7 Places To Find Free or Cheap Books and Audiobooks
by Jessica Graham
Has your love of reading outgrown your budget? Go beyond the library and consider these places to find free and almost-free books and audiobooks to satisfy your book obsession.
When it comes to pastimes, reading is not a particularly expensive hobby, especially when compared to, say, golf or skiing. Nonetheless, if you’re an avid reader or audiobook listener, you can still incur some decent-sized bills.
There is an obvious solution, namely the library. When it comes to free books, the library can’t be beaten. However, anyone who has placed a hold on the latest bestseller, only to learn that you are number 115 in the queue, knows there has to be another way. Luckily, there is!
1. The Libby App By OverDrive
If your library participates in this service (and many do), you can borrow eBooks, audiobooks, and videos from your library using the OverDrive Libby app and your library card.
The great thing about this service is that if you place a hold on a title, it will automatically be checked out when it becomes available. (This is assuming you haven’t reached your hold limit. If you have, you’ll get an email notifying you that you have a set amount of time to return another book before checking out this title.)
To learn more, go to OverDrive.com.
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2. Amazon First Reads and Prime Reading
Are you an Amazon Prime member? If so, did you know that your account comes with more than free shipping?
At the beginning of each month, editors pick six to eight different books, and you can select one to read for free. The books are all new releases, so you’ll be reading the latest and greatest. These are called Amazon First Reads and you don’t need a Kindle to read them. You can read them using the free Kindle app, which can be downloaded onto your computer, phone, tablet, or iPad. (Once you’re signed in, the app syncs with all of your devices, so you’ll never lose your place even if you switch back and forth between devices.)
As an Amazon Prime member, you can also access an extensive collection of books, audiobooks and magazines for free through Prime Reading.
If your an avid reader or would like a source of audiobooks for cheap, consider a Kindle Unlimited subscription. For $9.99 a month, you can borrow an unlimited number of Kindle selections, having up to 20 checked out at any one time. Sometimes Amazon offers a discount for buying an extended membership, such as 6, 12, or 24 months. Although you have to pay the full membership upfront, it brings down the cost per month considerably.
3. Audible Plus
You can buy audiobooks from Audible using credits, or with an Audible Plus membership, you get unlimited listening to select audiobooks, Audible Originals, podcasts and more.
Audible continuously adds new options to the Plus catalog, many exclusive to Audible. If you listen to several titles a month, an Audible Plus membership can be an affordable source for borrowing audiobooks on the cheap.
Audible also runs regular sales on audiobooks, including a selection of the day that members can typically pick up for less than $4.99.
These are free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers from around the world. Because the narrators are volunteers, the narration of some books is better than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some wonderful books on here. Sometimes it just takes a little nosing around.
If you find a book you like and have a choice of narrators, do a quick internet search, and you’re almost guaranteed to come across reviews discussing the different narrators. People are passionate about their favorite narrators!
Related: Learn a Foreign Language for Less
5. Free Little Libraries
Have you been walking or driving along and seen a tiny house on a pole filled with books? These are free little libraries where you can give a book and get a book. Currently, there are more than 50,000 registered free little libraries worldwide. While it is fun to stumble across one, you can also check to see if there is one near you.
Go to LittleFreeLibrary.org.
6. Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD)
The National Library Service offers a free service for persons who are unable to read or use standard printed material because of visual or physical disabilities. The service is open to all U.S. citizens, domestic and abroad.
For more information, go to Loc.gov.
7. Unexpected Places
Does your church or place of worship have a library? Many do and are happy for their congregation to check out books.
See if your hotel or cruise ship has a library or reading room if you’re traveling. Even if they don’t, they often have a shelf where guests can leave a book/take a book.
Many office break rooms have a similar spot. If there isn’t one at your job, start one (with permission, of course). I’ve even seen doctor’s offices or physical therapist’s offices where patients and staff leave free books for each other in the waiting area. After all, reading is fun, no matter where you are!
Reviewed April 2023
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