Playster is the best value of the audio book memberships we tested. Its monthly membership includes unlimited streaming and digital downloads, making it the best option if you listen to more than one book each month. The service uses the Netflix model – you get access to a library of eBooks, games, music, movies and audio books, and you can use everything as much as you want, but you also lose access to it all when you cancel your membership.
Playster offers several membership options. You can get an all-inclusive pass for $24.95 a month, which gives you access to its games, movies, books, audio books and music, or for a lower monthly fee, you can choose to access a single type of media. The audio-book-only membership is $14.95 a month, the same as Audible. However, unlike Audible, you don’t get to keep the books when you end your membership. Some users might consider this a deal breaker, but a lot of video services, such as Hulu and Netflix, work this way.
This service solved the buying-anxiety problem we had on the other sites – because you aren’t limited to one credit a month, there isn’t as much pressure to choose the perfect book. With Playster, you can dive right in without buyer’s remorse. If you don’t like a book, you can just stop listening, and it doesn’t become a permanent part of your library. You also don’t have to make room in your budget later if you finish your audio book before the end of the month.
Playster has a couple drawbacks that kept it from being our number one pick. It only hosts 100,000 titles, and Audible has over 180,000. Also, as I tested with our Best of 2016 list, I found that the site only carried around 60 percent of the titles. It’s a good idea to use the service’s one-month free trial to see if you can find the audio books you’re interested in downloading.
You can use the service’s app to browse, download and stream audio books, and it’s easy to find what you want because it displays the books’ covers instead of just the titles and authors. Because Playster carries other media, its app can be a little clunky to search through.
As I used the service, its site often returned a lot of results for other types of media that I had to sift through to find the audio book I wanted – if you decide to go with the audio book membership rather than the all-inclusive pass, seeing media you can’t use might get a bit frustrating after a while. The app allows you to narrow your searches, but you have to remember to click on the correct media type on the homepage before you start looking.
The service’s app was slightly more difficult to use than some of our other top picks’. There were a few times that the book didn’t sync across all my devices or remember where I left off, so I had to find my place again manually. The text in the Playster app is far too small, and its menu options aren’t as easy to navigate as those in Audible and Audiobook.com’s apps.
Still, overall, the app is functional and includes the standard audio book player features. It lets you set a timer for zero to 24 hours in case you drift off while listening to your book, and it has variable playback that changes the pace of narrator’s voice from half to 2x speed.
Audio book users occasionally get distracted as they listen, and an adjustable jump length is a useful way to get back to the last part you paid attention to. Playster lets you put bookmarks throughout the book, but it has a set 30-second jump length and would benefit from giving readers the option to personalize this setting.
It’s a little too easy to create a Playster account – you can make one without giving the service your credit card information. At one point, I thought I was logging into my account, and I accidentally used another email address. Instead of notifying me that I’d entered the wrong username, Playster created a second account, and I had to spend the next few days toggling between the two. I couldn’t use media on my second profile, but I had to sign out of it and then log back in with my primary account. The customer service center eventually helped me out, but it was frustrating up until tech support fixed the issue.
Playster has 24/7 support. You can contact the service by live chat, phone and email, but the site’s current design hides the support information page. Rather making help easy to access on the homepage, you have to click on your account and use the top menu to get to the support page. The company’s phone number isn’t currently listed on the site either, but you can ask the live chat team if you want to speak to someone on the phone. There are also FAQs, tutorials and a search bar to help you find the information you’re looking for.
With Playster, you don’t have to strategize to choose just one book a month to permanently add to your library – you can start listening immediately without buyer’s remorse if you choose a book you don’t like. It’s a good option if you listen to a lot of books each month and don’t necessarily want a permanent audio book collection. This unlimited membership worked best for my style of listening, and I used it more frequently than any of the others, even after testing.