Though I own hundreds of books, I rarely find time to sit down and crack one open. I do, however, make use of my time in the car to listen to audiobooks.
But how do you get the audiobooks you want without paying a lot of money? There are a number of audiobook services available, but the options can be overwhelming. Finding the right audiobook service is a matter of finding the right one for how you like to read.
9 Services for Cheap Audiobooks
Here’s our rundown of some of the best services where you can grab a book for your ears.
Audible is a big name in audiobooks. As a part of Amazon, it’s heavily marketed and easily available, but it has its pros and cons.
- Audible boasts one of the largest audiobook libraries out there with more than 600,000 titles and 100,000 podcasts, according to a company spokesperson. Whatever you like to read, you can probably find it on Audible.
- You get to keep any titles you read even if you cancel your subscription.
- Your membership also gets you access to a number of podcasts, as well as subscriptions to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
- You also get daily deals and an extra 30% discount on additional book purchases.
- You can download the books you choose and listen offline.
- You can try Audible out with a no-cost, 30-day trial period.
- Audible is a subscription service with five different subscription plans, the cheapest being $7.95 per month. At that lowest tier, though, you are unable to earn extra credits, and you won’t get discounts on premium selection titles or access to exclusive sales.
- The other membership plans are pricy. They include monthly subscriptions of $14.95 for one credit per month or $22.95 for two credits per month. Annual plans are also available; they cost $149.50 for 12 credits per year or $$229.50 for 24 credits per year.
- Unused credits expire after one year. They also expire when you cancel your membership.
Audiobooks.com is another subscription service, much like Audible.
- Very large selection with over 200,000 titles.
- Access to over 88 million podcast episodes for free.
- Your subscription includes one book per month.
- You can buy extra credits as needed. One credit equals one book.
- You get free extra VIP books each month with no additional charge. VIP titles are older, less popular books, but they aren’t all obscure. For example, one book currently on the list is Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
- With a free 30-day trial you get one book free and can also select from the VIP collection.
- You can stream books or download so you can listen offline.
- It’s expensive at $14.95 per month.
- VIP titles are limited and may not be of interest to you.
Scribd is a subscription service that allows you to access “unlimited” audiobooks and also offers features like ebooks, podcasts and even sheet music.
- At $9.99 it’s cheaper than Audiobooks.com and you get to listen to as many books as you want.
- There are a lot of extras like Kindle books, magazines and even sheet music available with your subscription.
- It includes a 30-day free trial.
- The term “unlimited” isn’t 100% accurate. Users in the iPhone app store complain that after two or three popular books, your ability to read new and popular titles becomes very limited for the rest of the month.
- You’re renting rather than buying the books, so you cannot keep them.
- The platform is not loaded with extras like some of the other services.
For $12.99, subscription service Downpour gives you one credit (good for any one book) per month. You can spend them as you go or save them up. Or you can simply rent or buy books without a subscription, but you’ll pay a little more for each title.
- Less expensive than Audiobooks.com.
- You own the books and can keep them even if you cancel.
- You can download and listen offline.
- You have the option to buy or rent books outside of the membership. Rentals are less expensive, but, if you buy the book, you’ll pay more than you would with a membership.
- Smaller selection with just 80,000 titles (and counting).
- No free trial.
- Each credit expires after 12 months.
- Books for purchase are pricy, though there is a tab for “Daily Deals” with sections for downloads under $15, $10 and even $5.
- No subscription needed, so you only pay for what you buy.
- You buy rather than rent the books, so they’re yours to keep.
- You can purchase from a wide selection of books at regular price.
- There is a “my wishlist” section where you can list out the books you want to listen to and get alerts if they go on sale.
- The deals are random and not catered to your taste, so you may or may not see books on sale that you actually want to read.
6. Apple Books
Apple Books is a store for iPhone and Mac users to purchase audiobooks. It’s not a subscription site, just a pay-for-what-you-want store.
- New and popular books are available, as well as classics.
- Apple editors curate general lists to help readers find new books.
- You keep your audiobooks right on your phone.
- You can download books and listen to them from your Apple Watch while you workout.
- No pressure to download books to justify a monthly expense.
- Limited to iPhone and Mac users.
- Individual books can be expensive.
7. Google Play Books
Google Play Books is much like Apple Books, but for Android and PC users, and with a few more perks.
- No subscription, just buy what you like.
- Listen to previews before committing.
- Good sales and prices overall.
- Can be used on iPhones and Macs.
- Large selection of audiobooks.
The Librivox audiobooks website declares “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” So what does that mean? Basically, it’s a free library of audiobooks that are old enough to have outlasted their copyright. They are read by volunteers.
- Completely free to use.
- Lots of great classics like “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein” and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas.”
- Available in the Apple app store.
- Limited selection (50,000) with no recent titles.
- No extras, such as podcasts..
9. Your Public Library System
Of course, you can go to your local library and check out audiobooks on CD, but that’s so 2005. These days most library systems are hooked up with apps like Overdrive or Hoopla so you can check out audiobooks digitally on your phone.
- With a library card, it’s completely free.
- Not limited to your local library but connected to a large network of libraries, so there are many titles available.
- You can place holds on titles you want if they are not currently available.
- You may not find every book you want.
- Books are checked out just like non-digital copies, so they are limited and you may have to wait for certain books.
- New and popular books frequently have a very long waiting list.
- You do not keep the titles, just borrow.
Tyler Omoth is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.