LibriVox Review – Is It Free, Legal & Safe?

LibriVox is a popular source of audiobooks. All the audiobooks on LibriVox are free, but what’s the catch?

Is LibriVox legal, or is it a pirating site? Is it safe to download audiobooks from LibriVox to your phone or laptop?

In this review, I will be explaining what LibriVox is, whether it’s safe to use, and any pros and cons associated with it. Let’s get started!

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Verdict

Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✩✩

LibriVox is a volunteer-driven site that offers free audiobooks for download, recorded by normal people who volunteer to read them. All books are in the public domain under US law, and all recordings are released into the public domain as well. It is entirely safe, free, and legal.

Pros

  • There are over 15,000 audiobooks.
  • You don’t have to pay or view ads to listen to the books.
  • Registration is not required.
  • There is no limit to how many audiobooks you can download.
  • It is a nonprofit.

Cons

  • Narration quality is a hit and miss. While some audiobooks are great, most narrators are ordinary people and not professional narrators.
  • Some narrators use boring tones, are hard to understand, or are just bad narrators.
  • Most books are very old. Since it only includes books in the public domain, you probably won’t find any of your favorite books there if they were published within the last 100 years.

What Is LibriVox?

LibriVox, founded in 2005, is a website that provides free audiobooks for download. It has a massive catalog of over 15,000 audiobooks, all available at no cost.

You don’t need to sign up for a membership or create an account to download audiobooks from LibriVox.

LibriVox is powered by volunteers who volunteer to read audiobooks for free and publish them on the internet for the benefit of the wider community. That’s how it manages to stay free.

It’s a nonprofit, and it doesn’t even have any ads on its site.

Volunteers on LibriVox sign up and read chapters or entire books. All of these books are already in the public domain, so there are no copyright issues.

Once a book is complete, it is published on LibriVox, and you can then listen to it. All recordings are released into the public domain as well, which means you have the right to download them, share them, and technically, even sell them.

Before getting into the good and bad of LibriVox, let’s address the three main questions of this article.

Is LibriVox Free, Legal, & Safe?

Is LibriVox Free?

Yes. LibriVox is entirely free to use, and you will never have to pay to download an audiobook from LibriVox.

It is a nonprofit with a mission of providing free audiobooks to everyone, including those who can’t afford them. Whether you don’t have time to read books or you have bad eyesight, LibriVox’s goal is to help you.

As I mentioned, the site is ad-free and subscription-free as well. There is no limit to how many audiobooks you can download from the site, and once you download an audiobook, you can keep it forever.

Also Read: Is Audible Worth It?

Is LibriVox Legal?

Yes. LibriVox only publishes recordings of books that are already in the public domain in the United States.

Since LibriVox is registered and hosted in the United States, it follows the copyright laws of the United States. It won’t record any book that is under copyright in the United States.

In addition, when a volunteer uploads a recording to LibriVox, they agree to release it into the public domain as well. So, it is entirely legal to listen to LibriVox audiobooks, at least in the United States.

What about other countries? It is possible that while a book is in the public domain in the United States, it is under copyright in another country.

Therefore, if you are not in the United States, you should verify the copyright status of a book in your country before listening to it on LibriVox.

The work that would have to go into making sure a book is in the public domain in every single country is just too much for LibriVox to do, which is why it only guarantees that the book is in the public domain in the US.

Also Read: Audible vs Libby

Is LibriVox Safe?

Yes, LibriVox is entirely safe to use. It is a trusted nonprofit with a helpful community active on the forum.

You don’t have to worry about any of the downloads from LibriVox being infected with viruses or malware. It’s not like pirating sites, which operate for profit and would benefit from adding adware, bundled software, or viruses to its downloads.

LibriVox: The Good

The good part about LibriVox, of course, is that it is entirely free. Audible can get really expensive, for example, and so can other for-profit audiobook sites.

While there are other ways to get free audiobooks, they aren’t always legal, safe, or accessible to all. For example, pirating sites that pirate audiobooks and offer free downloads may be infected with malware, or the downloads may come with unwanted software or adware.

Many libraries offer free audiobooks through sites such as Hoopla, but if you don’t have a library card, your library isn’t part of the Hoopla program, or you live in a country without accessible public libraries, you might be out of luck.

LibriVox has over 15,000 works, which is pretty good.

While the concept is superb, nothing free comes without a catch, so let’s talk about the downsides of LibriVox.

LibriVox: The Bad

The Audio Quality Is Often Terrible

LibriVox allows anyone to volunteer to read audiobooks. There are no tests, auditions, or requirements.

You can volunteer in any language, regardless of where you live.

While that’s a noble concept that ensures more people sign up to give back to the community, it also created a situation in which many audiobooks just have terrible audio quality.

Sometimes, narrators on LibriVox use flat, boring tones that make you want to rip your headphones out of your ears and never listen to a LibriVox recording again. At other times, the narrator may switch from a quiet tone to a loud one for no reason, hurting your ears.

Narrators sometimes use horrible fake accents when imitating accents in the book (for example, when reading lines from French characters speaking in English).

At other times, the narrators themselves are non-native speakers and have accents that make them difficult to understand.

Another issue you may run into is that a book can be made by several narrators. Remember, some volunteers are only down to read certain chapters from a book, and not an entire book.

In such a case, other volunteers will step in and read the other chapters. That means that an audiobook can be quite disjointed.

You might enjoy the first few chapters of an audiobook, only to experience utter disappointment when listening to the rest of the audiobook.

There is pretty much no quality control on LibriVox. While this fits well with its mission to provide as many audiobooks as possible, it also means that you may have an unpleasant experience using LibriVox as a listener.

Remember, most of the narrators on LibriVox are just ordinary people. They are not professional narrators.

Even if they do a decent job, the narration quality just won’t be nearly as good as one made by a professional narrator. That is true for their tone of voice, accent, intonation, and general narration style.

Also Read: Best Apps Like Hoopla

The Best Books Are Not Available

Yes, LibriVox has over 15,000 works, but most of them are very old. In fact, most of them are from 1923 or before.

In general, according to US law, a book gets released into the public domain 95 years after publication.

So, while old classics are available on LibriVox, newer books are not. If you want to read the best and most popular books published in the last century, you will have to go elsewhere.

LibriVox mostly relies on Project Gutenberg to determine whether a book is in the public domain or not.

Project Gutenberg is a project that provides free public domain ebooks on the web, and it does a lot of work to ensure each book is copyright free. That is why LibriVox sources most of its books from Project Gutenberg.

Also Read: Best Libgen Alternatives

Final Thoughts

LibriVox is safe. You don’t have to worry about adware, viruses, or malware when using it.

It is also entirely free. There is no catch here – it is a nonprofit and does not aim to make money in any way.

However, you will mostly find old books there, not new ones. That’s because old books get released into the public domain 95 years after publication, by default.

So, while it’s good for old classics, it’s not great if you want self-help books, for example.

Also, the quality is really a hit and miss. Many audiobooks from LibriVox are just a pain to listen to, as the narrators don’t have a good narration style, speak in accents or tones that make them hard to understand, or just don’t put a lot of effort into making a good production.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing.
Tom has been a full-time internet marketer for two decades now, earning millions of dollars while living life on his own terms. Along the way, he’s also coached thousands of other people to success.