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Audible review

Audible is the top place to get your audiobooks in 2020. It's an Amazon company, so you get added bonuses if you're a Prime member too.

Audible review
(Image: © Amazon)

Our Verdict

Audible is definitely the best place for get audiobooks right now, thanks to a vast selection of titles, decent sign-up incentive, added extras, and a slick app.

For

  • Biggest library of audiobooks
  • Book exchange and returns
  • Great app and free podcast selection

Against

  • Quite expensive

Audible is, without doubt, the best audiobook service right now. While there are plenty of rivals that find their own niches or specialized places in the market, it's tough to beat Audible's offering. For $14.99 per month, you get to choose one title from the largest selection of audiobooks anywhere, and it's yours to keep forever. Audible will exchange the book if you don't like it, and will give you a free novel just for signing up and taking advantage of the 30-day free trial period. Throw in a huge selection of podcasts, and an app that works well on both Apple and Android devices, and it's obvious why Audible is top dog.

Audible review: Membership and price

The basic Audible membership is $14.99 per month, although you can pay $149 for the year, and save about $30. What this gets you is one free audiobook per month from the regular selection, which you can download and keep across multiple devices. Membership also gets you two free Audible Originals per month, which can uncover some absolute gems, although they're inconsistent. You can also opt to have top US newspapers delivered to the device of your choice too.

There are a selection of podcasts to download through Audible too. While podcasts are normally free anywhere, and widely available on other platforms, it's good to have all your spoken-word listening in a single place. In terms of podcast offerings, only Audiobooks.com has a comparable selection.

If you want to access more than one audiobook per month, Audible’s Annual Plan options allow you to access your credits right away, rather than wait for one to drop each month. This option is more expensive upfront, but can save money long-term. Audiobooks are expensive, so getting them with a subscription service like Audible is the most cost-effective way of doing it. Becoming by Michelle Obama, for example, is currently $35 on the month of its release.

Audible review: Library size and variety

One of the main reasons Audible is the top service is its massive store. My research showed that listeners value being able to access the books they want to read over anything else – even above price. Audible houses over 200,000 titles, which is significantly more than any other membership service’s library. The company is also known for its quality audio production and exclusive content. 

Audible has the largest library of all audiobook providers

(Image credit: Amazon)

Audible stocks the newest releases from major publishing houses. To test the quality of the services’ libraries, we compiled a list of the most popular books from 2019 and searched for them in each store. Audible had 95%+ of the titles on the list, including The Testaments by Margret Atwood, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, which was more than any other store we reviewed.

Amazon has owned Audible since 2008, but you don’t need a Prime membership to enjoy the service. However, if you sign up for Prime, you get free, exclusive content. The site offers a one-month free trial, and because the cancellation process is relatively easy, and you get a reminder email before you actually pay money, it's worth signing up to see if you like it. While many other audio book subscription sites, like Scribd, only allow you to borrow books, the ones you download on Audible are yours to keep. Even if you cancel your membership, you can still access your books on the app.

Audible review: App and website

We love Audible’s free downloadable app, which is available on all the best smartphones and tablets. You'll find it via the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store for Android devices. It is well organized and easy to navigate. The print is also easy to read, and its settings are customizable – you can adjust the sleep timer and variable playback speed to fit the app to your listening style. 

Audible’s website via Amazon is tailored towards search, rather than discovery. There are featured sections, and a look at popular new titles, but it's tricky to scroll through and get a sense of everything that's new and popular. Still, even though the interface is a bit cluttered, the search function is more detailed than on rival sites, which is great if you know what you want to read. Each book has a product page with information about its length and the narrator as well as critic and reader reviews. The site also provides recommendations for similar titles - another strength of Audible's extensive library.

While the app and website do a good job of keeping all your content synced across devices, Audible’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection has drawn criticism from some consumers. The DRM allows Audible to limit the number of devices you use to play or share your audio books. There are other audio book membership companies, such as Audiobookstore.com, that are DRM-free. Despite these limits, Audible does allow you to share the books you download with your family, but you need an Amazon account to register the members of your household with the site.

Audible is also innovative in how you can listen to audio books. You can play through any Alexa device, allowing you to listen with other people, or without headphones. There’s also a feature that lets you switch back and forth between the eBook and audio versions of a book. Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice tool follows along in the audio book, so you can listen to it while you do household chores and then pick up where you left off on your eReader in the evening. Though it’s pretty neat, it’s a luxury feature because you have to purchase the book twice: once in eBook format and once as an audio book.

You can use Audible on smart devices and Alexa

(Image credit: Amazon)

Audible review: Support and exchange

Since most audio book membership services are digital, it’s important for a company to have good return policies. The best services let you return an audio book if you accidentally purchase the wrong one or don’t enjoy the title you buy after listening for a while. Audible has a contract with its users called the Good Listening Guarantee, which allows you to return an audio book if you don’t end up enjoying it. While stores that offer unlimited access to their libraries are better, this promise can help alleviate buyer’s remorse and purchase anxiety.

As part of our testing, we deliberately returned an audiobook using Amazon's Live Chat function. With only a few questions about the title we purchased, and our account information, Audible removed the book from our library and restored the credit. Audible has 24-hour customer service, which is a step up from many of the stores we compared, and you can find phone, email and live chat contact information on its website. It also has a huge FAQs section with a search function as well as user forums you can use to troubleshoot on your own, making it by far the best site for customer service.

Should you choose Audible?

Audible is the best choice if you listen to one or two audiobooks a month and want access to the largest library of new and exclusive titles. It is a good service with excellent customer support options, and it offers a decent deal on audiobooks - both for sign-up, and as part of your membership. 

If you think you'll get through more than a single audiobook per month, you should perhaps consider Scribd - which is a Netflix-style 'read all you want' service, with a smaller selection. You could also supplement new books with classics, by finding older books on free sites like LibriVox. Our recommendation, however, is to try Audible for the 30-day free trial, see what your listening habits are, and go from there.