Great literature is closer than you think, and you don't even need to visit a bookstore or pick up your e-reader to find it. If you haven't got time to sit down with a book — or if you just like being read to — check out one of these sites, which allow access to thousands of free audiobooks. There's the perfect one for you in the mix!
1. Loyal Books
In the past, you might have known Loyal Books as Books Should Be Free (amen to that). The site offers free audiobooks from a multitude of genres, from adventure and romance to science fiction and historical fiction. Users can download titles from Loyal Books to be listened to via an MP3 file or through the Apple Podcasts app, or to stream on an RSS feed. The site offers content in 28 languages, from Ancient Greek to Urdu, not including multilingual titles. Volunteers from the site itself, or from Project Gutenberg and Librivox, which are listed below, digitize public domain books to make them accessible in the Loyal Books library.
2. Open Culture
Open Culture wants us to learn today. The site does more than provide a wide array of audiobooks: It offers free cultural and educational media to whomever wants it. You can find online educational courses on everything from economics to philosophy and even demography to guided meditations, textbooks, and movies. Selections can be listened to via free mp3 downloads, streams, or iTunes downloads. Open Culture runs on donations.
Digitalbook, which is powered by Amazon, offers a wide range of titles and genres, and it looks good doing it; unlike many a competitor, the site's design is "clean and simple." Many of the audiobooks offered can be listened to as podcasts, so you can access them easily on an iPhone via the Apple Podcasts app. And because Digital Books has an up-to-date trending chart of books, you can get recommendations from your fellow audiobook listeners.
Overdrive helps users gain access to free audiobooks and encourages them to explore their public libraries; the site partners with local schools and libraries to bring its catalog of audiobooks to as many people as possible. Its apps, Libby and Sora (available in the App Store), make collaboration with libraries and schools possible: Libby instructs users on how to get a library card in order to connect them to local public libraries where Overdrive houses audiobooks, and Sora utilizes student logins to grant student users access to Overdrive's catalog of audiobooks in their school's library. Overdrive is fueled by its partnerships with major publishing organizations and media companies, and audiobooks can be listened to through the aforementioned applications.
Of course LibriVox grants its users with free audiobooks, but it also takes the process one step further: Because the site's free audiobooks are made possible by volunteer readers, you can volunteer your voice — and dramatic reading skills — to help LibriVox expand its library. In particular, LibriVox needs your help to record books in the public domain, or those that were published before 1923 (no audition or prior recording experience is necessary). Turn your love of audiobooks into a way to give back to the public domain, of which your recorded voice will become a part! LibriVox's audiobook catalog can be enjoyed by downloading audiobook files onto a computer, smartphone, or CD-ROM.
As indicated by its name, Lit2Go focuses on the classics. What sets the site apart from the rest, however, is that it's a treasure trove for an expansive selection of poetry compilations, many of which can be hard to find in the catalogs of other audiobook sites. Lit2Go boasts compilations of Emily Dickinson's work, poetry found on vintage scenic postcards from Florida, and much of Paul Laurence Dunbar's finest writing (just to name a few). Lit2Go invites users to support literacy by donating, and its collection is available in mp3 format.
7. Project Gutenberg
As the oldest digital library online, Project Gutenberg has been working to archive as many books as possible since its founding in 1971. The site's catalog now consists of over 60,000 free ebooks downloadable as mp3 files. That number was made possible by the site's practice of approving 99% of the requests it receives to turn books into audiobooks or ebooks. Similar to LibriVox, Project Gutenberg asks readers to donate their voices if they're willing and able. Volunteer voices contribute to their human-read audiobook collection, and the site also houses a computer-read audiobook collection. If you've got a book you'd like digitized that Project Gutenberg doesn't already have in their catalog, send them an email. Otherwise, the organization is powered by donations.
This audiobook archive is a registered nonprofit that impressively compiles some libraries mentioned on this list and more. In addition to housing LibriVox and Project Gutenberg's catalogs, Archive grants users access to Naropa Poetics Audio Archive, Maria Lectrix, and Internet Archive. Instead of visiting each of those five catalogs and searching them individually, you can head over to Archive to do a master search. Archive doesn't only handle audiobooks, web pages, images, and software programs, it also offers free audio access to over 200,000 live concerts. The audio files on Archive can be streamed directly from the site. You can get involved with Archive by donating, volunteering at one of their many events throughout the year, or through the career opportunities listed on their website.
StoryNory's offerings are as cute as its name suggests: The site offers free audiobook versions of stories, fairytales, poems, music, and myths. That includes narrative works by classic authors (think Dickens, Carroll, and Baum), myths from Welsh, Norse, Greek, and other world cultures, and fairytales from the Brothers Grimm, Aesop, and Charles Perrault. StoryNory is perfect for parents looking for a great way to entertain kids, or for folks of all ages who just want to be read a bedtime story. The books are read by an enthusiastic, kid-friendly voice, and selections can be streamed from the site, which stays up and running thanks to Patreon donors.
10. Thought Audio
Thought Audio prides itself on providing the gift of knowledge through free audiobook versions of classic titles, philosophic works, biblical excerpts, and prayers. The site's catalog consists of ancient wisdom from multiple faiths, so tune in to discover new truths and find your center. Thought Audio is powered by donations, and audiobooks are read by volunteers. The site's material can be streamed directly from its website or downloaded onto computers.
BONUS: Spotify's Audiobooks Playlist
Who knew everyone's favorite streaming service housed an audiobooks playlist? Although it's not as exhaustive as other collections listed above, if you've already downloaded the app, audiobooks are at your fingertips. The playlist is entitled "Audiobooks" and each of its 122 "songs" is actually a book (or part of one, depending on length). Like the free music on Spotify, the audiobooks playlist doesn't cost a thing, as long as you don't mind sitting through the occasional ad. However, audiobooks can't be listened to in any selected order without Spotify Premium.