If you’ve known me for longer than 2 seconds, you know that I love audiobooks. This wasn’t always the case – I think I first listened to Pride & Prejudice via Librivox in about 2015 and then shortly after listened to The Martian on Audible and I was so so so hooked. I’ve evolved a lot as an audiobook user too – and the way I access them has changed too, so I’m happy to share today!! This post is pretty comprehensive, but if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.
WHERE TO GET AUDIOBOOKS FOR FREE:
My favourite price is free – isn’t yours? I absolutely love browsing my Library website for audiobooks & putting them on hold or adding them to a list for the future. There are basically three main ways to get audiobooks from your library, and I believe that MOST libraries have these options.
Many libraries buy a CD set of a book and you can take these out just like you would any other print book and listen in a CD player. This isn’t my preference because I like to listen to audiobooks at at least 1.5x speed, but it has worked well for some hard-to-get/older books or for my kids, who aren’t speed demons for audiobook listening. 😉
Most libraries offer e-books and audiobooks via Overdrive or Libby. These are basically the same thing, but Overdrive is the website for finding and checking out these books and Libby is the main app to read or listen to them. If you have a Kobo in Canada, you can read e-books via Overdrive as well. I know that’s a bit confusing but here’s how it looks on my Halifax library page. I accessed it via this e-library tab here:
As you can see, you put in your library card and then you’ll have access to the catalog:
Once you add in your library card, you can search and put items on hold or take things out right away. I think the default setting allows you to have them for 14 days, but you can change that to 21 days in the settings like this:
To listen to audiobooks or read e-books from this overdrive catalog, you can do so right in your internet browser, or download to the Libby app on your tablet or phone (free app). Libby is THE SAME as Overdrive.
Not all libraries have Hoopla, but most do now. Also, not all Hooplas are created the same, as I’ve learned speaking to my Ontario/US book friends, but this is still a great option. With Hoopla, you access the website and create an account using your e-mail address and link it to your public library card. After that, you get a certain number of credits to use in one month (at our Halifax library, we get 5, but many libraries get more!). You are able to keep the books for 3 weeks, and you get them immediately (no holds!), but you only get that number per month, even if you return them. The credit number resets on the 1st of every month though, so you could get 5 books on November 30 and 5 more on December 1. Hoopla does carry a lot of new releases, but you can’t rely on it having absolutely anything you want, necessarily. It also doesn’t always have all of the books in a certain series, which can be frustrating – but it’s GREAT for when you just need an e-book or audiobook immediately without having to stop by the library or wait on a holds list. I do find it a bit glitchy for e-books in terms of keeping your place. It also has movies and TV shows and music! To use Hoopla for audiobooks, you can listen right from an internet browser or via the Hoopla app, which is available for free on iOS or Android.
Librivox and public domain alternatives
If a book was published more than 50 years ago, it is considered to be in the public domain and these books are easily accessible on the internet. This mostly applies to the classics, obviously, and Librivox is a great site with volunteer readers. I’ve never used the app, but there are many, many recordings of classic text so this would be great if you are in an English lit class or something like that (personally, I wish I’d listened to Shakespeare in 2005 instead of reading it, ha ha). Many classics are on YouTube or Spotify or as podcasts too – just something to check out!
AUDIOBOOK SITES THAT USE CREDITS:
With all of these, you own the books after you use a credit to buy them.
I’m sure anyone seeking out audiobooks has heard of Audible, which is connected to Amazon. Audible costs $14.95/month and gives you one credit for that price. You can exchange the credit for one audiobook. Audible, by far, has the most audiobooks of almost all of these services and there are also a lot of Audible Originals/Exclusives meaning that some books are only available via Audible. I usually save my credits for those ones. Audible has also recently introduced the Plus catalog which is included in that $14.99 and would allow you to listen to any other books in that catalog that you’d want. They do have a few sales a year too in which you can purchase audiobooks directly for less than the price of a credit and they have a free month (one credit) trial which you can often access about once a year. One great thing about Audible is they let you return audiobooks so if you bought something and then were able to access it elsewhere for free, you could return it for a new credit.
