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.
Digital Book, previously known as Librophile, is another free alternative for accessing classic audiobooks. The site’s minimalistic design, clean layout, and bookshelf-like appearance make it easy to navigate through the vast array of titles by popularity, release date, and user rating. Want to listen to James Joyce’s Ulysses or the inspiration for the longest running musical on Broadway? Not a problem. You can stream chapters right on the site or download entire novels for offline use; chosen offerings automatically download as zip files, with MP3 files inside. Like most of the sites we’ve listed, there’s also a search bar to help you find what you’re looking for.
Learn Out Loud is a hybrid audiobook library of sorts. The site features an enormous collection of audiobooks — more than 30,000 and counting — but they’re not all free. However, if you click the Free Stuff tab at the top of the homepage, you can access a fairly extensive collection of free audiobooks. From there you can browse by genre, popularity, and audio format. The site also continually spotlights the free audiobook of the month in the left-hand column, while offering a noteworthy selection of foreign language courses and video documentaries.
If you’re tired of the classics and you’re looking for something new and different, BookRix may be able to help you out. The site serves a platform for independent writers to publish their work for free, allowing for a multitude of both written and audio content that doesn’t necessarily conform to the “classic” bill. It’s an extensive collection, too, one that features thousands upon thousands of pages worth of novels. You can filter search results based factors such as genre or popularity, or simply search for a specified writer. The active user community and comment threads are BookRix’s biggest assets, though, and can provide you with a method of engagement that goes beyond simple listening.
We never said you had to actually go to your public library to pick up an audiobook — heaven forbid! Most public library systems now have extensive online databases where you can stream and download audiobooks completely free with or without using your library card. Although the browsing method and audiobook availability will vary from county to county (library systems in populous metro areas are generally the most comprehensive), most public libraries typically offer more recent audiobooks that have yet to enter public domain. Search your local listings or head on over to publiclibraries.com to find your county library.
Update: Added LibriVox and some helpful links.
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