Reading can be an expensive hobby. Sure, libraries still exist, but fewer people seem to use them. Instead, many opt for buying ebooks straight to their Kindles and iPads or, as has become increasingly popular in recent years, tuning in to an audiobook on Audible.
The thing is, Audible isn’t cheap. While $15 a month for an otherwise $20+ audiobook might seem like a steal, there are plenty of other audiobook apps out there that are either completely free or at least much cheaper than Audible.
So, in this article we’ll take a brief look at six of these free to near-free audiobook apps.
First up is Libby, which works by connecting your library card to access your local library’s digital collection of ebooks and audiobooks.
Libby offers a pleasant, intuitive interface with an audiobook player that resembles Audible’s. You can increase or decrease playback speed, set a sleep timer, skip a few seconds backward or forward, place a bookmark, and view chapters. Also like Audible, you can download books for offline listening.
There are a couple of caveats to Libby. First, you can only listen to audiobooks in your local library’s collection.
Second, Libby treats her audiobooks just like any other library item with borrows, holds, and renews. This means if there is only one “copy” of Where the Crawdads Sing, and it’s currently being borrowed by someone else, you can place the book on hold and Libby will estimate when it will be available to borrow.
Even so, Libby is basically free (technically you pay taxes for your library), so if you live in an area with a comprehensive local library and don’t mind waiting until books are available to borrow, it’s a great Audible alternative.
Download: Libby for iOS | Android (Free)
Chirp Audiobooks provides daily deals on popular audiobooks. These deals aren’t just 5-10% cuts from original prices but often immense price drops. It’s not uncommon to find deals in the $3-6 range on Chirp for audiobooks that would otherwise retail for $20+. What’s more, the audiobooks are yours to keep.
Once you purchase a book from Chirp’s website, it will be downloaded to Chirp’s audiobook player app, which includes all the essentials: a playback speed adjuster, bookmarks, a sleep timer, downloading for offline listening, and more.
Despite its appeal, Chirp has a similar disadvantage as Libby. That is, you might not always be able to listen to what you want to listen to since the audiobook deals change daily. Still, Chirp will recommend books in your preferred genres, so if you like discovering new books at cheap prices, Chirp might be for you.
Download: Chirp Audiobooks for iOS | Android (Free, with in-app purchases)
3. LibriVox Audio Books
Unlike Libby and Chirp, LibriVox offers over 50,000 public domain audiobooks completely produced by volunteers, from reading and recording to editing and distributing. Of course, the wonderful advantage of volunteer production means that LibriVox is completely free.
The LibriVox app is a simple audiobook player with the basic features. You can search the collection by title, keyword, author, and even the narrator. LibriVox releases new audiobooks daily as well, ever expanding its immense collection.
However, since the audiobooks are in the public domain, older classics comprise most of the available collection. But, if you love the classics and don’t want to pay for audiobooks, LibriVox is a fantastic Audible alternative.
Download: LibriVox Audio Books for iOS | Android (Free)
4. Loyal Books
Loyal Books is much like LibriVox in that its collection consists of free, public domain audiobooks. While Loyal Books’ audiobook collection is much less comprehensive than LibriVox’s, Loyal Book also offers thousands of ebooks.
You can stream or download audiobooks, add a sleep timer, skip forward and backward, and adjust the playback speed. Loyal Books also includes book reviews, which can be quite helpful in deciding which ones to listen to.
However, this app has a similar downside as LibriVox. Most of the books are classics, so don’t expect to find modern teen fiction or popular self-help books on Loyal Books.
Download: Loyal Books for iOS | Android (Free)
That’s right. You can listen to audiobooks on Spotify.
Finding audiobooks on Spotify can be a bit of a challenge since there is no dedicated audiobook section like there is for podcasts and music. Even so, there are a few worthwhile ones buried in Spotify’s database if you don’t mind doing some searching. Also, Spotify offers its own audiobook originals.
There are a couple of obvious drawbacks to using Spotify for audiobooks. First, unless you already pay for Spotify, you’ll experience ads during your listening experience.
Second, Spotify is short of a comprehensive collection. Like LibriVox and Loyal Books, most audiobooks on Spotify are in the public domain and are therefore often classics and not contemporary bestsellers.
Still, if you already pay for Spotify you might as well give it a search for an audiobook to see if it’s available before spending money on one from Audible or another paid app.
Download: Spotify for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
Last on the list is YouTube. Believe it or not, YouTube has thousands of audiobooks uploaded as video files. And since you can change the playback speed on YouTube, using it to listen to audiobooks is not much different from using a dedicated audiobook app.
Like many of the other apps on this list, YouTube primarily includes audiobooks in the public domain. So again, don’t expect to find too many recent audiobooks.
In addition to the limited selection of audiobooks, YouTube has another major drawback. Unless you pay for YouTube Premium, you can’t listen to audiobooks on the YouTube app while your phone is locked.
Download: YouTube for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
Hoopla is similar to Libby, in that it’s completely free to anyone in the US who connects their library card to the app. You borrow audiobooks virtually and can stream them in the app or download them for offline play.
When listening to an audiobook, you can place a bookmark to instantly save your place, along with adding a note if there’s something you want to remind yourself about. You can control the speed of playback, set a sleep timer, and there’s even dedicated modes for when you’re working out or in the car.
Libby is a great Audible alternative because, like Hoopla, you don’t pay a cent because it’s covered by your taxes. What’s not to like?
Download: Hoopla for iOS | Android (Free)
Should You Switch From Audible?
There you have it! Six Audible alternatives free or almost free of charge. But is it worth the switch from Audible to one of these apps? Of course, it will depend. If you like to listen to books only off your reading list, then you’d be better off with Audible because of its large collection of instantly available audiobooks.
However, if you don’t mind waiting until an audiobook is available or if you enjoy listening to mostly older classics, then give one of these apps a try. At the very least, they are much cheaper than Audible.
These apps aren’t the only ways to listen to audiobooks for free or cheap. For example, you might be able to take advantage of an Audible promo code or use add-on narration for Kindle ebooks.
Audiobooks Are Expensive! 6 Ways to Listen for Free or Cheap
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