How to listen to an audiobook for free (right now, legally)

Written by Michelle Watson

January 23, 2022

It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.


Audiobooks are awesome. But they’re not cheap. 

Bestselling audiobooks can cost a pretty penny on Audible and Libro.fm.

Is there a way to listen to an audiobook for free?

You bet-cher bottom dollar there is. 

But there’s a catch. (There’s always a catch when the word “free” is involved.)

There ARE free audiobooks out there, but it’s a limited selection. And most are narrated by amateurs, not professionals. You aren’t going to find the latest buzzy bestsellers narrated by celebs available for free—did you really expect to? 

But you CAN find a ton of worthy books with great production value that’re totally worth listening to!

Lemme tell you something upfront: I’m not going to waste your time by sending you to a bunch of weird websites that look like they barely survived Y2K. You’ve got T-minus five minutes before someone interrupts you asking for buttered toast or homework help. I’m going to point you to the websites that have been most valuable to me and that have withstood the test of time (and many listening ears). 

Ready to find free audiobooks? Let’s go!

1. Listen to audiobooks for free from the library

If you have a valid library card, then you—yes YOU—likely have access to thousands of audiobooks, even the newest of new releases. This is by far the BEST way to listen to audiobooks for free. I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks from the library. Here’s how it works.

Most libraries subscribe to some type of digital subscription service. That means your library system (it’s usually a county system) picks the app and decides what books go into the catalog. Then, your library tells its patrons (you) how to download the app and access the digital books and audiobooks.

I’ve accessed digital library books from three different systems located across California and Arizona, and the process has been nearly the same.

Here’s how to listen to an audiobook for free from the library:

  1. Ask your librarian which app you should download. (You can probably find this information online, although library websites are notoriously bad.) It’s likely going to be one of these apps:
    • Libby
    • Hoopla
    • Cloud Library
  2. Create an account within the app using your library card number. This is the same process as creating an account anywhere else online. Name, email address, password, etc. 

That’s it! Two steps to audio bliss. 

This is something that you can do today, as in right now if you’ve got a library card to your name.

You don’t have a library card? Dang it. The rest of the article is for YOU, my sister. 

2. Listen to free classic audiobooks with Librivox

Librivox is by far the BEST, most comprehensive, and most established website offering free audiobooks of texts in the public domain. Another huge plus: It’s blessedly free of ads and popups.

What exactly are “works in the public domain”? They’re texts, books, essays, and other writings that are free for public access and use. When the copyright on a text expires (and isn’t renewed) then the text enters the public domain

So, you’ve figured out by now that everything on Librivox is OLD, even ancient. But, it’s a goldmine if you’ve been itching to cross a few classics off your TBR.

Here are some amazing books I’ve listened to on Librivox:

  • The Secret Garden
  • The Brothers Karamozov
  • North and South
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Just-So Stories

All Librivox narrators are volunteers—amazing, isn’t it?! And there are some truly wonderful voices out there. But, fair warning, the audio quality on Librivox isn’t going to match a snazzy studio recording. But it’s FREE, people!

LibriVox offers a mobile app, or you can listen in your web browser. 

Here’s a courtesy list of a few other websites that provide free audiobook streaming of public domain texts. None are quite on par with Librivox, but you may find some ear candy if you’re willing to search.

3. Browse free Audible books and Libro.fm content

Believe it or not, Audible offers a few free listens. Libro.fm also has a page with free audiobook excerpts and author interviews. It’s not much, but it’s free!

4. Mark your calendar for free audiobook downloads for summer reading

Every summer, Audiofile Magazine sponsors Sync, a summer reading program for teens. But, anyone can participate—yep, even adults. (Legally, as far as I know.) Sync lasts for 14 weeks, starting in April. They give away two free audiobooks per week via the Sora app. 

Each book pair is available for you to claim BUT only during that one week, and then they both expire and get replaced by the next week’s pair. 

I’ve followed this for a couple of years now, and most of the picks are too angsty and woke for my taste. But I did nab Kindred and a few full-cast Shakespeare plays. Not too shabby. 

To get registered with Sync, pop your info in the box at the top of this page. It looks weird, I know. But that IS the first step to signing up.

World Book Day releases a set of kids audiobooks that are free for one week. I’ll be honest. I’ve never tried this, but it looks like a neat option for children’s audiobooks.

Speaking of audiobooks for kids, have you ever heard of Story Online? It’s got a ton of fantastic children’s picture books read aloud by famous celebs. Oprah Winfrey. Jennifer Garner. Sean Astin. Chris Pine. James Earl Jones. There are some real gems here. I love this one of Mary Steenbergen reading Strega Nona

5. Free Audiobook Streaming with YouTube and Spotify

Yes, yes. Mega-platforms YouTube and Spotify are loaded with audio content, including audiobooks. But, here’s the thing. These platforms weren’t built with audiobooks in mind, so finding them and listening to them (in order) can be tricky. 

Honestly, this isn’t really worth your time in my opinion, but if you’re curious, here are a few tips.

To start, pop a book title into the main search bar and see what comes up. Many audiobooks are recorded in parts (ex: Emma by Jane Austen Part 1). If that’s the case, then you may have to hunt for where all the parts are. 

On YouTube, the parts are likely in a playlist (if you’re lucky). On Spotify, try to navigate to the Album (click the three-dot icon > Go to Album). If the audiobook was recorded as a podcast, go to the main page for the podcast, and scroll, baby, scroll.

It’s messy. But it’s an option!

Here are a few examples so you can get a flavor for what’s out there:

A final word. You may find knockoff or bootleg recordings of copyrighted books on Spotify or YouTube that haven’t been removed yet. Resist the temptation to get free content on the sly. Do unto others, right?

So, did I miss anything?

What are your favorite ways to listen to an audiobook for free? Leave a comment with your favorite resources.

And, if you’re the kind of person who wants to love audiobooks but just can’t seem to get into them…here are my top tips for enjoying an audiobook.

Get back into reading books

Are you having trouble making the reading happen? Here’s your free ticket out of Slumpville.

More along these lines…

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