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The Best Websites for Downloading, Renting, and Purchasing Audiobooks

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We recently published a list of websites where you can download free eBooks, or purchase, borrow, or rent eBooks. However, if you would rather listen to your favorite books, here are some websites offering audiobooks you can download, rent, or purchase, some free, some not.

Photo by jeff_golden

Free Audiobooks

There a lot of free audiobooks available on various sites, some in the public domain and some from independent authors.

LibriVox.org

LibriVox is a non-commercial, non-profit, and ad-free project that posts audiobooks recorded from books in the public domain, recorded by volunteers, and made available as MP3 downloads or podcasts. The goal of LibriVox is to make all books in the public domain available as free audiobooks on the web.

In addition to downloading audiobooks, you can also volunteer to be a reader. The only qualification is that you have an audible voice.

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BooksShouldBeFree.com

Books Should Be Free provides audiobooks from the public domain available for free that you can listen to on your iPhone, Android, Kindle, or MP3 player. It’s similar to LibriVox and uses LibriVox and Gutenberg.org as sources for the free audiobooks. However, Books Should Be Free provides a more visually entertaining experience and easier way to browse through audiobooks, which are divided into many different genres for your browsing enjoyment.

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NewFiction.com

If you like soap operas, NewFiction offers audiobooks in episode format, performed by multiple, trained, dramatic actors, called iSoaps. They’re considered modern-day radio dramas. Simply sign up and you’ll get a daily installment delivered to your computer, iPod, iPad, or smartphone. You can also listen to the episodes online or download them directly to your computer or portable device.

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PodioBooks.com

PodioBooks.com is similar to NewFiction. They offer about 434 free audiobooks in episodes as podcasts, available in 30 categories. You can receive them as RSS feeds or download the episodes directly.

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Librophile

Librophile offers thousands of free and pay audiobooks and free eBooks. You can subscribe to each free audiobook in iTunes as episodes or download the whole audiobook directly. There are also links allowing you to directly access the eBook versions of the audiobooks on the Project Gutenberg website. The free audiobooks are mostly obtained from the public domain from LibriVox and the pay audiobooks through the Audible affiliate program (see later in this article for more information about Audible). Children’s audiobooks are mostly sourced from Storynory (also see later in this article for more information). Free eBooks are available in multiple formats.

Move your mouse over each thumbnail on the main page to read a summary (it may only be a partial summary) of the audiobook or eBook.

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AudioBooksForFree.com

AudioBooksForFree.com offers classic books recorded as audiobooks for download as MP3 files. There are many categories to help you find what you want, and you can even record and sell your own eBooks on their site, as long as you are the copyright owner.

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Project Gutenberg – The Audio Books Project

The Audio Books Project by Project Gutenberg offers audiobooks created from the classic literature eBooks on their site. They have human-read audiobooks read by volunteers (through sites such as AudioBooksForFree.com and LibriVox), as well as computer-generated audiobooks.

They are working on ways to automatically create computer-generated eBooks on demand.

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FreeClassicAudioBooks.com

FreeClassicAudioBooks.com offers free, downloadable, classic audiobooks in MP3 format and M4B format for iTunes and iPod. You can also support the site by buying collections of audiobooks, audio short stories, and audio language courses on DVD.

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AudioBookTreasury.com

AudioBookTreasury.com offers an ever-growing collection of free audiobooks you can download as MP3 files. They’ve improved upon the free audiobooks by removing advertisements and cleaning up the audio files. You can also find recommendations on their site for the best current audiobooks available for purchase. There are even quizzes about classic books for you to take while waiting for downloads.

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Ambling Audio Books

Ambling Audio Books offers thousands of free audiobooks, most of which come from LibriVox. They provide an easy-to-use interface for browsing and downloading the audiobooks. You can play sample clips, check narrator ratings, and read reviews posted by Ambling listeners. Ambling Audio Books has their own player available for Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Windows, Mac, or Linux. Their player was designed specifically for audiobooks and contains many useful features, such as bookmarks, file management, and the ability to control the player from Bluetooth headphones.

You can also add your own ratings and reviews for the benefit of other Ambling listeners, and even publish your own audiobook.

NOTE: Ambling Audio Books also offers audiobooks for purchase.

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ThoughtAudio.com

ThoughtAudio offers a collection of classical audiobooks that you can listen to online or download in segments. Some of the audiobooks are available as written text in PDF format for download.

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LearnOutLoud.com

LearnOutLoud.com offers over 5000 free audio and video titles from all over the web that can be downloaded in MP3 format (most audio titles) or streamed online (most video titles). These include free audiobooks, lectures, speeches, sermons, interviews, and more.

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Lit2Go

Lit2Go is a website run by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology in the College of Education at the University of South Florida. They offer a free collections of stories and poems in MP3 format. These stories and poems are meant for use in classrooms, but anyone can download them. Each story or poem has an abstract, citation, playing time, and word count, and many items also have a related reading strategy for use in a classroom setting. Each item also has a PDF file you can download and use in the classroom for reading along or as supplemental reading material.

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Open Culture

Open Culture has an article that contains links to 450 free audiobooks, mostly classics, and some non-fiction and poetry. Some titles are available in MP3 format, some in iTunes, and some in both. When a free eBook is available for the title, there is a link to their 325 free eBooks article containing the eBook link.

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Free-Audio-Books.co.uk

Free-Audio-Books.co.uk is another site offering free audiobooks, mostly classic and old titles, organized into categories. You can choose to download them in MP3 format or listen to them online.

