While many people associate iPods and iPhones with apps, music, and movies, they're also a great platform for listening to audio books when you're on the go. Whether our for a walk, at the gym, on a plane, or in the car, you can bring dozens of audio books with you on your iPod or iPhone. Here are 8 websites, and one other idea, that offer free audio books for your enjoyment.
Perhaps the best-known provider of downloadable audio books, Audbile.com has been going strong since 1997. While it's primarily a subscription service--plans run from $157 to $229/year for 12-24 audio books--it does offer free audio books as part of its promotions to attract new subscribers. Audible sponsors many popular podcasts, including This American Life, and offers free audio books that way, so be alert when listening to those podcasts for free offers.
Audible has a free iPhone app (Download at iTunes) that provides access to your Audible library via Wi-Fi.
This UK-based website sports poor design and confusing offerings, but also some interesting features. You can download virtually any audio book on the site for free--but only as a relatively poor quality 8 kpbs file (most podcasts, for instance, are 64 kbps). Prices range from US$5-$8 for higher quality files (they top out at 48 kbps). For US$100/year, you get high-quality files. You can also purchase the site's entire library on DVD, hard drive, and other formats.
AudioBooksForFree offers a large selection of public domain books, while some of its more recent books provide 100% of the money generated to the authors.
If you've got an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, there are a large number of audio book apps you can download. Most of these apps aren't free (they tend to run US$0.99-$4.99), though some are. You'll find a mix of public domain classics and more modern titles by bigger-name authors. Some of these apps use Project Gutenberg or LibriVox files, so you may prefer to download them from those sources for free instead of paying for the apps.
Another site that offers public domain audio books (meaning books whose authors have been dead for, in most cases, at least 75 years). Most of its titles are drawn from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox. Audio books here, as the site's name indicates, are completely free and can be downloaded either as a podcast or as an MP3. Titles are offered in multiple languages.
This subscription-based music store has added audio book downloads in recent years. In order to get audio books, you must also subscribe to its music service--which runs from US$6.50/month to $133.99/year. Audio book plans run $9.99-$18.99/month and come with 1 free audio book. You can sign up for a trial eMusic subscription and keep your downloads and free audio book if you cancel your membership before the 14-day trial expires.
The audio book selection is robust and includes the latest big-name titles and authors as well as less-well-known works.
This volunteer-driven site offes public domain books in audio format read by people from all over the world (and thus offers books in many languages). Audio books are available as 64 or 128 kbps MP3s, Ogg Vorbis files, or as M4B audio books. Since these are public domain-only audio books, you won't find the latest titles here, but if you're looking for a wide selection of classic titles, LibriVox is a good bet.
As part of its larger collection of freely available media, which also includes movies, courses, language lessons, and books, Open Culture provides links to a number of recordings of short stories, poetry, and books. While Open Culture itself doesn't produce or host the files, it provides a directory of links to download the books as MP3s, or from iTunes or Audible.com. Expect to find public domain classics as well as modern masterworks (there are a few Raymond Carver and Phiip K. Dick stories to be found).
One of the few sites that offers truly free audio books by modern authors. While you won't find the major names here, Podiobooks is packed full of free audio books by authors in more than two dozen genres (including public domain classics). The books are supported by listener donations, with 75% of donations going to authors. Options including listening on the site, downloading MP3s, or subscribing via podcast to each new chapter as it is released.
Project Gutenberg is the most prominent provider of free, public domain ebooks on the web. It also offers audio book versions of some of its titles. You won't find the latest books by the biggest authors here, but if you're after the classics, it's a great resource for truly free audio books. Download the books in MP3, M4B audio book, Speex, or Ogg Vorbis formats.