All The Audiobooks You Can Listen To For Free, Without A Subscription

Alicia Lansom
·6-min read

You aren't alone if you've been finding it harder to read in lockdown. With the stress of WFH, remote learning and the general state of the world, jumping into a novel at the end of the day simply hasn’t felt doable. Thankfully, there is a solution to your reading slump: a good old-fashioned audiobook. Having someone read you a story isn't just for kids; avid readers will tell you that an audiobook is an easier and more enjoyable reading experience when you don’t have the brain capacity to concentrate on printed words (which is all of us at the minute, right?).

Audiobooks are often spoken about with a slight sneer but the assumption that information isn’t absorbed in the same way while listening is entirely ridiculous. Studies have shown that there are no significant differences in comprehension between reading and listening, meaning audiobooks are a perfectly legitimate way to consume a story. Then there's the fact that audible learning can be particularly helpful for those with dyslexia, making audiobooks a winner all around.

The only problem? Audiobook services are known for coming with a hefty subscription fee, excluding many people from the wonders of literary listening. Happily, there is a selection of audiobooks that you can access for no money at all. Yep, you heard us right: tucked away on many of the most popular audiobook platforms are tons of free stories available to users without a subscription. From period classics to some of the biggest books of the last few years, there is something for everyone wanting to dive into the world of narrated tales.

Take a look through the slideshow ahead to discover all the platforms offering free audiobooks right now, as well as some of Refinery29’s favourite titles...

<strong><a href="https://open.spotify.com/genre/stories_v2_audiobooks" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Spotify" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Spotify</a></strong><br><br>One of the biggest announcements of the last few weeks was the news that Spotify is finally getting in on the audiobook game. As one of the biggest music streaming services in the world, it was only a matter of time before the app started offering users access to audiobooks but we couldn’t have guessed that every single title would be available FOR FREE. That’s right, you don’t even need a Spotify Premium subscription to access the new titles, which include a selection of classic literature read by some of your favourite film actors. <br><br>For those searching for a turn-of-the-century novel about one woman’s exploration of her sexual identity, there’s Kate Chopin’s <em><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/2iKwRUIAycEHcgZjYTPq66" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Awakening" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Awakening</a></em><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/2iKwRUIAycEHcgZjYTPq66" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:, narrated by Hilary Swank." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">, narrated by Hilary Swank.</a> If you're looking for more of an educational read, the platform also offers titles like <em><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/7oqen47ubr7w0ojWi0AURd" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,</a></em><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/7oqen47ubr7w0ojWi0AURd" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:read by Forest Whitaker" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> read by Forest Whitaker</a>. Spotify currently only offers 10 well-known titles, each split into short chapters of eight to 15 minutes, but we imagine the selection is only set to expand in the future. <br><br><strong>R29’s Best Book: </strong><a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/5mwWSSCG1ZUQlIsY8WXHpc?si=O3sxuqYAQWm9c6SeG60-dA" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Cynthia Erivo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Cynthia Erivo</em></a>
Spotify

One of the biggest announcements of the last few weeks was the news that Spotify is finally getting in on the audiobook game. As one of the biggest music streaming services in the world, it was only a matter of time before the app started offering users access to audiobooks but we couldn’t have guessed that every single title would be available FOR FREE. That’s right, you don’t even need a Spotify Premium subscription to access the new titles, which include a selection of classic literature read by some of your favourite film actors.

For those searching for a turn-of-the-century novel about one woman’s exploration of her sexual identity, there’s Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, narrated by Hilary Swank. If you're looking for more of an educational read, the platform also offers titles like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, read by Forest Whitaker. Spotify currently only offers 10 well-known titles, each split into short chapters of eight to 15 minutes, but we imagine the selection is only set to expand in the future.

