Get thousands of free audio books on your Google Home – CNET

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Google Home can play audiobooks, which are perfect for listening to while you do chores.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Almost everyone listens to music on their Google Home, so there are a ton of options for setting up your favorite music service. If you’re a fan of audiobooks like me, however, your options can seem kind of limited. I like listening to biographies or memoirs when I’m cooking dinner or cleaning the house — makes the chore go by faster — so I gobble up any changes to audiobook features.

For me, it used to be that “audiobooks” was practically synonymous with Amazon’s “Audible,” but there’s no direct way to play Audible titles on Google Home. I’ll tell you how to make it work. And even though Google Play has sold audiobooks for years, you’ve only recently been able to access your library directly from Google Home.

Here are all the myriad ways you can listen to audiobooks on Google Home, starting with my go-to service. (Hint: it isn’t Audible.)

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The new Nest Audio smart speaker sounds better to our ears than the original Google Home it replaces — perfect for audiobooks as well as music.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Free is my favorite price to pay for audiobooks

If you love audiobooks but haven’t heard of Librivox before, this tip is going to change your life. When I was commuting three hours round-trip my last semester of undergrad, I would listen to all my American English II class assignments for free, and even some from my senior writing seminar, thanks to Librivox.

The audiobooks on Librivox are all in the public domain, meaning their copyright is either open-source or has expired, so most are old — 70 years or older, typically. Still, there are some fantastic titles available — The Jungle Book, Frankenstein, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

To access the Librivox library on Google Home, say, “OK, Google, talk to Book Reader,” then say the name of the book you’d like to hear read to you. Or, to do it all in one fell swoop, say, “Hey, Google, ask Book Reader to play Bram Stoker’s Dracula” substituting the title you want to hear if it’s something other than Dracula.

Read more: 10 ways to download and read books online for free

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There are several ways you can listen to audiobooks on Google Home.


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Google Play audiobooks finally works with Google Home 

Oddly enough, when Google Home first launched, you could not play audiobooks purchased on Google Play Books using a voice command. Thankfully, Google fixed this glaring omission. First, if you’ve never bought an audiobook there before, head to Google Play Books and search or browse for one (if it’s your first time, there’s a good chance Google will offer a coupon at the top of the screen).

Once you’ve made a purchase, say, “Hey, Google” or, “OK, Google” and use the following commands:

  • “Read my book” (to continue reading the last audiobook you were listening to).
  • “Read…” followed by the title of the book you want to hear.
  • “Pause.”
  • “Resume” or “continue.”
  • “Stop.”
  • “Skip ahead…” followed by an amount of time.
  • “Go back…” followed by an amount of time.
  • “Previous chapter.”
  • “Next chapter.”
  • “Play at 2x speed,” “play slower/faster,” or “play at twice/half the speed.”
  • “How much time is left?”
  • “Set volume to…” followed by a number (“5” or “5.5”) or percentage (“50%” or “55%.”)
  • “Read…” followed by another Google Home, Chromecast ($33 at eBay) device or speaker group.
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You may have to beam it from your phone, but you can listen to Amazon’s Audible on Google Home, too.


Angela Lang/CNET

Yes, you can play Amazon’s Audible books, too

Audible, which is Amazon’s audiobook service, predates smart speakers by a number of years (19, to be precise), so it’s not your fault if you subscribed long before the age of smart speaker wars commenced. Not only that, but there are a handful of other proprietary audiobook formats out there, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook platform as well as Scribd and Audiobooks.com.

The easiest way to listen to Audible books on Google Home is to play them on your phone and connect to Google Home using Bluetooth, the same way you’d do for music (here are the step-by-step instructions for doing just that). Knowing this workaround actually opens up all the audio possibilities on Google Home regardless of provider. That means, for example, you can listen to Apple Music, Podcasts or Audiobooks on a Google speaker — who knew?

I like hearing spoken-word tracks on my smart speakers, but sometimes Google Home talks too much — here’s how to silence it. Another voice that sounds good coming from Google Home is a friend or family member when you use Google Home as a speakerphone. Of course, you might want to control how Google uses recordings of your voice, so check out how to beef up your Google Home security settings.

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