Rahul is an app enthusiast who loves scouring the web for alternatives to popular apps and websites. Monopoly mustn't prevail!
Why Do Audiobooks Matter?
Audiobooks have contributed to increased book consumption across the world, with more people listening to audiobooks than reading. For many observers, this change is credited to the ease of listening to audiobooks compared to reading books. You wouldn’t read a book while driving to work, but you could listen to an audiobook.
With this shift, it is imperative that you use a feature-rich audiobook app that delivers the best user experience. Granted, there are a fair few high-quality audiobook apps available. So, which audiobook app is best for you?
Best Free Audiobook Apps
The numerous audiobook apps available today differ in features, pricing models, and simplicity of use. Below, I discuss a number of the best free audiobooks that you should consider.
- Loyal Books
Hoopla Audiobooks is a groundbreaking product that allows users free access to a variety of digital media services. HoopIa connects with your local public library through members’ cards to facilitate easy borrowing of movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics, and TV shows among others.
The service has a wide variety of public domain audiobooks and hosts files compatible with users’ computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Some audiobooks can even be consumed via their television through streaming.
Like most audiobook service providers, Hoopla allows users to stream their favorite titles with ease. However, you can also download the files to your device for later listening while offline.
Because the Hoopla mobile integrates with your car system seamlessly, it is especially suitable for listening to audiobooks in the car. Thus, you can enjoy an audiobook while driving to work or even during a road trip.
The biggest downside, however, is Hoopla’s reliance on public library catalogs. While the app is free, for example, users still require a public library subscription to use the audiobooks. Further, some public libraries impose limitations on how many books you can check out in a month, which in turn limits the number of audiobooks one can listen to.
- Tracks multiple user metrics
- Easy to borrow audiobooks for training
- Compatible with web and mobile devices
- Limited customization options
- No multi-lingual support
2. Loyal Books
Similar to LibriVox and Hoopla, Loyal Books stocks a vast collection of free audiobooks based on public domain titles. The service, therefore, carries a litany of classic titles, including The Origin of Species, Dracula, and Frankenstein, among others.
Available via the website and mobile applications, Loyal Books makes it easy for its users to find and listen to their favorite book titles. Because these books no longer hold copyright, users normally own whichever public domain audiobook titles they download for later consumption.
Users can also play these Loyal Books titles from their favorite audiobook player. The service integrates with the Apple podcast app, can support traditional MP3 files, and may also be streamed live using dedicated RSS feeds.
Loyal Books is also a multi-lingual site with support for up to 28 international languages, meaning you’d be hardpressed to miss a good listen on the platform. The titles on Loyal Books are also of the highest quality. The public domain books are digitized by either Gutenberg.org or LibriVox, while you’ll love the professional-quality narration used.
Loyal Books Pros
- Choice of download or streaming options
- Audiobooks available in multiple formats
- No DRM requirement for audiobook downloads
Loyal Books Cons
- A small catalog of titles compared to rivals
- Ad-filled user interface
- Poor title and genre variety
- Has little interaction during the e-reading experience
Now owned by Amazon, Audible is not a free audiobook per se. However, its try-to-buy model awards users a standard 30-day free trial, which has just as many benefits as an all-free app would.
In fact, the free trial allows users to access Audible's vast library of audiobook titles. The only caveat is that the standard plan comes with rationed limits on how many audiobooks a user can listen to per month. Still, the free trial on Audible is rich enough for those trying out audiobooks for the first time. Or people who are generally light readers.
So what do you get on the free trial? Well, everything. All users receive Audible credits each month that are exchanged for their favorite audiobook title. One credit allows access to an audiobook title regardless of its price.
You can also download one free audiobook title as well as two Audible Originals at no cost. What's better? Audible will let you keep all these titles even if you opt against buying a paid plan.
- Full library access with a free trial
- Accessible on multiple devices
- Large selection of titles
- Easy bookmarking enabled
- Access to only three titles
- Unused membership credits expire
- Downloaded audiobooks take up significant storage space
The LibriVox catalog of audiobooks incorporates all such public domain book titles converted into audiobooks by volunteers. These are then availed for public consumption free of charge via the LibriVox website and mobile applications.
With a mission to make these public domain audiobooks easily accessible, LibriVox has become the leading resource for such books since its 2005 launch. LibriVox volunteers record chapters of these books in different languages around the world, making some of the best books available to millions of people at no cost.
The audiobooks are also available in different formats, making them compatible with many other audiobook devices. Thanks to the LibriVox project, it is much easier to access classic books titles from venerable authors. To date, some of the classic LibriVox audiobook titles include works done by Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and HG Wells, among others.
LibriVox users can download any audiobook for listening to at a later date. Similarly, the multi-lingual narrations are hugely important, while the platform has a considerable number of titles.
However, focusing on public domain books limits LibriVox's scope and library size immeasurably. It essentially locks out newer book titles or those with longer copyright durations and could plausibly deny them hundreds of would-be users.
- Completely free to use
- Audiobooks available in multiple formats
- Easy access to classic titles
- Limited library of titles
- Only copyright-expired audiobooks
With Overdrive, users receive free audiobook offers from their local public library. The offers are shared through the official app, but every user must sign up through their local library to access the audiobook titles available.
The Overdrive catalog is one of the most expansive in terms of the variety of book genres in stock. The catalog also possesses other complementary materials such as eBooks and podcasts, and users enjoy unlimited access to the catalog.
Unlike Hoopla, however, user access to Overdrive Audiobooks is not limited to what your local library has. The platform enables users to order their favorite audiobook so long as it’s held by a public library within one’s immediate location.
Similarly, Overdrive audiobooks are not copyright free despite being available to the public for free. As a result, users borrow and return the audiobooks rather than buy them. You can also use the Overdrive app to request your library to order any given audiobook.
The non-public domain audiobooks are therefore limited in supply, hence the need to return the titles you’re done with. Do note, therefore, that all Overdrive audiobooks are protected by DRM, which prevents the reproduction of the audiobooks. Users can also listen to their audiobooks using the official Overdrive app only.
- Free membership subscriptions
- Expansive catalog of audiobook titles
- Access multiple library collections
- Compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows devices
- Get free audiobook samples
- Short audiobook turnaround times
- Requires manual file conversion before downloading
- Does not work with some major platforms
Spotify Audiobooks service is a free division of Spotify’s online streaming business. Just recently launched, the service has an extensive collection of both classic and public domain audiobooks sourced across numerous genres.
Spotify Audiobooks is altogether free for all users of other Spotify products and does not discriminate between paying and non-paying subscribers. While other Spotify products have premium plans, users get to enjoy a premium experience for free with the new audiobooks hosting product.
Besides the free audiobooks, you can also enjoy direct access to the rest of Spotify’s offerings, including music streaming and a top-of-the-range podcasting universe. Despite being completely free to use, however, users must be registered Spotify customers to access the audiobooks feature. That is no obstacle, though, as non-Spotify users can sign up for a free account that gets them instant access to an expansive library of audiobook titles.
Some of these audiobook titles are exclusive Spotify recordings, with the company adding such classics as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion, among others.
For the most part, you can listen to your favorite audiobook from Spotify using an audiobook reader of your choice. However, some of the exclusive Spotify audiobook recordings are only accessible via the company’s official mobile apps.
Dubbed Open Spotify, the Spotify audiobook library has prominent search functionality that makes discovering new titles a breeze. You can also follow your favorite authors, narrators, or book series to receive instant notifications about new uploads.
- Wide collection of audiobook titles
- Supports multiple international languages
- Users can download audiobooks for offline playback
- User-friendly app interface with custom organization possible
- The free audiobooks have very low sound quality
- DRM encryption makes it impossible to play audiobooks on other apps
- Poor user-app assimilation with no narration guides
- Impossible to download free audiobooks
- Search functionality is difficult to use
The Libby audiobook app for mobile is a different proposition from the usual industry leaders. The app is completely free to use with no premium plans included. It's also compatible with a wide variety of mobile devices and operating systems to include more users.
The main difference, however, relates to Libby's catalog. Unlike Audible or Google Play Books, Libby users get exclusive access to such audiobook titles held by their local library. By extension, therefore, different Libby users get access to a varying number of titles depending on how well-stocked their local library is.
However, Libby also limits how much time users can spend listening to audiobooks on the app. This feature makes Libby the only audiobook app concerned with improving its users' quality of life balance.
While totally free, some users will find Libby's library of titles appalling. In fact, frustrations are to be expected when one's favorite audiobook is missing from their local library. The app also requires that users be members of their local libraries first, as the app connects your library card to enable your access to the audiobooks.
- Attractive user interface
- Compatible with multiple devices and mobile OS
- Free to use
- No Libby desktop client
- Limited access to local library titles only
Storynory is a great free audiobook app for children’s stories. The platform is mostly stocked with long-form children’s stories. Storynory is famed for its collection of both popular and classic children’s audiobooks, with fairy tales especially successful on the platform.
The Storynory platform boasts an expansive catalog of audiobook selections, mixing both old and new children’s stories to great effect. Just like Audible, Storynory also produces its own selection of original stories that are exclusively available to Storynory users.
Incredibly, all audiobooks are free, regardless of their popularity, genre, or whether they are Storynory originals. Most Storynory narrations are released on a weekly basis. As such, you can stream a series of new releases or opt for an already completed audiobook.
The platform has the largest collection of children’s audiobooks in the world today, with more than 10 thousand unique audiobook titles available. The mobile app integrates seamlessly with popular car stereo systems, while your downloads can be played on any major audiobook reader.
While Storynory makes most of its revenues from advertising, the platform does not place ads within its book narrations. Indeed, the platform bucks the norm of most free audiobook platforms, with Google Adsense its main advertising network.
- Totally free audiobooks with no subscription needed
- The platform is easy to use
- Better audiobook quality than other free apps
- Smaller library compared to peers
- Skewed towards more children’s stories
Did I miss out on any other free audiobook apps? Let me know in the comments section.
© 2022 Rahul Pandey