R29’s Best Book: Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Cynthia Erivo
<strong><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/category/audiobooks?sort=popular" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:BBC Sounds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">BBC Sounds</a></strong><br><br>If, like us, you use BBC Sounds for all your podcasting needs, you may not have realised that they have a selection of audiobooks on site too. Hidden away among the endless list of music categories, the audiobook section includes a curation of new and classic reads from a string of heavyweight authors including Emily Brontë and Roxane Gay. <br><br>If you're looking for an easy way into audiobooks, most available stories are split up into bitesize episodes of around 15 minutes (the perfect length for a quick lunchtime walk around the park). And if you're searching for an audiobook to send you off to sleep, BBC Sounds also offers the ‘Book at Bedtime’ series which allows listeners to drift off to the dulcet sounds of the <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/fleabag-sexy-priest" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hot priest" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hot priest</a> himself, Andrew Scott. <br> <br><strong>R29’s Best Book: </strong><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08qfhfj" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, narrated by Weruche Opia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, narrated by Weruche Opia</em></a>
BBC Sounds

If, like us, you use BBC Sounds for all your podcasting needs, you may not have realised that they have a selection of audiobooks on site too. Hidden away among the endless list of music categories, the audiobook section includes a curation of new and classic reads from a string of heavyweight authors including Emily Brontë and Roxane Gay.

If you're looking for an easy way into audiobooks, most available stories are split up into bitesize episodes of around 15 minutes (the perfect length for a quick lunchtime walk around the park). And if you're searching for an audiobook to send you off to sleep, BBC Sounds also offers the ‘Book at Bedtime’ series which allows listeners to drift off to the dulcet sounds of the hot priest himself, Andrew Scott.

R29’s Best Book: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, narrated by Weruche Opia
<strong><a href="https://stories.audible.com/discovery?ref=adbl_ent_anon_pdp_ds_vn" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Audible" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Audible</a></strong><br><br>Of all the audiobook platforms on the internet, Audible is the biggest and the most well known. Boasting 200,000+ titles, the Amazon-owned site is massively popular among book lovers for its easy-to-use interface and access to the latest releases. However, at £7.99 a month for one book, the fee is fairly steep, which is why it’s wonderful news that the platform offers a year-round range of <a href="https://www.audible.co.uk/ep/free-listens" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:free titles" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">free titles</a> (including bonus <em>Handmaid’s Tale</em> essays read by Margaret Atwood!). <br><br>If you can’t find anything in the freebie category, though, don’t despair; Audible is now offering a free selection of hundreds of classic books to help people through the pandemic. Whether you're interested in listening to<em> The Age Of Innocence </em>or<em> Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland</em>, there’s an engrossing tale for everyone to listen to on their trips to the supermarket. Plus, those who own an Amazon Alexa get <a href="https://www.audible.co.uk/ep/alexa-free-audiobook?ref=a_pd_The-Ha_t1_navTop_pl3cg1c0r7&pf_rd_p=b57f0b32-4ddd-472a-a360-409e75db78bf&pf_rd_r=BAVVKAERATW9MDBD08RQ" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:one audiobook" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">one audiobook</a> a month without having to pay anything extra. Result! <br><br><strong>R29’s Best Book:</strong> <a href="https://stories.audible.com/pdp/B01COOZ5C2?ref=adbl_ent_anon_ds_pdp_pc_pg-1-cntr-0-0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, narrated by Thandie Newton" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, narrated by Thandie Newton</em></a>
Audible

Of all the audiobook platforms on the internet, Audible is the biggest and the most well known. Boasting 200,000+ titles, the Amazon-owned site is massively popular among book lovers for its easy-to-use interface and access to the latest releases. However, at £7.99 a month for one book, the fee is fairly steep, which is why it’s wonderful news that the platform offers a year-round range of free titles (including bonus Handmaid’s Tale essays read by Margaret Atwood!).

If you can’t find anything in the freebie category, though, don’t despair; Audible is now offering a free selection of hundreds of classic books to help people through the pandemic. Whether you're interested in listening to The Age Of Innocence or Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, there’s an engrossing tale for everyone to listen to on their trips to the supermarket. Plus, those who own an Amazon Alexa get one audiobook a month without having to pay anything extra. Result!

