How to find good, free audiobooks

Tom Jackson
Dec 2, 2013

I know that today is "Cyber Monday," the day when online sites are supposed to roll out bargains.

But the best price of all is free. For cheapskates who want to get something for nothing, here is some advice on how to get free audiobooks.

Of course, one way is via the public library. You don't even have to show up at Sandusky Library or other local libraries; you can download audiobooks to your tablet or smart phone from library websites. (Look for the "eMedia" section the Sandusky Library's site. Other local libraries have similar areas.)

But I want to talk about another website — LibriVox.

LibriVox is a site that uses volunteers to turn public domain books (basically, anything published before 1923) into free audiobooks. As of 2012, it had more than 6,000 audiobooks, organized into various fiction and nonfiction categories.

The volunteers who record for LibriVox have various degrees in talent, so the trick to finding a good audiobook there, aside from finding a title you're interested in, is to find a good reader. 

The works that are read by a committee tend to include readers who are not very good, so generally your best route is to use an individual reader. 

Here's a pro tip: You can search Librivox by reader, checking to see what's available from the best readers.

And who are the best readers? Here's a list from professional reader Lee Ann Howlett, which incorporated some of the names suggested by others in a discussion on Goodreads:

"I've been recording for LibriVox for over 4 years on solo and group projects. They're a great bunch of people. My personal favorites are 4 names already mentioned here: Karen Savage, Elizabeth Klett, Andy Minter and Mil Nicholson (who is also a professional actress). On a couple of group projects, I had to follow Mil Nicholson and I told her I hoped that never happened again. I would also add Kara Shallenberg, Laurie Anne Walden, Cori Samuel, Kirsten Ferreri, Kristin Hughes, Roger Melin, Mark Smith, and the wonderful Ruth Golding. 

"I know that I've left some good ones off but LibriVox really does have a lot of talent. You can usually (at least for solos) listen to a portion of the first chapter and get a pretty good idea of the reader's voice and style."

The last sentence is important; if you find an audiobook and it isn't be a recommended reader, just listen to the first few minutes in your web browser.

The Wikipedia article on LibriVox also has a list of some of the best readers and highest-rated books.