"A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships." Jorge Luis Borges
You don’t read with your eyes – you read with your mind, so why do people think reading with your ears is cheating? Audiobooks are not only convenient if you’re on the go, they are how I increase my retention while I am sitting with my book. The next trick up my sleeve is to tell you about how to get cheap or free audiobooks online because if you visit your typical bookstore, they are ridiculously expensive!
Walter J. One taught us about the psychodynamics of orality and what it means to listen – a lesson that has a profound impact on our reading life. These apps and website are what I use to enjoy cheap or free audiobooks online. If you’re looking for some audiobook recommendations, this article includes some of my favorites.
The library is this magic place where they let you borrow books for free. I know, I know, it sounds too good to be true. Well, if you’re not into the smell of dusty hardback books, then peruse their audio section. They’ll typically have a lot of new releases and some of the best audiobooks available. You can check them out for a couple weeks absolutely free. You can also check out as many audiobooks as you want (unlike DVDs). You can also log into their database and often borrow new releases.
I have been a member of Audible for a little over two years now. Their memberships start out at $7.49/month for the first three months and then go up to 14.95/month.
I don’t mind paying this and here’s why: first off, most audiobooks are pretty expensive if you don’t have a super exclusive membership (they’ll take anyone’s money-it’s not really exclusive at all) and secondly, every day I get an email with a new featured book that is typically between $1.95 and $4.95. Depending on the book, I often go for the deal and get my hands on books I might not have spent my one and only precious credit on that month. I have a ton of books in my arsenal waiting to be read/heard. I am super happy with my relationship with Audible. I’ve had to return a handful of books in the past, and they have hastle-free, friendly customer service. You can’t beat that. If you want to sign up for a 30 day free trial with Audible, click here.
This is a free public domain of audiobooks read by volunteers. The options for listening are many; you can download the file and burn it to a CD (who does that?), or listen to the book on your computer or phone. Just remember “volunteer” is the opposite of professional. While free is awesome ALL.THE.TIME, you do get what you pay for. Some of the readings are great, but every once in a while you’ll get hit in the face with a lemon. To access the database to listen or volunteer to read, click here.
There is a membership fee for Scribd, but instead of earning one credit per month for a book like Audible, members have unlimited access to whatever audiobooks are available on the app. They frequently have new releases, which makes it a cheap and convenient way to read audiobooks. You are able to download titles to listen to when you’re offline, and there are often eBook companions that you can use to follow along. It won’t read it to you and flip the page like on Kindle, but I like to have the eBook open on my iPad while I listen to the audio.
Last, but not least, is the good ol’ iTunes Store. They will have regularly priced, slightly expensive audiobooks, BUT they will also occasionally have between 20-30 selections for $5.95 or less. Take it from me, this is a good deal. I have used one of my Audible.com credits ($14.95) for the same book that was on sale on iTunes that same week. I was bummed about that, so don’t let it be you. Do your homework and check your local library’s online database, Audible, and iTunes to see where you can get the best deal.
This might come as a surprise to you, but I often find audiobooks on YouTube. Our Critical Theory and Philosophy Reading Group reads some pretty dense books, and once again, I love to read along while I listen to the audiobook. Gilles Deleuze’s book Difference and Repetition is recorded in its entirety. I’ve found some other books this way as well. If you switch browsers, it might not bookmark your progress, so try to pay attention to when you stop so it’s easier to return. I’m also never sure about copyright infringement with this option, so be ready for books to be removed – especially if they are not in the public domain. For those books that are, this is a great option for to list to free audiobooks online.
This audiobook app has changed my reading life – it will read you almost anything. It is not just for free audiobooks, but it will read you any PDF or ePub. You can highlight text, make notes, and export your notes and highlights when you’re done. If I have a Kindle book without an audio companion, I’ll upload it into this voice reader and listen as I read along. There is an iPhone, iPad, and Google Play app for your mobile devices. I wish there was a way to listen while I’m on my desktop or laptop, but that might be unique to the kind of research I do. Any time someone wants me to read an essay or sends me an article, I save it to Voice Dream and will read it at my earliest convenience. It does sync across your devices and you can create reading lists, which is nice if you’re reading 800-1000 pages per week in graduate school. You can also change your voice preferences, which is nice. While the app is around $15 upfront, you can read any e-text or article you have for free.