This works much like Audible, and also has great availability of audiobooks from all the publishers. The best bonus of Libro.FM is that some of your money spent on monthly credit goes towards supporting an Indie bookshop of your choice. It is a little bit pricier at $14.99 USD (so more if you’re Canadian), but they do also offer a one month trial / one credit. Libro.FM has sales on particular books often too that you can purchase without a membership. They offer you the ability to easily cancel or put your membership on hold and skip a few months, which is nice.
Kobo offers a one month trial as well, and is credit based as well. It is the least expensive of these credit-based subscriptions at $12.99/credit but it doesn’t have QUITE the availability of the others. However, it is very easy to use, and they also often have sales on specific audiobooks.
This site has a good availability of audiobooks and right now I saw that you can get 4 audiobooks in your trial, so it’s well worth giving it a try! After that month, like the others, it is $14.95 USD for a credit that you exchange for a book that you get to keep, and one VIP book (from a limited choice) per month.
This site was new to me while I researched this post, but it seems to work much like the others above and you get one credit a month for $12.99 USD. However, you can also rent the occasional book for much less (it seems like about $1.99/rental) throughout the month too. There’s no free trial, so I’m not in a huge rush to check it out, but it is a bit less expensive!
AUDIOBOOK SITES THAT ARE SUBSCRIPTION BASED:
The following sites are a bit like Netflix for books. Often, you can listen to as many books as you want in a month (though there are some limits) but you never own the books. I love this model because I don’t *often* re-read books and I sometimes feel immense pressure when choosing how to spend a credit.
I’ve used Scribd on and off for a few years now and you can get a free 60-day trial here by clicking my affiliate link (full disclosure, I get a free month if you use my link, but if you don’t use an affiliate link from anyone, you only get a 30 day trial). I’ve been very lucky to have family and friends gift me this service. Scribd has a LOT of new release audiobooks and it has e-books and other documents as well. It claims to be unlimited, but I’ve found that if I listen to a few popular audiobooks in a month, all of my saved list can become “unavailable” until the next billing cycle. For that reason, I usually only use it for a book that has a long holds list at the library or that I need immediately, and I try to limit myself to the most important/urgent books first. You can download the books to your device or stream over Wi-Fi. I’ve really enjoyed having access to so many new audiobooks via this service. After the trial is up, it’s $8.99 USD/month, which still feels very inexpensive considering you can usually listen to at least 3 new releases. The downside is that you don’t own the books after cancelling, however.
Anyplay works like Scribd except that it claims to be completely unlimited. I tried the 7 day free trial and listened to 3 books in that time frame, but I did find the app to be a little bit glitchy. Their availabilty is a bit different from Scribd, but still really good, and it is $11 (CAD)/month after the trial. It’s worth a try for the trial, at the very least – assuming you can finish an audiobook in that time since you don’t get to keep it afterwards. Of the two, Scribd has more available books just because they also have so many e-books, but it can be frustrating if you run into the limitations from listening too much/too quickly.
AUDIOBOOK SITES TO BUY FROM DIRECTLY:
Google Play has audiobooks, and they have a wide variety, but this is by far the least cost-effective way to purchase an audiobook for streaming unless you find one on sale or maybe if you have a specific gift card to use.
Apple Books would be the same as above but for use on Apple devices – again, I can’t really recommend this method of accessing audiobooks unless you find a sale or have a gift card to use.
This site is a bit different from the above two because you sign up for a Flexpass monthly membership for 7.95 USD which gets you one book at that price and can then purchase as many books as you want after that. So it’s a bit of a less expensive way to buy books directly in which you aren’t limited by a number of credits, but it’s still maybe not the most cost effective.
This site seems like a great way to get some books at incredible prices (less than a price of an Audible or Libro.FM credit) but I’m not sure if the overall subscription would be worth it. A great site to browse for sales, though!!
Here is another place to purchase audiobooks directly using cash or a gift card – again, I don’t think this is the most cost-effective way to purchase most books, but always worth a browse.
In summary, my favourite way to access audiobooks by FAR is via the library apps (Libby/Overdrive and Hoopla), but I also LOVE Scribd and I think Audible does a great free trial to try an Audible exclusive.