These Are The Most Affordable Audiobook Apps You Can Find

Whether you're commuting to work, painting your nails, or microwaving dinner, an audiobook can be a great multi-tasking companion. According to The New Yorker, two major events did wonders for the audiobook industry — the recorded release of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" and the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia Whelan, whose 500-plus book career took off after she narrated Flynn's 2012 novel, explained the massive impact that the pandemic had on downloads. "Everyone worried, 'Will people stop listening to audiobooks now that they don't have a commute?'" That fear couldn't have people further from the truth with Whelan recalling, "they listened more."

Stories have been passed down orally for thousands of years —  the ancient Sumerian "The Tale of Gilgamesh" and Homer's "The Illiad" were memorized and retold throughout generations, so much so they're both still taught today (via National Geographic). Most cultures had some type of creation story, tales repeated and revised long before the invention of the written word. As noted by Western Dows Libraries, reading aloud has proven benefits. Audiobooks promote reading accuracy in young learners, teach pronunciation, increase recall, and even improve comprehension. Today, Audible is the number one source of not only audiobooks, but podcasts and lectures as well, according to Investor's Business Daily. In 2008, it became a subsidiary of Amazon. However, the service does not come without a fee — $7.95 a month, per Audible. Fortunately, it's not too hard to find audiobook platforms that are accessible without any subscription cost.

Libby and Hoopla are free with a library card

As TV's favorite aardvark Arthur once said, "Having fun isn't hard if when you've got a library card" (via Quirk). Along with a membership at your local public library comes a subscription to free audiobook platforms. Libby, for instance, is available across all devices. The service offers ebook downloads (which can be sent to your Kindle) as well as an impressive audio selection. Much like a brick-and-mortar library, Libby allows users to "borrow" audiobooks for up to two weeks. With helpful genre filters and markers like "available now," readers can easily sort through a virtual bookcase containing nearly 40,000 audio options. The app also allows readers to place holds — even if the book you're looking for is currently unavailable, you'll be put on a waitlist to receive it soon.

Hoopla is another option available through your local library, but (on top of books) it also offers music and TV streaming options. Available titles are based on your library's current catalog, meaning that the app might not house everything you're looking for. However, most users walk away satisfied. "It has been an awesome way for me and my family to access [b]ooks from our local library," writes one reviewer via GetApp. "It's especially helpful for listening to audiobooks while on road trips." On Hoopla, users can borrow audiobooks for up to 21 days — this season, use the app to check out a spooky read for Halloween.

LibriVox and YouTube offer public domain audiobooks

The LibriVox app offers a surprisingly-broad selection of free, public-domain audiobooks. Housing authors like Bram Stoker, Leo Tolstoy, and Alexandre Dumas in its collection, LibriVox is the perfect source if you're looking to find classic literature — or really any book that was published at least 95 years ago. What makes the platform especially unique is its use of volunteers. Readers from around the world lend their voices to the platform, with no performing experience required. Scrolling on the app, you'll find books with multiple readers, many of whom have never tried their hand at an audiobook performance before. As noted by one Google Play reviewer, "Some of the voice volunteers are better than others but overall there is a great selection to choose from both in title and in narrator." On LibriVox, users can also borrow books indefinitely. So, unlike Hoopla or Libby, you'll never have to return a title you love.

When in doubt, YouTube is also a dependable source for audiobooks. Like LibriVox, the site offers a wide array of public domain content, making these audiobooks entirely free of charge (and legal to upload). Next time you're searching for a new read, check out YouTube's "Best Audiobooks of All Time" playlist. Your brain just might thank you, as there are many ways it can reap the benefits of reading