Free AudioBook Sites Recommended by Obooko

Posted by Tim Johnson

Smiling woman in park listening to audiobook on headphones

There is nothing more relaxing than to listen a story being read to you. It brings back fond memories of when you were a child listening to a grown-up reading a storybook. And, while Obooko free ebooks are a popular way to read, it’s good to give your eyes a rest now and then! Audiobooks can be enjoyed just about anywhere: you may prefer to listen while walking, running, driving, cycling, commuting or tapping away at your keyboard while working. Whatever your reason for wishing to access audio books we have put together a list of online resources that provide exactly what you are looking for ... or should that be listening for?

Free contemporary audio books are hard to find because publishers need to generate revenue for their authors, so most books will be sold via online bookstores. Some publishers also tie you into using a specific device or app. Happily, there are a few sites that offer contemporary free audiobooks that you can listen to and download. We list them below for you to visit and try out.

What you will find however is that many of the sites offering free audio books are hosting titles in the Public Domain. While these are free of Copyright restrictions,  they were written a long time ago, so you will have to accept that, in addition to dated language and style, references in these books will not be in keeping with the sociological and technological advances of recent years. You may find some books a little hard going. Try out the classics you are familiar with first.

Where did these Public Domain books originate? The majority began their journey to your headphones as textual books from the Project Gutenberg collection: each book having been transcribed, processed and converted by volunteers. From here, another army of volunteers at Librivox read and convert the books to audio. Be mindful that some audio book websites you visit may be offering exactly the same public domain recordings (you will hear the Librivox license being read at the start of each book or chapter). Both Gutenberg and Librivox operate on a not-for-profit basis and are genuinely dedicated to converting and preserving literature from the past for current and future generations to enjoy. Please support them in any way you can.

 

Free Contemporary Audiobooks
The following sites offer modern (not public domain) books with quality narration:

 

RADIOBOOKS

FREE - Unique, Contemporary books - Original Recordings - Copyright protected

Radio Books are stories by Dutch and Flemish authors translated into English. These audiobooks run for between 20 and 30 minutes and are read by the authors in front of an audience once only. The books can be listened to online or downloaded free of charge. Produced in conjunction with deBuren, a cultural institution based in the centre of Brussels, each story is new and original, having been written specially to be narrated and listened to and not to appear in print. 

radiobooks homepage screenshot

Radio Books are also being translated in collaboration with Radio Netherlands Worldwide and with the support of the Dutch Embassy in Brussels and the Dutch Literary Production and Translation Fund. The stories are being translated into, and recorded in, English, French, Spanish, Indonesian and Papiamento. Radio Netherlands Worldwide then broadcasts the Radio Books throughout the world. It’s easy to select a book by Title or Author, which will take you to a page displaying the book synopsis and a biography of the author. There are buttons for listening online or downloading to your device. A nice little site with something different to offer. The site is nicely designed but lacks responsive formatting so viewing text and navigating might be awkward on mobile devices.  

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: No, site layout does not currently have responsive formatting

 

THE DRABBLECAST

FREE - Unique, Contemporary books - Original Recordings - Copyright protected

Publishing online since 2007, The Drabblecast is a weekly audio fiction podcast, which features free short and flash fiction works from a variety authors. Currently, there are over 400 unique stories available to listen to online or download to your device.

The Drabblecast audio podcasts page screenshot

Stories are anything between 500 and 4000 words, which equates to an average on the site of about 30 minutes per story. The organisers state their singular focus is off-beat, funny, eclecticism in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We have seen some drama and romance thrown in too. The site is supported by donations. The Drabblecast won the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Parsec Awards for Best Speculative Fiction Audio Magazine.

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: Yes, the site is fully responsive for smaller devices.

 

SPOTIFY

FREE - Unique, Contemporary books - Original Recordings - Copyright protected

This is one source of free audiobooks you may not a have considered. Wait, isn't Spotify a music app? Well, yes, but there are a whole lot of audio books on there too ... you just need to know where to find them! If you don't already have it installed on your device, you will need to download the Spotify app. Once you have the app open, head to the search box top left and enter the word "audiobooks". The standard Spotify layout with Songs, Artists, Albums, Playlists etc., should now be displayed. Songs in this case are usually audio book chapters ... you'll get used to it. 

Spotify free audiobooks example page

From here you can explore all the playlists on offer but, for the purposes of this article, scroll down to Playlists and select 'See ALL', then select one that takes your fancy. For instance, the playlist “Audiobooks: Romance” currently has over 53 hours of romance listening pleasure. Once selected, a list of first chapters for a variety of book titles will be displayed. You can listen to a few to decide if you like them. But how do you get the complete book? It’s easy, simply move along the row to the right and select the three little dots, which will open a dropdown menu. Select "Go to Album" and you will see all chapters. Voilà! 

While you can listen to books online free of charge, unfortunately you can't download them for use offline unless you purchase a premium plan.

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Available only via Premium upgrade.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: Yes, the site is fully responsive and offers apps for most devices.

