In the Market for Cheap Audiobooks? Here Are 10 Options to Consider
I’m a relatively new homeowner with a wife, a job, and 2-year-old twins. 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. Do you want to rent or buy? How many audiobooks can you get per month? Finding the right audiobook service is a matter of finding the right one for how you like to read.
10 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 out there when it comes to 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 540,000 titles 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 four different subscription plans. At a minimum of $14.95 per month, that’s tied with Audiobooks.com for the most expensive of the audiobook services listed here.
- For your money, you get one audiobook title per month, as well as one “Audible Original.” Audible Originals are content that Audible produces itself, so you won’t find any titles from the bestseller lists. That’s pretty limited for an avid reader.
- Unused credits expire after one year.
Works For: The eclectic reader who is willing to pay a bit more to find all of the titles she wants.
Audiobooks.com is another subscription service, much like Audible, but there are a few differences.
- Very large selection with over 150,000 titles.
- Access to over 700,000 podcasts for free.
- You get two books per month, rather than just one compared to Audible.
- You can buy extra credits as needed, but they’re another $14.95 a pop. 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. Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” and Dave Pelzer’s “The Lost Boy” are currently featured as VIP titles right. Both were former New York Times bestsellers.
- Your free 30-day trial comes with three books: one premium title and two 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.
Best for: People want a big selection and want more than one title per month.
Scribd is a subscription service that allows you to read “unlimited” audiobooks and also offers features like ebooks and podcasts.
- At $9.99 it’s cheaper than Audible or 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 find more 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.
Best for: The audiobook fanatic who cranks through them quickly and wants new, popular titles.
Downpour is a subscription service in which $12.99 gives you one credit (good for any one book) per month. You can spend them as you go or save them up. It’s a different sort of subscription service. Or, if you like, you can simply rent or buy books without a subscription, but you’ll pay a little more for each title.
- Less expensive than Audible or Audiobooks.com.
- You can save up your credits when you’re not able to listen to audiobooks to use them at a better time, like when you’re on vacation. So if you don’t have time to read in the summer, you can stash those monthly credits and use them all in December on those cold nights.
- Each credit is valid for 12 months. It expires at the end of that time.
- 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.
- Books for purchase are pricy, though there is a tab for “Daily Steals” with sections for downloads under $15, $10 and even $5 that changes daily and randomly.
Best For: People who don’t listen to audiobooks consistently, but who still want access to new and popular titles.
Chirp is a newer player on the audiobook scene. A sister site of Bookbub, an e-book site, it arrived in the spring of 2019. Chirp is an email subscription service that sends you daily deals for audiobook titles. You get a daily email with two special deals per day. If you click it, however, it will take you to the website where there are a lot more of the deals. Many of the deals are $3.99 or less for each book.
- 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 other books, but at regular price.
- There is a “my wishlist” section where you can list out the books you want to listen to and get alerts when and if they go on sale.
- The deals are completely random and not catered to your taste, so you may or may not see books on sale that you actually want to read.
- Regular price books can cost anywhere from about $10 to over $40 for some titles.
Best for: The not-so-picky reader who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money, but likes to own the audiobook titles.
6. Apple Books
Apple Books is basically 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.
- 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, with most ranging from $8.99 and $16.99.
Best for: Apple fans who want to use their audiobooks on various Apple products and prefer to pay just for what they want.
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
- No freebies
Best for: Anyone who wants to purchase books as they go rather than being tied to a subscription.
On the Librivox website, it says “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 and read by volunteers.
- Completely free to use.
- Lots of great classics like “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein” and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas.”
- Very limited selection (14,000) with no recent titles.
- No extras like podcasts, etc.
- No phone app.
Best for: The cost-conscious listener who’s looking to catch up on the classics.
9. Project Gutenberg
Much like Librivox, Project Gutenberg is another volunteer-created collection of free audiobooks and ebooks.
- Listening to audiobooks on Project Gutenberg is completely free.
- You’ll be able to find some great classics like “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Call of the Wild” and “Anne of Green Gables.”
- The selection is very limited. When you cross-reference “audiobooks” with “English” in the advanced search, you’ll get just over 500 titles.
- Project Gutenberg does not have a dedicated app.
Best for: The at-my-desk listener of classic literature.
10. 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.
- As long as you have 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.
Best for: The budget-conscious person who’s flexible on what she reads.
Tyler Omoth is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.