Audiobooks are a great way to enjoy your favourite writers. But this luxury can come at a price, so we’re here to help with tips on how to get free audiobooks on all the biggest services.
While you can easily save money on physical books by buying them second hand or borrowing a copy from a friend, things are a little less straightforward with audiobooks – second-hand copies just aren’t a thing, for a start.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to keep costs down, including tips for getting free audiobooks and free Audible credits. Read on (sadly not in audiobook format) to find out how!
Get free audiobooks in your university library
Before you go in search of websites offering free audiobooks, check to see if your university’s library offers them already.
There’s no guarantee that they will, but it’s certainly worth a look – the audiobook collections will usually extend beyond academic subjects and could even include fiction and self-help books.
If it turns out that audiobooks aren’t one of the things you can get free from your university, don’t stress. Your local library may well stock audiobooks instead, so find your nearest branch and check their website (or give them a call) to find out.
And, as it’s all digital, there’s no way you’ll end up returning something late and getting a library fine. Ideal.
Listen to free audiobooks in the public domain
When the copyright of a book expires, the work enters what’s known as the ‘public domain’. This means that the book can, among other things, be copied, sold, adapted or performed by anyone without the need to ask for permission or pay for its use.
‘Performed’ is the crucial one here, as it means people are free to record their own audiobook version of a published work – and they often release them for free too.
Copyright lasts for decades, even after an author has passed away, so the majority of well-known books (and therefore audiobooks) in the public domain are older works – expect to find the likes of War and Peace, Jane Eyre and all of Shakespeare’s classics.
However, websites that list these audiobooks may also contain some lesser-known but more modern works that haven’t been copyrighted. Check out the sites below and see what you find.
Best free audiobook websites
Stream audiobooks for free
The BBC’s app (also available to use online) has a whole host of audiobooks to listen to, all completely free-of-charge – you don’t even need a TV Licence to enjoy them (although if you use this TV Licence hack, you won’t need one to watch tele either).
As for Spotify, whether or not it’s free is down to you. You can use the service without paying, but you’ll have to put up with ads and you won’t be able to download any content to listen to offline. Subscribers have no such issues, and you can sign up for a free trial of Spotify to try it out for a month, with no extra cost for audiobooks.
After the free trial has elapsed, make sure you sign up for a Spotify Student membership (or cancel if you don’t want to keep paying). This costs half as much as a regular subscription and also gets you free access to the Headspace app – a great tool for helping you practise self-care.
Either way, to find the free audiobooks on Spotify, just head to the search bar, enter ‘audiobooks’ and enjoy what’s on offer.
30-day free trial of Audible
While lots of other sites, including some that we’ve already mentioned, offer free audiobooks, there’s no denying that the biggest player in this game is Audible.
This Amazon-owned audio platform has an absolutely enormous selection of audiobooks, with almost all of the latest and greatest big-name releases. On top of this, Audible also has a range of exclusive podcasts, from creators including Derren Brown, Stephen Fry, Sarah Millican and more.
Usually, you’d have to pay for the service (the cheapest plan being £7.99 a month), but new customers can sign up for a free trial which entitles you to one free Audible credit for a single audiobook download. Just remember to cancel before the 30 days are up if you don’t want to start paying.
Get paid to listen to an audiobook
There’s only one thing better than getting something for free, and that’s getting paid to use it instead. Well, thanks to the wonder that is cashback sites, you can actually make a profit when you sign up for a free trial with Kobo.
Like Audible, Kobo has a huge selection of audiobooks, including plenty of well-known modern titles. And, also like Audible, Kobo offers a 30-day free trial which gives you access to one audiobook of your choice.
As if that wasn’t enough, at the time of writing, both TopCashback and Quidco were offering cashback just for enrolling on the free trial of Kobo. It’s a relatively modest sum (just over £1.50, depending on which site you use), but certainly nothing to turn your nose up at.
Once again, though, remember to cancel the free trial before it automatically renews (at £6.99 a month), and check out our guide to cashback sites to read more about how they work.
Get free audiobooks on Audible
Although Audible is a paid-for service, there are a limited number of free audiobooks available at any given time.
If you head over to this page on Audible’s site, you’ll find 10 or so free audiobooks. The selection changes regularly, but tends to feature a great mix of titles including recently-released bestsellers, Audible Original podcasts and, yes, some classics too.
Free audiobooks for the visually impaired
If you or someone you know is visually impaired, it’s definitely worth checking out the virtual library from the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).
The service features a whole host of audiobooks for adults and children and is completely free to use for anyone who is either blind, partially sighted or has an impairment that prevents or limits them from reading standard print.
In fact, the RNIB claims to have the UK’s largest library of books in accessible formats, with over 32,000 titles available to download via your phone, tablet or computer.
To find out more and register for yourself, visit the RNIB’s official website.
Get free audiobooks on Alexa
We mentioned earlier how Audible is owned by Amazon, and this is when it really starts to pay off.
Each month, three free audiobooks are available via Alexa devices (including Fire TV sticks) and, again, they haven’t scrimped on the titles. Previous offerings have included Harry Potter and Treasure Island, and you don’t need to be an Audible subscriber to listen.
See the current selection on the Audible website or simply ask your Alexa device “Alexa, what’s free from Audible?” to have the list read out to you.