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Storynory

Storynory is a website that offers children’s stories drawn from unusual stories from around the world and from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. They also offer original stories. Each audiobook comes with the full text of the book in English which can be translated into other languages. A new audio story is published every week.

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Wowbrary

Wowbrary is a website that regularly informs you about your local public library’s newest books, movies, and music (if your library is covered by the site). Register for free on their site to choose your local library and receive updates about their offerings by email and/or RSS. You can also browse through the latest additions and put a hold on a title you want to check out.

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Non-Free Audiobooks

If you want current bestsellers in audiobook form, there are several good websites for purchasing or renting them.

Audible

Audible is one of the most popular websites for purchasing audiobooks and they’ve partnered with Amazon. In addition to audiobooks, Audible also offers radio shows, podcasts, stand-up comedy, and speeches from well known people.

You can listen to audiobooks from Audible on a large selection of mobile phones, such as Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, MP3 players, such as iPod, Creative ZEN, and SanDisk Sansa, and Windows and Mac computers. You can also use a Kindle Fire.

Audible offers subscription plans (two monthly and two annual) that allow you to “buy” audiobooks using credits and to save 30% off audiobooks purchased without credits. You can get one or two credits a month (monthly plans) or 12 or 24 credits all at once (yearly plans). With you subscription, you also get a free daily audio subscription to either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

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Simply Audiobooks

Simply Audiobooks offers three ways to get new releases, bestsellers, classics, and down-to-business titles in audiobooks, available in MP3 or M4B format.

One method is to join their Download Club, which is a subscription plan that gives you credits you can redeem for more than 9,000 audiobooks on their site. You pay a flat subscription rate and you can download most audiobooks for one credit each. A small number of titles require two credits to download.

You can also choose their Rental Program, which allows you to listen to as many audiobooks on CDs as you can each month. Add titles to your shelf, and when you finish one and return it, the next title on your shelf is shipped to you. You can choose rental plans that allow you to have from one to four books at a time for a flat monthly fee. Shipping is free both ways. Depending on how fast you go through audiobooks, you can pay a lot less per audiobook than the cost of buying it.

If you don’t want to commit to a monthly fee, you can purchase audiobooks on CD or to download instantly without signing up for the club or rental program. You can save 10% on all physical audiobooks.

NOTE: Not all books are available for all three options. For each audiobook listed in their catalog, they indicate whether it is available for Rent, through the Club, or to Buy.

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AudioGO (BBC Audiobooks America)

AudioGO (formerly known as BBC Audiobooks America) offers complete and unabridged audiobooks, both single-voiced (one person reading the book) and full-cast dramatized (a cast of readers acting out the story), and radio dramas. They are the exclusive North American distributor for BBC Audiobooks. Audiobooks purchased on AudioGO are sent on CD or MP3 CD, as well as available for download.

NOTE: AudioGO is a good source for Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Sarah Jane Adventures audiobooks, for fans of those TV shows.

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Audio Book Store

The Audio Book Store offers a large collection of audiobooks, available in downloadable, streaming, and CD formats.

Their service for downloading audiobooks is provided by Audible, mentioned earlier.

If you want audiobooks to be shipped to you on CD, you can choose their rental program, which is similar to the Rental Program at Simply Audiobooks.

The streaming service is a monthly plan that allows you unlimited access to the entire audiobook library and you can stream an unlimited number of audiobooks per month to your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. One advantage to the streaming service is that you can listen to your audiobooks across multiple devices. For example, you can start listening to a book on your phone, continue listening to it on your laptop, and then go back to listening to it on your phone again.

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Just Audiobooks

Just Audiobooks offers over 100,000 bestselling audiobooks from the most popular authors, and is very similar to the Audio Book Store. Just Audiobooks has also partnered with Audible to provide their download service.

If you want to rent audiobooks on CD, choose their Audio Book CD Rental Service, which is provided by Simply Audiobooks. If you prefer to buy audiobooks on CD to have permanently, you can purchase audiobooks on CD.

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The Great Courses

The Great Courses has found the top 100 teaching professors in the country from Ivy League universities, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities, and worked with them to create over 390 great courses you can purchase in video format on DVD or audio format on CD, download video or audio, or stream to your computer or mobile device.

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All of these resources for audiobooks should provide you with many hours of entertainment and enlightenment.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 07/21/12

Comments (5)

  1. Ushindi

    Thanks for the list, Lori – I’ve bookmarked it.
    One thing that some may not realize, if new to free audiobooks, is that one person/volunteer reader may not read the entire book. Your hero/heroine may be voiced by numerous readers of both sexes by the time the audio is finished. Just takes a little getting used to, when your rough, gnarly barbarian chieftain suddenly changes from speaking in a gruff baritone to a soft, lilting soprano.
    These are unpaid volunteers, remember:-)

  2. Marcel

    Well done.
    Bookmarking for sure.
    Free is good. Especially in this economy.
    My two books for college this semester were over $400, one new and one used.
    My niece will be purchasing books for six classes this semester, geesh!

  3. Keith

    It looks awesome. And it is. I only wish, out of the vast catalogue there, that there could be a ‘suggested reading’ list of a few books, here at HTG. I often get so overwhelmed by options, lists of things to pick from, I just freeze and don’t pick anything.

  4. Nikki

    eMusic also has a pretty good audiobook selection. Plus they download as MP3s, so no worries about what device they are compatible with.

  5. justin

    Your local public library may also have ebooks and eaudiobooks.

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