Audiobooks can bring together the best of both worlds: The joys of a good story and the convenience of easy listening. They also often serve as a great way to pass time whether you’re cooking up your favorite dish or out for a long drive. While audiobooks may lack the feel and sweet smell of a traditional book, a well done voiceover can do more than make up for the loss of aesthetics. It can be an engaging ride that is both worthwhile and convenient on-the-go. But alas, audiobooks don’t always come cheap.
For instance, an audio copy of E. L. James’ best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey will cost you a whopping $27 on iTunes. Even literary classics such as The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, and The Hobbit can be rather expensive when not on promotion. And let’s not get started on new releases.
Luckily, the Internet has a opened the door to a virtual library of audiobooks if you don’t mind forgoing top-notch narrations and sticking mainly with the classics. Here are our picks for the best websites for free audiobooks — whether you want to listen on the Web or on your iPod.
Open Culture is one of the better gateway websites for educational and cultural media. The site compiles content from around the Web and has an admirable collection of audiobooks – primarily classics – that you can stream over the Web or download on a variety of audio formats for later consumption. The audiobooks are organized by genre (fiction and literature, nonfiction and poetry) and alphabetically listed by the author’s last name.
Project Gutenberg houses one of the largest and oldest collections of audiobooks on the Web. Its audiobooks project – a collaboration with fellow pioneers LibriVox and AudioBooksForFree – breaks down its extensive collection of books by human and computer-generated narration. From there you can browse books lists by author’s last name, title, and language. However, we suggest avoiding computer-generated narrations if possible. No one should have to listen to Jack London’s Call of the Wild read by a Siri knockoff.
Lit2Go has one of the finer looking free websites for audiobooks. The throwback site, run by Florida’s Educational Technology Clearinghouse, contains a comprehensive collection of downloadable short stories and poems that you can browse by author, title, genre, collection, and even reading level. The bulk of the audiobooks can be downloaded as a single MP3 entity or as short, segmented passages of specific chapters. The homepage search option is also a nice touch.
Podiobooks showcases some of the best off-the-beat-path audiobooks the internet has to offer. The site distributes serialized audiobooks via RSS; just click on any of the audiobook links to begin streaming or downloading the narration. Although the collection is rather limited, you can browse the book selection by contributing author, genre, award-winning collections, new releases, and title. Plus, where else can you browse by “Cyberpunk” and “Urban Fantasy” categories? Probably nowhere.
Books Should Be Free
Books Should Be Free is a family-friendly website that caters to the classic literature devotee. The site offers a nice collection of public domain novels and short stories in multiple languages, available in both Mp3 and MP4 format. You can also stream book chapters online and browse titles by genre, language, and top 100, or search for specific books using the integrated Google search bar at the top of the page. Plus, all books are rated and reviewed to give you a slightly better idea of what to expect.