8 great Audible alternatives for audiobook listeners

8 great Audible alternatives for audiobook listeners

When I was in my twenties, spending countless hours on the fixer-upper home that Will and I lived in, I discovered audiobooks. Will and I quickly found that listening to a great book made the rehab time pass a little quicker. I remember the book that hooked us: we checked out The Professor and the Madman from the library—on compact disc!—and listened while we painted our kitchen blue.

That was nearly twenty years ago, and audiobooks sure have changed since then. Audiobook usage has skyrocketed, and it’s been ages since I listened on anything other than an app. And I use my audiobook apps a lot. I’ve come to rely on reading with my ears so that I can enjoy good books while my hands are busy.

Many readers want to try audiobooks, but it’s easy to be intimidated by the number of choices we have now. Today we’re going to walk you through some popular options.

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Amazon’s audiobook service—Audible—is great. They have an extensive library including originals and exclusives, a generous return policy, and an easy-to-use app. The Kindle-Whispersync add-on option often makes accompanying audiobooks a steal. You can buy books outright from Audible, or use a subscription that gets you one book credit to use each month plus 30% off additional audiobook purchases. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited user, there are also thousands of books for you on Audible.

But many listeners are looking for an alternative to Amazon, whether that’s in an effort to support local businesses or save on that subscription cost. Whatever your reasons, we have 8 great alternatives to Audible right here.

Libro.fm

I love Libro.fm; they’re my go-to for audiobooks these days. The app is fantastic and your membership supports independent bookstores. For about the same price as an Audible subscription, you get one book each month, and a portion of your membership dollars is paid directly to the independent bookstore of your choice. You can also share your credits as gifts.

Because local bookstores desperately need our support right now, Libro.fm is offering a special deal: when you start a membership with code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, you get two audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99), and 100% of your payment will go to the independent bookstore of your choice.

Scribd

Scribd is an unlimited subscription program for ebooks and audiobooks. You don’t own any of the titles, like you do with Audible or Libro.fm, but you can listen to an unlimited number for one flat fee each month (though some titles may be unavailable depending on your recent activity, which can be frustrating for some listeners).

We’re gonna lay all our cards out on the table here, Scribd’s app is sometimes buggy. They’re constantly working to improve and add new titles (and even have some exclusives, like Peter Heller’s latest, The Orchard, not available anywhere else). For the subscription price, it’s worth giving it a try (they offer a 30-day trial period) but I wanted you to know the drawbacks.

Chirp

BookBub’s audiobook platform Chirp offers no membership fee or hold lines. You buy and own the books you choose. Create an account and tell them what types of books you enjoy, and then Chirp will send a regular email when books that might match your interests are on sale. Download their free app and stream or download your books.

8 great Audible alternatives for audiobook listeners

Library

Don’t overlook your library as a source for audiobooks that supports your local community, and are free to use (well, at least they’re already paid for with tax dollars). The best part is that if you’re having trouble getting started, you can ask for help at your local library.

  • Libby & OverDrive: OverDrive, along with its easy-to-use companion app Libby, is a service that lets you borrow materials from your local library. You can borrow videos and ebooks as well, as long as those titles are in your library’s collection. The library collections vary by location.
  • Hoopla: Ask if your library offers Hoopla as an option. Hoopla offers audiobooks, ebooks, even movies and music. The app is easy to use with lots of features and you can tap to build a favorites list. Hoopla’s nonfiction and classics selection is outstanding, but you’re typically better off relying on Libby for those new releases. Still, since unlike with Libby, there are no waits on any book in the catalogue, this is a great place to check first. Depending on your library’s subscription program, the number you’re allowed and the checkout time to listen is often quite generous.

Physical CDs

Don’t discount the ease of a good old fashioned compact disc. You’ll never have to fiddle with the shuffle feature, and if you’re letting kids listen, there’s no chance of them accidentally downloading another app or title. Many libraries and bookstores still carry an extensive collection of CDs that you can pop into your car’s player on your commute. Cracker Barrel also has a weekly rental service. Buy the audiobook disc set, then return them to any restaurant. They’ll refund you the price, minus a small rental fee.

LibriVox and the Audiobooks app

These audiobooks are in the public domain and read by volunteers, so they are FREE. The narrators are hit-or-miss, since anyone can read or listen to the catalogue of books available, but seasoned users tell me they quickly find narrators whose performances they enjoy, and have even discovered books they never would have otherwise found because they followed their favorite narrators to new titles. Plus, did I mention it’s free?

Spotify & podcasts

I’m not talking about bookish podcasts, though obviously we love those, but actual books and stories read in small increments. This is especially popular with children’s books — Anne of Green Gables, The Cinnamon Bear, The Wizard of Oz have all gotten the podcast treatment. Search for “Loyal Books” for classics like Pride and Prejudice, The Count of Monte Cristo, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, and Little Women. More recently, author A.S. Peterson has been reading his Fiddler’s series, one chapter at a time, on the podcast Fin’s Revolution.