R29’s Best Book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, narrated by Thandie Newton
<a href="https://www.borrowbox.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Borrow Box" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Borrow Box</strong></a><br><br>Remember walking into an actual library? You’d bypass the rows of dusty books and head straight to the audiobook section to scour the shelves of tapes or CDs, no doubt looking for <em>Harry Potter</em> read by Stephen Fry. Taking a trip down memory lane IRL might be impossible right now but you can still access all the treats your library has to offer via the Borrow Box app. Simply download onto your phone or tablet, enter your library card number and voilà: access to thousands of books and audiobooks for free. The platform carries some of the biggest titles of the last few years, from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/reni-eddo-lodge-why-im-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race</a> </em>to Candice Carty-Williams’<em> Queenie. </em><br><br>Just bear in mind that the app works like a real library, meaning that if someone else has checked out the audiobook you want, you'll have to wait until it’s returned to ‘borrow’ it. This does mean that newer titles often have a pretty long waiting list but there are plenty of older audiobooks you can sink your teeth into while you wait, including pretty much everything in Margaret Atwood’s back catalogue. <br><br><strong>R29’s Best Book:</strong> <em>Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo,</em> <em>narrated by Anna Maria Nabirye </em>
Borrow Box

Remember walking into an actual library? You’d bypass the rows of dusty books and head straight to the audiobook section to scour the shelves of tapes or CDs, no doubt looking for Harry Potter read by Stephen Fry. Taking a trip down memory lane IRL might be impossible right now but you can still access all the treats your library has to offer via the Borrow Box app. Simply download onto your phone or tablet, enter your library card number and voilà: access to thousands of books and audiobooks for free. The platform carries some of the biggest titles of the last few years, from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race to Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie.

Just bear in mind that the app works like a real library, meaning that if someone else has checked out the audiobook you want, you'll have to wait until it’s returned to ‘borrow’ it. This does mean that newer titles often have a pretty long waiting list but there are plenty of older audiobooks you can sink your teeth into while you wait, including pretty much everything in Margaret Atwood’s back catalogue.

R29’s Best Book: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, narrated by Anna Maria Nabirye
<a href="https://www.apple.com/uk/apple-books/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Apple Books" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Apple Books</strong></a><br><br>If you don’t like to read on your iPhone, then the Books app is likely hidden away in one of the many folders on your homepage. But if you're looking for an easily digestible (and free) audiobook, <a href="https://www.apple.com/uk/apple-books/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Apple Books" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Apple Books</a> is the perfect place to start. Available under the audiobooks tab, iPhone and iPad users can access a selection of discounted and free titles in the 'special offers' section of the app. <br><br>There are plenty of famous titles to keep you entertained, whether you delve into sci-fi with H. G. Wells' classic <em>The Time Machine </em>or explore the spooky world of Mary Shelley’s <em>Frankenstein</em>. And if you have little ones to entertain there is also a world of wonderful children’s books, including <em>The Secret Garden</em> narrated by <em>Guardians of the Galaxy</em>’s Karen Gillan.<br><br><strong>R29’s Best Book:</strong> <em><a href="https://books.apple.com/gb/audiobook/the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz/id1445220718" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Tituss Burgess" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Tituss Burgess</a></em>
Apple Books

If you don’t like to read on your iPhone, then the Books app is likely hidden away in one of the many folders on your homepage. But if you're looking for an easily digestible (and free) audiobook, Apple Books is the perfect place to start. Available under the audiobooks tab, iPhone and iPad users can access a selection of discounted and free titles in the 'special offers' section of the app.

There are plenty of famous titles to keep you entertained, whether you delve into sci-fi with H. G. Wells' classic The Time Machine or explore the spooky world of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And if you have little ones to entertain there is also a world of wonderful children’s books, including The Secret Garden narrated by Guardians of the Galaxy’s Karen Gillan.

R29’s Best Book: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Tituss Burgess

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