Audiobooks 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. Unfortunately, beaming books into your ears can be pricier than you might expect.
Luckily, the internet has opened the door to a veritable trove 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 to get audiobooks for free; you can also find mobile apps that provide the same service.
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 internet or download in 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.
Lit2Go offers one of the finer looking free sources 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 (grades K through 12).
The bulk of the audiobooks can be downloaded as a single MP3 or as short, segmented passages of specific chapters. The homepage search option is also a nice touch, as is the black-and-white artwork that accompanies each title and book collection. Our personal favorites? We’re going to have to go with Proto-Feminist Literature or Autumn in Verse — after all, nothing does inspire classic poetry quite like the turning of the seasons.
Scribl (formerly Podiobooks) showcases some of the best, off-the-beaten-path audiobooks the Internet has to offer, many of which are even recent publishings. 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 status, release date, and title. The site also allows you to donate to your favorite author directly if you feel so inclined, whether his or her book falls under the “Hard-Boiled” or “Urban Fantasy” selection.
Formally known as Books Should Be Free, Loyal Books 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 in addition to a podcast and an RSS feed. You can also stream book chapters online and browse titles by genre, language, and popularity, or search for specific books using the integrated Google search bar at the top of the page.
Plus, most books offer ratings and reviews from fellow listeners, thus giving you a slightly better idea of what to expect before you hit the play button.
There just isn’t always time for bedtime stories — no matter how amazing a parent you are. Thankfully, Storynory provides a solution for those who simply can’t find the time to read to their kids, offering a collection of original and classic fairy tales and short novels specifically tailored for children.
The site currently offers a few hundred audiobooks to choose from, and that number is steadily growing as it routinely publishes at least one new story each week. Storynory also touts some of the most exuberant narrators around, and given each story utilizes an HTML 5 player for playback purposes, you can listen to the audiobooks on nearly any smartphone, tablet, or browser available. The occasional story competitions only further encourage listening and creativity on behalf of your children.