The audiobook industry is in the cusp of a major change, with a new technology from Apple using AI-narrated features that promises to make audiobook production more accessible to independent and indie publishers, according to Apple’s website. This means we, as audiobook listeners, could potentially enjoy more audiobooks selections at lower prices in the future. In the meantime, though, here are several ways you can score audiobooks for free.
You’ve probably heard of free movie screening websites, like Gofobo, where you can get invited to watch an upcoming movie before it comes out—there’s a website that does the same thing for audiobooks. Net Galley gives you access to the latest books and audiobooks by distributing digital galleys, or advanced reader copies (ARCs), in exchange for an honest review with the intention of creating hype for the book.
You need approval from the website, but it’s easy if you use Goodreads, Amazon, or BookBub to write books reviews because you can sync those profiles when setting up your Net Galley account. Even if you’ve never used those accounts or written a review of a book, you can still apply; they want regular book advocates in addition to professional book reviewers to review as many ARCs as possible.
Libby is OverDrive’s mobile app to get free access to e-books, audiobooks, and magazines from your library—all you need is a library card from your local public library. Like a library, Libby only allows you to borrow a certain amount of audiobooks or e-books at a time, but the app allows you to listen or read your borrowed content off-line. Plus, all your devices are synced, so you can listen on your computer at home, and then pick up where you left off on your phone when you get in your car.
Libby is only for digital content and is available for Android and iOS, browsers Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge, and the Microsoft Store if you use Windows. You can also send your borrowed content to your Kindle if you don’t want to read it on your phone or computer (if you have one of the newer Kindles that supports the feature).
According to OverDrive, over 90% of public libraries in North America have OverDrive, so odds are, your library uses it. You can check if they do here. OverDrive originally had an app named after their company, but it was discontinued in early 2022 and replaced by Libby.
Similarly to Libby, Hoopla is an app that allows you to borrow audiobooks and e-books from your local library for free if you have a card, but it also gives you access to movies, music, and graphic novels. The way you borrow on Hoopla is different from Libby, though; instead of working like a real-life physical library, Hoopla allows you to borrow any of their content immediately with no wait time. So you can get the latest popular audiobook regardless of how many people are checking it out at the same time. However, Hoopla limits you to 10 items you can check out each month.
Hoopla’s interface is not as user-friendly as Libby’s, but it has a larger selection of content to choose from. It also syncs across devices and picks up where you left off. They both have their pros and cons, but they are both free and can complement each other.
Public domain websites
Content that enters the public domain is any book where nobody holds the copyrights to them, and are therefore free to distribute. Most are converted to audiobooks and e-books by volunteers and distributed through many websites. Most of the content is old-time classics published before 1923, meaning you can find nuggets like Homer’s Lliad and The Odyssey, The Richest Man in Babylon, and The Great Gatsby. Here are some websites where you can get these audiobooks from.