Networks like Slate and ABC News have been adapting works of nonfiction to the podcast format, such as in The Dropout (Bad Blood) and The Queen (The Queen). If short stories are more your speed, Levar Burton Reads is a podcast dedicated to Levar Burton’s favorite science fiction stories, and David Kern of the Close Reads podcast network reads one poem each weekday morning in The Daily Poem.

Where do you get your audiobook fix? Do you have a favorite source we haven’t shared? Tell us in comments!

P.S. To built your audiobook collection, check out our MMD Ebook Deals. We frequently post audiobook deals from various sources to our daily Ebook Deals page–from Audible Daily Deals, Whispersync, Libro.fm, and others. We’re always scouring deals and letting you know when we find audiobooks at a discount.

P.P.S. Check out this What Should I Read Next playlist featuring episodes perfect for audiobook lovers, as well as 7 ways to discover your audiobook style.

Not sure WHAT to listen to? Check out our audiobook archives for solid recommendations. I recommend starting with my favorite audiobooks of the year or 10 audiobooks so good you’ll want to fold another load of laundry, finish washing the dishes, or just sit in the driveway for 5 more minutes.

33 comments | Comment

33 comments

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  1. Lynette says:

    Our library switched over to CloudLibrary. We no longer have Libby, Overdrive, or Hoopla. The books don’t automatically download, and sometimes there are some glitches, but for the most part it’s working well for me. They don’t have all books available, but I haven’t run out of options that I want to read yet! Most books are immediately available to download.

  2. Whitney H says:

    The audiobooks.com app is great! You can do a monthly subscription and even share it with family members. They do different 2-for-1 deals each month, and your subscription comes with a free VIP download each month as well. You can also access podcasts through the app making it easy to everything in one app.

  3. Jennifer Buch says:

    Thanks for including the library options. Many public libraries are closed and working hard to provide service for our patrons. We appreciate any help we can get.

  4. Leanne says:

    Hoopla is great for audiobooks and NO holds! Libraries are working hard to continue to provide services during the closures.

    • Carol says:

      One thing that I don’t like about Hoopla is that, for most books, there is not a Table of Contents or list of Chapters. On the other hand, the books are always available for download. Libby is wonderful and very user friendly, but I usually have to put my selection on hold and wait a few weeks. I manage this by having a rotating list of books on hold.

  5. Emily Murphy says:

    Our local library uses Axis 365 and it has been pretty good. Another library I previously used did Hoopla and it is good as well (my card is still active, so I use both of them these days).
    As an aside, who wrote The Cinnamon Bear? Goodreads only has a few titles with that in the name, including one called Cinnamon Bear Buns which definitely does NOT sound child-friendly. 🙂

  6. Luciana says:

    I use Scribd and I love it. Also because I am also a book quitter so the unlimited subscription works better for me. Few people know that Scribd also has a basic subscription that costs half of the price of the normal subscription, but with access to a limited part pf their inventory (it still offers plenty of choices). Sometimes this basic subscription is hidden away, but you can see it if you try to cancel your normal subscription.

      • Lauren says:

        From my experience with Scribd, it seems to more depend on the types/popularity of the books you’re choosing rather than the number. I have experienced limits on listening to popular books from major publishers after listening to 2-3 audiobooks, but still have found others to listen to while waiting for the “new month” to start. I listen to a lot of YA, though, and think that helps as they are not popular NYT bestsellers or the like. I do wish Scribd would just be up front about their limitations though!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Chicago Public Library gives me access to Overdrive, Libby, and RBdigital – thank you! I also second using LibriVox – search for solo recordings to find best narrators. I am working through classics so I can find what I need. Popular new releases need to be purchased or wait a year on a library hold list.

  8. Lauren D. says:

    I am a homeschooling mom of five, so I primarily read via audiobooks these days.

    My go-to sources are Libby and Audible. My local library has an EXCELLENT audiobook library, but as a military wife who moves frequently, I find that this isn’t the case for all local systems (even some in major metropolitan areas where one might expect it).

    I tried to give up my Audible subscription (for frugality), but their content is SO wonderful that I just couldn’t. One way I’ve “hacked” my subscription, though, is to use my credits only on the titles that have the yellow “Audible original” banner on the bottom right corner. (These won’t be found in our libraries’ collections.) So while my Libby app has about eight different versions of “Jane Eyre,” one of your recent guests, Anne, recommended the Thandie Newton version on Audible. I am reading it right now, and wow!- it is one of my top three favorite audiobooks of all time. Also, it’s been a super easy way to read one of those classics that I “should” have read in high school, yet I find that I am sure I appreciate it so much more in this stage of life.

    (I, too, tried Scribd but found it lacking when I was accustomed to the quality of Audible’s services.)

    Thanks for this post, Anne! I always love audiobook chats.

  9. Sue Rand says:

    I’d be interested to hear what devices everyone uses for listening. My old ipod finally crashed, and I’m looking for a small mp3 player to use when I’m walking the dog.

  10. Ellen says:

    New to audiobooks… is there a (sort of) “formula” that you might use to choose an audiobook over print form? A friendly recently relistened to Becoming. It never occurred to me to listen to M Obama reading here own book in her voice!

    • Kacie says:

      Ellen — memoir read by the author is a GREAT way to try audio books! Becoming is fantastic on audio, but I did have to increase the speed. She’s talking a bit slower than normal in the recording.

      Full-cast performances can be a lot of fun, as can a narrator who can do different voices for characters in a convincing way (Bahni Turpin comes to mind. The Hate U Give on audio is amazing).

  11. Donna says:

    Can we please clarify some things about Audible? Before it was bought by Amazon, Audible was indeed a small business at one point. When you use a credit on a book, you do own it forever. However, Audible also has a “borrow” program, called Audible Escape. For $7.95 a month, you get unlimited access to any of the books in the Escape program. Many of these books are romance based, (which is my preference), but include everything from classics to the entire “Virgin River” series to the latest straight to audio content. I am really picky about my books, and this way if a book doesn’t appeal to me, I can move on to the next one with no guilt!

  12. Halie says:

    I am an avid audio book listener, and love using Overdrive to make my hold lists & wish lists, and using it’s companion Libby app for the actual audio book listening. My library doesn’t *always* specific titles, but I’ve found they’re usually able to purchase if I make a request. But aside from that, they do already have a very large selection in their catalog, and I can always find something interesting to check out. Plus, if I don’t like it, I can just return the book, no harm, foul. I never have any issues with the app itself or with the books, and I enjoy every second of “reading” while I wash dishes or drive the car!

  13. Stephanie says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for your shout out for library content. We spend a lot of money on this content and we want the community to take advantage of our digital collections!

  14. Ashley says:

    I’ve been using Scribd for audiobooks for almost 5(?) years now. I get through at least 1 title/month and usually have about 3 different audiobooks that I’m cycling through at one time. In all this time I have never had any issues with the app- definitely wouldn’t call it buggy 🙂

    • Melinda says:

      I wish I could say the same. A friend recommended Scribd and I loved the cost for unlimited books compared to Audible. But, about 50% of the time, my book restarts from the very beginning. So, if I get in the car to listen, it will have a problem reloading and start me over from the introduction. I try to remember to “bookmark” where I am when I stop, but I often forget. Super annoying. (This happened on my iphone 6s and my new iphone 11.)

  15. Audrey Fowler says:

    My library subscribes to RB Digital.. I love it! There are thousands of books to chose from in many different genres. You can put audio as well as digital books on reserve. In addition you can look up title by keywords such as author, reader and even main character. A feature I like is that if an audiobook times out after 2 weeks, when you get it back it picks up where you left off. I listen on my phone as I walk by pups (at least twice a day!)

  16. i’ve tried Scribd but didn’t like the idea that I didn’t own the book having paid for it. Librovox is very hit and miss- more miss than hit unfortunately. So I keep going back to Audible. I’ll give Libro.fm a go now you have explained the benefits to bookshops.

  17. Karin says:

    Thank you so much! This gave me the last push to opt out of Audible – being a big Amazon- boycotter, this was the last thing, I couldn‘t let go off, being dependent on my daily audio-fix – great to have alternatives!!

  18. Stacey says:

    There are several apps that contain works in the public domain like you would find at Prioject Gutenberg. The app FreeBooks is my favorite because of how it categorizes. Readers are volunteers. An entire book may be narrated by one or more people and sometimes it’s in a multi cast format. The interface is simple but they do add new books. I like to listen to the teen or kids categories because they don’t require as much focus for me. There are some wonderful gems in the public domain that you will never have heard of and worth a listen. My favorite has been the Grace Harlowe series. I have listened to 10 so far and they are a good length. If you haven’t checked out public domain books yet then give them a try. FreeBooks lets you download as many as you want.

  19. Emilee says:

    My library uses CloudLibrary and I love that app more than many others I use! On Scribd you need to make sure and flag what you want to read and they will tell you when they lift the restriction with a date.

  20. Joan says:

    I have used Chirp, but I’ve found some of the narrators make the stories monotonous and the books they recommend are often way out of my interests. However, I keep trying. I loved Hoopla when our library made it available, but so many people are using it, it’s hard to get the audiobooks. I love Audible and, when I’m ready to read a classic, some of the free places have a large offering. Thanks for the lists and explanations.

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