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Audio Book Month: Narrators Brings Stories to Life

June 22, 2021 | Leave a Comment

by Kathy Austin


Audio Book Month: National Library Service Player and Audible app on a smart phone


The last book I read in print was The Osterman Weekend by Robert Ludlum, a CIA spy thriller. It was the second time I had read it and I struggled seeing the print under the dim light of a table lamp. Months later, I took my daughter to the library. I had to ask for some help from the librarian to find some books for her. This lovely woman then told me about the Talking Books program and how I could listen to books on a special machine. It was life changing for me as I love to read.

While the National Library Service Talking Books program has been around in some fashion since 1934, audio books were not “a thing” until somewhat recently. This new way of “reading” books and other publications has exploded with people discovering how a narrator can bring a story to life.

Since June is Audio Book month, we’ve compiled a list of places where you can find audio books. Some for a subscription, some just for purchase and of course, some for free. This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives you options and places to explore.

So here’s to the audio book – storytelling enjoyment for all!


Chirp Audio Books

This site was recommended to us by our Second Sense volunteer, Janet, librarian at Benedictine University, Mesa, AZ. You’ll find deeply discounted books, up to 95% off. There’s no subscription fee and the books are yours to keep. The site highlights newer authors. You can play the books on iOS, Android or Alexa. The deals are for a limited time with many genres and include NY Times best sellers.


Overdrive with the Libby App

If you have frequented your local public library, you may be familiar with Overdrive and the Libby app. Volunteers choose public domain books to record, many from Project Gutenberg, then LibriVox releases them as audio books on the Internet. You’ll find many very old books and books in different languages. Books are playable on a mobile device, tablet and computer or burned to a CD. The service is free with your library card. Titles are restricted to lending times.



This site boasts about the Pulitzer Prize winning audio books in their collection. For a $9.95 monthly subscription fee, you have unlimited access to the number of books you can read. Choose from over half a million audio books in over 50 genres plus podcasts, print documents and sheet music. Playable on iOS, Android, tablets and computers.



Hoopla partners with public libraries across North America. They provide free and immediate access to popular audio books and other entertainment media, offering a larger selection of content than what you might find at your local library. After authenticating your public library card, you can download digital content including audio books and NY Times best sellers to your iOS, Android or Alexa device. Hoopla has a great kid’s selection, too. One caveat, not all libraries are partnered with this service, but you can ask your local library to join.


Apple Books

If you are an Apple user, Apple Books may be a good choice. Once you purchase a book, it’s yours to keep. Their collection includes Oprah’s Book Club, other best sellers and popular favorites. Check out the section on getting to know your narrators. While Apple does collect information on your searches, browsing history and purchases to provide personalized content, they do not associate the information with your Apple ID. And, you know with Apple’s ecosystem, VoiceOver will work well.


Google Play Books

For the Android user, this service is similar to Apple Books, Once you purchase, your book is yours to keep. There is no subscription fee and lots of free content in both fiction and nonfiction to choose from. You can listen on Android or iOS and preview books before you purchase.



LibriVox’s collection of over 15,000 titles are all in the public domain and are free. You can download them to your mobile device or even burn them to a CD. If you love the classics, this is a great site to get those titles for free with new titles being added every month.


National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Talking Books

Tried and true, the National Library Service (NLS) through the Library of Congress, has been producing sound recordings since 1934. NLS provides audio books and magazines for those who are visually impaired or have a print disability. Subscribers can download titles for free with proof of your disability to iOS, Android or a specialized audio book player that is provided at no charge. You can also obtain books and magazines through your regional library on cartridges that play on the specialized audio book player. This service cannot be used by the general public due to copyright laws.



Acquired by Amazon in 2008, Audible is probably the best known audio book library. Lots of subscription plans starting at $14.95. A 30-day free trial includes a credit for purchasing one book. Amazon Prime members get extra credits and benefits. Over 200,000 audio books to choose from plus podcasts, Audible Originals and more. On Fridays, you can get deals on discounted books. Listen on iOS, Android, Alexa, Mac and Windows.


Project Gutenberg

You won’t find NY times bestsellers on Project Gutenberg. Titles in their collection will date back 95 years and older and are in the public domain. If you’re looking for the classics like Shakespeare and Poe or the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other classics, this is the place for you. While Project Gutenberg was the first organization to publish e-books, they now have titles narrated by humans. Project Gutenberg is free to use.

For more suggestions for free audio books, check out this post from Book Riot. While we can’t vouch for the accessibility of many of these sites or what devices you can use, if you’re looking for something special, this source might be a good starting point

Happy reading!

Kathy is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense

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