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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.