Free audiobooks at Barnes & Noble

by Michael Alderete on 4/27/2009 · 11 comments

Barnes & Noble is giving away nine free audiobooks. Most of the selections are short stories, but Tom Sawyer is the full length novel. All are offered in MP3 format, which should be playable on any device. (With iTunes 8 you can change the media type to Audiobook to make tracks in any format behave like “true” audiobooks.)

Free audiobooks at Barnes & Noble

Best-selling, critically acclaimed, and classic authors and stories are represented. The Louis L’Amour story is dramatized (think old time radio), the rest are performed by professional narrators. These are quality products, and a short but complete story in audio format is a great way to try audiobooks, if you’ve never given them a shot before.

Here’s the complete list of what’s available:

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Merrano of the Dry Country by Louis L’Amour
  • “Ysrael,” an unabridged story from Drown by Junot Diaz
  • “Truth or Dare,” an unabridged story from The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
  • “Fathers,” an unabridged story from The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro
  • “Great Day,” an unabridged story from Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill, a story from the collection 20th Century Ghosts
  • “Super Goat Man,” an unabridged story from Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
  • “The Babysitter’s Code,” from the collection Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman

The process for downloading them is a little painful, you have to add each one to your shopping cart, and then check out. The check out process requires you to fill in payment information, even though the purchase is free. (I imagine that’s the trade: you create an account with us, and we’ll give you something for free.) After you check out, you’ll receive an email with download instructions, which includes requiring you to install the Overdrive Media Console, a tool to download and manage your electronic purchases from B&N (Amazon has a similar tool), and then going back to the Barnes & Noble site to download the link files, and then opening the link files in Media Console to actually download the tracks. Then if you want them in iTunes, that’s another step. All in all, it’s nowhere near as easy as the iTunes Store, or Audible, or even Amazon. But did I mention the audiobooks are free?

The offer ends on May 16th (at 3am Eastern; call it the 15th for most people), so get there soon.

MParmer May 2, 2009 at 9:23 am

Re payment info for the free audio downloads: I just wanted to let you and your readers know that anyone, even someone without a PayPal account, can click on the radio button to choose PayPal as the method of payment and no additional payment info will be requested - not even from PayPal - and you will get your free audio book, without entering credit card info. Don’t choose Pay By Phone - you will still have to call in and give payment info to get your download.

The reason for the payment info is pretty simple: the shopping cart is only set up to give out items you pay for, so if you don’t give a payment method, you don’t get anything. Give PayPal and the shopping cart software is happy.

You do have to have an online account - in other words, you can’t purchase audio downloads from accountless like you can with other items they sell. Again that’s not (just) marketing - it’s so you have someplace to download and store your audio books.

Alderete May 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

@MParmer: Oh, clever trick! That’s a good one to know, and I bet it works at more places than just B&N. Thanks!

Martin Sharman September 4, 2009 at 9:50 am

There still seems to be a void of information on how to download audio books for itunes 8. Any help gratefully received.

Alderete September 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm

@Martin: Not sure what it is you mean. Can you be more specific about what it is you want to do? For example, downloading the above titles is straightforward, if a lot of steps, and importing into iTunes is just a drag from the download location into the iTunes Library window. Audible is much easier, just click the download link, and then drag the downloaded files into iTunes. What more information are you after?

Tom Lopy October 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm

You can also get free audiobooks from I enjoy them.

Old Time Radio February 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I just go to my local library and get all the free audio books I want. Many people forget to use this free source of information now that the Internet is so popular.

Bucky March 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I find the audiobooks at my library often consist of CDs so scratched that they are very frustrating to listen to. So I don’t think I would want to rent audiobooks either, for the same reason. It’s a pity that CDs are so fragile.

Alderete March 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm

\@Bucky and @OldTimeRadio: My wife and I have checked dozens of books on CD out of the SF Public Library, for listening on our iPods (now iPhones). Our nation’s public libraries are a tremendous, and free, resource, and in my childhood I spent many hours either in them, or reading books I had borrowed from them. But as much as I would like to have a great reason to go back to them, and to recommend them to others, my experiences have been far too like Bucky’s. It is maddening to have a CD that won’t import, because it’s too scratched. It can bring you to tears if you don’t discover this until you’re half way through the book. It was for this same reason that I terminated my subscription to “SimplyAudiobooks”: Too many books that wouldn’t import.

Two positive developments I can mention. First, MP3 CDs seem to be less prone to being damaged. Maybe this is because fewer people know what to do with them (and so don’t check them out), or maybe it’s because with only one or two discs per book, it requires less swapping, and so gets handled less. In any event, they seem to be more durable, and they are also a lot less processing effort when adding to iTunes. “Kitabe”: had a great Netflix-style MP3 CD loaning service, but they discontinued it. I’ve recently learned of a similar subscription service, “”:, that offers MP3 CDs, so I’ll be checking them out.

The second development is the discovery of a CD importing tool called “cdparanoia,” which uses more sophisticated error correction routines, to deal better with damaged discs. In my brief trials, cdparanoia has been able to import CDs which iTunes choked on. So sometimes you can deal with even a severely damaged disc. On the Mac, you can use cdparanoia via the free “Max”: audio tool (you turn cdparanoia on in the preferences). There are a variety of products that include cdparanoia on Windows, but I don’t have a recommendation for a specific one, yet.

cabell November 6, 2010 at 6:19 am

I printed out & used your directions: “How to Import Audio CD audiobooks into iTunes” to import the new John leCarre book last evening. It took about 1.5 hours, but I now have many hours of listening pleasure! THANK YOU!!!

KittJ January 3, 2011 at 10:24 am

Do you have anything further on the Windows import solution? “On the Mac, you can use cdparanoia via the free Max audio tool (you turn cdparanoia on in the preferences). There are a variety of products that include cdparanoia on Windows, but I don’t have a recommendation for a specific one, yet.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: