In trying to find the best paid audio book subscription, I wanted to see if the most popular services’ memberships were worth the monthly enrollment fee, so I compared them to sites that just sell downloadable audio books. I found that services with memberships, such as Audible and Playster, are valuable for avid audio book fans, but Barnes & Noble’s Nook Audiobooks is the cheapest retail alternative for infrequent listeners.
As I searched the site for the most popular books of 2016, I found that the average price for an audio book was cheaper than at the other popular non-membership store I looked at, Apple Books – although Nook Audiobooks doesn’t carry nearly as many titles as the Apple-based store. I also discovered that if you buy at least one audio book a month, enrolling in membership at another site saves you around $3 per month.
I didn’t like Nook Audiobooks’ app experience as much as that of some of the other sites I tested. The free app houses your audio book library, but it’s not nearly as customizable as Audible or Audiobook.com’s, which are the top-two paid services. The app is missing essential tools like variable playback speed, a feature that lets you control the narrator’s reading pace. It also doesn’t have a sleep timer in case you fall asleep while reading, so you may have to navigate back quite a way when you start listening again. You can jump from chapter to chapter in the app, but you can’t customize the skip-back feature’s time increment, something the best apps let you do.
On the other hand, the app has a slider you can drag to find your place in the book, which makes navigating somewhat easier. You can also shop in the Nook Audiobooks app so you don’t have to wait to pick another book after you finish one – this makes finding your next audio book easy.
Like the app, Nook Audiobooks’ website isn’t as versatile as some of the subscription services’ sites. You can sign in to your account and listen to your audio book on the web, but it doesn’t leave a bookmark so you can pick up where you left off on another device. If you want to listen on a smartphone or tablet after doing so on your computer, you have to search for your place in the book again. One reason Nook Audiobooks is a bit better than Apple Books is it’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices, while the Apple store works off the closed system.
Nook Audiobooks doesn’t have direct customer support options over the phone or live chat. The FAQs page is very bare. There is an email contact form, but it’s only for if you run into trouble. When you search for more help, you’re eventually linked back to Barnes & Noble’s online store. You can search for customer support there, but the site should have direct support for its digital downloads store like many of the other sites I researched do.
Getting the best deal on an audio book service depends on your listening habits. If you only listen to one book every three months or so, you might want to stick with Nook Audiobooks’ online shop. On the other hand, if you plan to listen to at least one book a month, you should check out our top picks’ membership plans.