Learn Out Loud or sites such as LibriVox. 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 filter results by format and sort by most popular, member rating, etc. Most titles can be downloaded in MP3 format and some as a podcast.
New Fiction is a free audio book publishing service that aims to deliver a unique listening experience. Its audio books, which they call “iSoaps”, resemble traditional radio plays in which stories are dramatized with a full cast of voice talent rather than a single narrator reading the text. Subscribers can select from a variety of genres and choose to either listen to episodes online, as a podcast or download/ play on a portable device.
OverDrive is a download service which libraries can use to make audio books and other digital content available for browsing, checking out and downloading. More than 13,000 libraries worldwide offer audio books via OverDrive. With OverDrive Search you can search for a keyword, title or author to find a local library that offers the audio book you are looking for. Audio books are available in MP3 or digitally-protected WMA format. OverDrive also has the OverDrive Media Console App for iPhone or Android that lets you download MP3 audio books directly to your device.
The nice thing about borrowing audio books from the library is that, unlike the other sites in this article, you can download bestsellers from the world’s leading publishers. 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 get an email when it’s available.
The other major library download service provider is NetLibrary, although they do not offer a similar search engine or app. Visit the website of your library to see if they use OverDrive and/ or NetLibrary.
PodioBooks offers serialized audio books distributed via RSS, much like a podcast. There are over 400 audio books available which are spread through a wide variety of genres including science fiction, fantasy, humor, young adult and thrillers.
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. That being said, PodioBooks makes it easy to find the best audio books on their site by having charts of the highest-rated audio books and member ratings for each individual audio book in terms of audio, narration and writing quality. Also, you can listen to a short audio preview before downloading it.
Project Gutenberg is the ongoing effort to digitize and archive cultural works in the form of e-books. It also works in with sites like LibriVox to create audio books. As a result, Project Gutenberg has a good selection of both human-read and computer-generated audio books (I suggest you don’t waste your time with the latter). You can go through the list of available audio books alphabetically by author and title or, alternatively, use the Advanced Search page.
The Spoken Alexandria Project is a free Creative Commons library of spoken word recordings, consisting of classics in the public domain and modern works (with permission). Audio books are available for download in AAC, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3 format. You can view the Top 25 downloads or browse the catalog by genre, length or reader.
Storynory is an online collection of free audio books for kids. There are original stories, fairy tales, classic authors (e.g. Rudyard Kipling), educational stories and stories for younger children. A new story is published every week (this has been happening since November 2005). The stories can be subscribed to as a podcast in iTunes, through the Storynory App for iPhone, via email or RSS feed. Storynory offers the text to accompany the audio so that kids can read along.
Thought Audio has a nice collection of professionally produced classic literature and philosophy titles. You can listen to them online or download them in segments in MP3 format.
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