In this awesome digital age that we live in, there are so many opportunities to legally listen to free content online and/or to download recordings for later listening. Some companies stream their content, others offer podcasts for your phone.
Below are some of my favourite spaces to access audiobooks and audio/radio plays. Please let me know of any other similar resources I can share here.
This is one of the most exciting free audiobook services around. Authors and audiobook readers offer you a free digital copy of their audiobook (which you get to keep afterwards) in exchange for writing a short, honest review of it on Audible. You will need a US Audible account (which is available to anyone in the world, not just US residents), and the Audible app to download the audiobooks. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter to be notified of each week’s offerings (there’s always lots from many different genre!), and if you have a Facebook account, you can also join their Facebook page.
The Open Culture website offers over 900 free audiobooks, mostly of classic novels that are out of copyright. Most of these aren’t the modern style of audiobook readings where the narrators perform the work as they read, but it’s still an amazing resource that covers everything from Shakespeare to Ray Bradbury.
Learn Out Loud
Featuring over 10,000 educational audio and video titles, including audiobooks, courses, documentaries, talks, interviews and speeches.
Free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. While this site doesn’t engage professional readers nor modern novels as a general rule of thumb, it offers a large range of audiobooks in various languages.
Offering 100,000+ free audiobooks and ebooks, the Librophile library seems to primarily use Librivox recordings (see the listing above). There is an amazing collection of classic novels on offer however, from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds to the saccharine Pollyanna. Well worth checking out.
Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. Many of the passages also have a related reading strategy identified. Each reading passage can be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for classrooms.
This site offers serialised audiobooks that can be subscribed to, so you get new chapters delivered directly to you. If you prefer not to subscribe to stories however, you can listen online at your leisure.
This wonderful resource is primarily for original children’s stories but it also contains audiobooks of bible readings and other niche interest. Check it out for some good quality storytelling that you can share with your family. You can play the audiobooks online or download them for latter listening.
A selection of classic literature and philosophy titles. While primarily offering audiobooks, this site does also offer PDF eBooks for some titles.
This weekly podcast also streams free stories from their website. These are real people telling their own, true, personal stories – always short, often funny, and sometimes heart-wrenching. The stories are told live using no cue-cards and comprise both professional story-tellers and new-comers.
Audio & Radio Plays
The British Broadcasting Corporation is perhaps the premier producer of full-cast radio plays in the world. It’s hard to beat them, whether they’re producing The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or getting heavy with classic literature or daily soap operas. The BBC breaks new ground and is renowned for their quality. Many, if not all of their full-cast plays and book readings go online for at least a week after its broadcast so theirs is a site to visit often and regularly.
This hugely successful UK-based company has the official audio rights for Dr Who and many other classic TV series including Survivors, Terrahawks, The Prisoner, and The Avengers. They also produce other full-cast audio plays about Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and more. While their stories are generally for sale, the link above will take you to their download page where they offer lots of free episodes, occasional full stories and other great samples of their work.
Audio Drama Directory
There are hundreds of radio theatre companies across the globe and many of them offer all or some of their works for free. You just need to search for ‘radio plays’ or ‘audio drama’ or words like that to find them. The Audio Drama Directory however, is a good one-stop shop to access many of these.
Original stories told with a full cast!