Review audiobooks for free
So, you can only imagine how excited we were to find out that NetGalley lets you listen to free audiobooks in return for your thoughts as a reviewer.
In theory, anyone can become a member, as although NetGalley say they’re after “readers of influence”, they do clarify that this just means “anyone who reads and recommends books”.
However, it’s worth noting that there are two ways to hear and review audiobooks on NetGalley: instantly, or by requesting access from the publisher.
While anyone can enjoy and leave a review for the audiobooks listed in the Listen Now section (which usually only contains a small number of titles), access to the audiobooks available via request is a tad more exclusive, and you may get a few rejections if you can’t show that you have an outlet to promote books.
Publishers will look at your reviewer profile before deciding whether or not to accept your request. So, make sure you fill it out with details on how often you review books, where you leave reviews (definitely mention if you have some level of influencer status!) and if you’re a member of a book club.
Bear in mind that NetGalley is primarily for new books, so you’re unlikely to find any titles you’re familiar with. But that doesn’t mean you’ll just be reviewing works from small-time authors – big publishers (with well-known authors among their ranks) list audiobooks on NetGalley, and some titles on the service have gone on to win major literary prizes!
Check out audiobook deals
While you may not find anything for free, there are always cheap audiobooks available to purchase on each service’s deals sections.
Whether you use Audible, Google Play, Kobo or any other audiobook platform, there will always be titles available at a discount. These could be daily deals or part of longer-running offers, but they’re definitely worth a look if you’ve not got your next audiobook in mind and fancy a browse first.
Alternatively, by using sites like BookBub and eReaderIQ you can get alerts when specific audiobooks go on offer or drop in price. Or, just use them to have a browse of the best offers across audiobook sites and use the price tracker to see just how big a discount you’d really be getting.
Access thousands of audiobooks with Kindle Unlimited
Got a Kindle eBook reader? Or use the Kindle app on your phone or tablet? If so, this one’s for you.
For £7.99 a month, a Kindle Unlimited subscription will give you unlimited access to over one million books in the Kindle library, plus selected magazine subscriptions. However, what you may not know is that it also allows you to listen to thousands of audiobooks at no extra cost.
The full (and rather long) list of audiobooks available under the scheme is available to view on Amazon. But, before you shell out for a subscription, sign up for a free trial to see how much use you get out of the service – we’ve got the full details in our guide to the best free trials.
Buy the Kindle version of a book first
If you’ve already bought a few Kindle eBooks, you may be surprised to learn that the combined cost of subsequently buying the same title in audiobook format can actually be cheaper than if you’d just bought the audiobook by itself.
In fact, even if you’ve not bought the Kindle version of a book before, and possibly have no intention of ever reading it, this is still worth trying.
When you’re searching for an audiobook, just look under the ‘Buy now’ button to see how much it costs to ‘Add Audible narration’. And remember that you don’t need to have a Kindle device to access the Kindle library – there are apps for phones and tablets.
To give an example, at the time of writing, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed was available to buy on Kindle for £5.99, with the option to add Audible narration for £3.99 (making it £9.98 in total). However, buying the audiobook by itself cost £13.12 – that’s £3.14 more expensive, with less in return.
And you can save the most money here by buying books that are in the Kindle sale, where titles go for as little as 99p.
At the time of writing, the Kindle edition of Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift was on sale for 99p (down from £8.99), with Audible narration available to add for £4.49 (so £5.48 in total). The audiobook alone, meanwhile, cost £18.37, so buying both together would have saved you a massive £12.89.
Get audiobooks refunded on Audible
Unlike a physical book, which you can quickly flick through if you’re buying in person, it can be harder to get a good read (pardon the pun) on an audiobook before purchasing.
If you start listening to an audiobook and later regret your purchase, or if you simply bought it by accident, Audible does allow you to return it. This still applies if you enjoyed the audiobook but didn’t like the narrator, however we’d urge you not to abuse your right to a refund.
Aside from the ethical side of things (it takes time and money for people to produce audiobooks, so it’s morally questionable to return one despite enjoying it), Audible may catch on if you make a habit of returns.
Explaining their returns policy, Audible states that they reserve the right to monitor your returns for “any abuse”, which includes “excessive returns” and “frequent return of titles after prolonged listening”. If they think you’ve crossed the line, they could limit the number of returns you’re able to make, or take the privilege away from you completely.
Get half-price Audible for three months
Companies hate it when you try to leave them, so it’s one of the best times to haggle for a better deal. Except, in the case of Audible, you may not have to haggle at all – they usually offer you a half-price membership (£3.99 instead of £7.99) for three months to keep you on the service.
We say “usually” as, despite people generally reporting success with this trick, it’s far from a sure thing. One of our editors, Nele, said that while she has had some luck with it in the past, there have been times when she’s been offered a slightly less generous deal, or even nothing at all.
To give it a go for yourself, simply start the cancellation process, select ‘It’s too expensive’ as your reason for leaving and then press confirm. This is the point at which you should be offered a deal to stay – whether that’s a half-price membership or something else.
Of course, there is a chance that you won’t be offered a deal, in which case your account will actually be cancelled. If so, you can sign up again and still have access to the audiobooks you previously bought, but you will lose any remaining Audible credits you had before cancelling. So, wait until you’ve run out to try this trick.
Our guide to the best streaming sites has tonnes of tips for getting cheap and free subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and all the other major platforms.