If you’ve ever tried to buy the Harry Potter audiobooks, you probably noticed something kind of tricky: there’s two very different versions. The version most widely available in the US is narrated by Jim Dale. The UK version is read by Stephen Fry.
Which is better? I won’t get into that — that’s something the Internet has been arguing about for a decade+ now. I will say, however, that getting the Stephen Fry versions in the US (legally) is usually a pretty big pain in the butt. Different countries, different distribution rights, different licensing — yada yada yada.
It got a bit easier today, albeit for just the first book: Audible has put the Stephen Fry version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone up online, for free, until further notice.
Audible says it’s doing this as part of J.K. Rowling’s #HarryPotterAtHome program, in which the author is “relaxing the usual copyright permissions” to make the story available to more children during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. The same program is allowing teachers to post videos of themselves reading the series aloud to their students (as long as it’s on a “closed educational platform”… so not like, YouTube) without worrying about getting into a copyright battle.
A few small catches:
- If you’re in North America and get hooked on Fry’s take on the narration, finding/importing the Fry version of the other books is going to be up to you. Even if you sign up for an Audible account, the rest of the series on Audible is read by Jim Dale. To be clear, Dale’s version is very good! Just know that it’s different.
- It’ll work across laptops, phones, tablets, etc. with the caveat that it’s streaming only, so plan on listening somewhere with an Internet connection.
You can find the Harry Potter stream — plus a bunch of other family friendly audiobooks as part of Audible’s free Stories program — right here.