Audiobooks on YouTube: How to Listen for Free

POSTED ON Oct 6, 2021

The Book Designer

Written by The Book Designer

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Audiobooks have absolutely boomed in popularity in recent years, and it’s not hard to understand why. 

Today’s lifestyle means that most people spend a lot of time on the go, whether that means they’re commuting to and from work, juggling a few different jobs, or managing household affairs. People are often looking for something to fill that time, especially ‘dead’ time like commuting which would otherwise be spent in silence or listening to the radio. 

And this boom is a great thing! Audiobooks make books more accessible, and having an easier way to read means people are likely to read more. However, audiobooks can get expensive, and while some people will go back and listen to audiobooks again and again, a lot of readers might feel hesitant about dropping so much money on a book they’ll listen to once. 

So, how do we get around that? Free audiobooks! Let’s talk about ‘em. 

Can you listen to audiobooks for free?

Buying audiobooks is much like buying a physical book. There are plenty of places you can go to buy audiobooks individually as you want them, much like you can stop in at your local bookstore to get a book whenever you feel like it. You definitely don’t have to break the bank to enjoy audiobooks if you know where to find them. 

Here are a few ways you can find audiobooks for free, either to rent or revisit as often as you’d like! 


No surprise here—your local library likely has audiobooks available for you to rent. Some of these might be physical cassettes or CD’s, and sometimes libraries have online copies available, which can be more easily used on a phone or laptop. 

Check out your library’s catalog to see what sorts of options they have for audiobooks. It may surprise you just how many there are! These will be rented the same way you’d rent a physical book, and you may have to wait on hold if there’s a wait for a popular title. 

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Libby, an app released by Overdrive, can be accessed through your library card (if your library offers access). The app functions much like a library catalog, and through it, you can pick out eBooks and audiobooks just like you would at your library. These are rented for a period of about two weeks, and you may need to wait a while if there’s a hold list. 

Since Libby is available as an app on your phone, this is an especially helpful format for people on-the-go, since you listen right from your app. This is extra convenient if you listen to audiobooks while you’re commuting. 

Audible Subscription Trial 

Subscription services like Audible offer a monthly fee in exchange for credits, which can be used to get audiobooks. If you’re an avid audiobook reader, this can take some of the total cost of audiobook listening down, since you’re not having to buy them individually. 

Audible has a free trial period, though, to let you try out the service and see if audiobooks are for you. Along with this comes a free audiobook. This only gets you one audiobook, and you’ll want to set a reminder to cancel your subscription before you’re charged. If there’s one specific book you’d like to listen to and you’d rather not wait to hear it, this might be a reasonably easy option! 

Quick warning, though: Audible subscriptions can be a little tricky to cancel, so make sure you understand how to access your account and cancel your subscription if you want to just get your free book and bounce. 

Public Domain 

Public domain covers books with no copyright. This copyright may have expired, been forfeited, or have never existed in the first place. We often think of classics when we think of works within the public domain, but this umbrella actually covers more than you might think. 

Because books in the public domain don’t fall under copyright law, they’re free to share and distribute however the public would like. This means it’s legal to share free PDFs, physical copies, or even, yes, audiobooks. 

There are copies of things in the public domain that you can buy—for example, if you go into a bookstore, you might notice that you can’t just take a copy of Macbeth without paying for it. This is because even if the intellectual property is within the public domain, the materials used to make the book and the work put into the formatting still cost money. 

Same with audiobooks—you can buy copies of works within the public domain to listen to, but there are also companies that do recordings of these books for free. And these are more readily available online than you might suspect. 

Are there audiobooks on youtube?

YouTube has dominated online video consumption for years, and there’s a fair amount of audio content there as well, from ASMR channels to ambient noise to audiobooks. YouTube is free to use and very easy to access from your phone or computer, so it’s a no-brainer for anyone looking to consume free audiobooks. 

And there are free audiobooks on YouTube—lots of ‘em. Let’s go over what kinds of audiobooks you can find on YouTube, why certain kinds of audiobooks might not be ethical to upload or consume, and which audiobooks you can access today totally legally! 

Copyrighted vs Public Domain 

Before we go any further, let’s talk a little more about public domain and copyrighted materials. 

Like we said earlier, materials within public domain can be shared indiscriminately. There aren’t any rules about how you can use that material, because it’s no longer under copyright. 

However, copyrighted material isn’t so relaxed. It’s illegal to share copyrighted work without permission from the distributor. For example, sharing a leaked PDF of an upcoming book from a publishing house is illegal, because that material falls under copyright law. Similarly, uploading a full-length audiobook that’s currently under copyright is against the law. 

Think about it in terms of plagiarism. You can’t just read a book you liked, type up a copy, and print it as if it were your own for a quick buck. Copyright laws exist to prevent that from happening, and it’s the same with audiobooks. These laws intend to protect the creators of the product from having their work stolen, and YouTube is pretty notoriously hard on copyright violations. 

What does all of this mean for audiobooks on YouTube? Well, YouTube doesn’t want to have free copyrighted material floating around since it’s in direct violation of the law and their terms of service. That being said… 

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Are there copyrighted audiobooks on YouTube? 

Yes. A lot.

YouTube does try to take down audiobooks that get uploaded, since, again, it’s in direct violation of the law and of their terms of service. However, people still do it all the time, and if you do a quick search on YouTube, you’ll likely find numerous full-length copyrighted books readily available. 

There’s a lot of debate over the ethics of consuming these books, but basically, they’re available online until YouTube takes them down. And they do often take them down, so it’s not likely that a copyrighted audiobook will stay available for a long time. 

There are audiobooks you can find on YouTube for free which are completely legal to upload and consume, though, and that’s anything in the public domain. 

Remember, works within the public domain can be shared and distributed willy-nilly. This means you could record your own version of, say, Dracula by Bram Stoker and upload it to YouTube without any fear of a copyright violation. And plenty of people have done just that. People either upload themselves reading works in the public domain, or they take recordings done by companies who record these works and upload those. 

Either way, it’s fair game for readers looking for a free, accessible read. 

Audiobooks in the public domain can be found on YouTube, but you can also find podcasts and free mp3 files online to download, if either of those formats are more your jam. 

What are some good audiobooks on youtube?

Looking for a place to get started? Here are a few places you can go on YouTube to check out some free, perfectly legal audiobooks to listen to while you’re going about your day. 

Let’s start with some channels: 

Next, a few playlists: 

And finally, a few individual audiobooks: 

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The Book Designer

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