 

THE BLUFORD SERIES

FREE - Unique, Contemporary books - Original Recordings - Copyright protected

Originally a free resource extended to educators and students, the Bluford Series is now being enjoyed by readers of all ages across the world. The Series comprises a collection of 21 teen/YA novels written by different authors, focussing on the lives of a group of high school students and their families. This absorbing fiction book series draws its name from Bluford High, the school which many of the characters attend; named after Guion "Guy" Bluford, America's first black astronaut.

Example page from The Bluford Series of audio Books

The stories are set in contemporary urban America, with each novel addressing complex topics relevant to the lives of today's students, including: friendship, family, trust, isolation, violence, and peer pressure. What's more, the books, which feature diverse groups of male and female characters, include elements from many different genres, including mystery, suspense, romance, and sometimes a bit of supernatural too!  The site layout is not responsive so can be a bit tricky to use at mobile screen-sizes.

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book and chapter available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: No, site layout does not currently have responsive formatting.

 

ROBERT MUNSCH BOOKS

FREE - Unique, Contemporary books - Original Recordings - Copyright protected

A charming, fun-to-use site providing 50 audio books for younger children, written and read by award-winning storyteller, Robert Munsch. The site was published by Scholastic Canada in 2003, so it's been online for quite a while. The layout is not responsive, so it’s not perfect for using on mobile devices, but well worth your perseverance!

Kids and grown-ups will love these books because Robert is an absolute hoot! His exuberant style is hilariously engaging. These talking books are also available in print and kindle ebook format from Amazon, so please try and support the author if you can.

Tip: use the arrows left and right of the blue screen to view the full collection.

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book and chapter available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: No, site layout does not currently have responsive formatting.

 

Free Public Domain Audiobooks
These sites offer Public domain (out of Copyright) books:

 

LIBRIVOX

FREE - Public Domain - Old Books & Classics – Recordings by Volunteers

This is the big factory for all public domain audiobooks.

Because books are constantly entering the public domain, the Libravox collection is vast and ever-growing. Launched in 2005, this is a non-commercial resource devoted to making public domain books in audio format available to anyone, anywhere. 

The majority of books are solo recordings but, because they are so long, some have to be split into chapters, which are narrated by different people. These are called "collaborative" books; for instance one of the classics, Jane Eyre, has 20 different readers! So be mindful of this: you’ll get used to it but it’s a bit strange at first. Dramatic works may be put together using different "actors" to record the parts. Also be aware that the majority of volunteer readers/narrators are not professionally trained: you will find a wide variation in the quality and standard of reading. If you enjoy a book, you can send a “thank you” message to the narrator, just like you send feedback to authors here on Obooko. Please do this as it’s the only reward they receive.

Example page displaying free public domain audiobook from Librivox

As mentioned, Librivox audio books are narrated by volunteers. With this in mind, how do you feel about giving up some of your free time for a worthwhile cause? The organization is always looking for more people to help with lots of different roles and activities including narrating, listening, editing or project managing. So why not register and start enjoying a new and very worthwhile hobby?

READING QUALITY: varying standards of reading and diction. Some books have different readers for each chapter.
DOWNLOADS: Books and chapters available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: Yes, the site is fully responsive for smaller devices.

 

LIT2GO

FREE - Public Domain - Old Books and Classics - Original Recordings (not-librivox)

Established as a free resource for students and teachers, Lit2Go is nevertheless accessed and used by people of all ages and walks of life in all countries. The audiobooks, which are of of high quality, are produced by The Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida and financed through grants.

Example page from Lit2go audiobooks site

Unfortunately, the website has not yet been formatted to be responsive, so the text can appear quite small on mobile devices. Apart from this, the site is pleasantly designed and user-friendly.

The menu is divided into authors, books, genres and collections: each book having an abstract, excerpt, playing time, word count and a Flesh-Kincaid reading level. The audio books can be listened to online in streaming mode or downloaded to your device for reading offline. What's more, each chapter can also be downloaded in text as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along aid.

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book and chapter available for download as well as streaming.
PRINT VERSION: Each chapter has a printable PDF version for Read-along sessions.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: No, site layout does not currently have responsive formatting.

 

THOUGHT AUDIO

FREE - Public Domain - Old Books and Classics - Original Recordings (not-librivox)

Thought Audio has been providing free audio books since 2004. The site hosts just over 100 books in the Public Domain, each narrated by Michael Anthony Scott, who is a writer, voice-over narrator, and the executive producer of the books. The site is responsive, displays well on mobile devices, and has a good user interface making it easy to navigate.
 

Example page from Thought Audio site

Each book has a synopsis and the audio player is well designed; the books being listed in chapters ready to stream or download. 

READING QUALITY: Good standard of reading and diction in a clear voice using the same narrator throughout.
DOWNLOADS: Each book and chapter available for download as well as streaming.
MOBILE FRIENDLY: Yes, the site is fully responsive for smaller devices.

Should you know of any other sites that may be of interest to Obooko readers, please let us know.