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Free audiobooks on Google Home: Here's how to listen to both paid and free options

You don't need Audible to listen to audiobooks on your Google Nest smart speakers (but you can do that too).

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

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Almost everyone listens to music on their Google Home smart speaker, so there are a ton of options for setting up your favorite music service. If you're a fan of audiobooks, however, the list of services can seem kind of abysmal. If you don't know where to look, that is.

For most people, "audiobooks" is practically synonymous with Amazon's paid Audible service, but there's no direct way to play Audible titles on a Google Home. It's totally possible, and we'll show you the workaround to get it up and running, but -- even better -- there are ways to listen to free audiobooks on your Google Nest smart speakers, too. 

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Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention that Google Play has sold audiobooks for years, although you've only recently been able to access your library directly from your Google Home. We'll cover that, as well.

Here are all the myriad ways you can listen to audiobooks on a Google Home, starting with our 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 the best price to pay for audiobooks

If you love audiobooks but haven't heard of Librivox before, this tip will change your life. 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 couldn't 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 ($12 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 your Amazon Audible library, 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 the smart speaker wars. 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 books from Audible (or any of those other services) 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 Podcasts or Audiobooks on a Google speaker -- who knew?