Playster is a subscription service that provides you with unlimited audiobook listening for a flat monthly fee. Sounds good, in theory. However, with confusing pricing, and tech that often fails the user, it falls well short of rivals like Audible and Scribd. While Playster is a big name in audiobooks, we would not recommend signing up, and we haven't placed the site among our best audiobook services for 2020.
Playster offers several membership options. You can get an all-inclusive pass for $46.95 a month, which gives you access to its games, movies, books, audiobooks and music, or for a lower monthly fee, you can choose to access the audiobook-only membership, which is $14.95 a month, the same as Audible. However, it does exclude certain premium titles unless you have the premium audiobook pass which is $29.95 - double that of Audible. And there's more bad news: 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.
And there is another issue. When you sign-up and get the free trial for Playster, you only get access to the basic audiobooks, many of which are available for free via sites like LibriVox. Maddeningly, you can't access the premium audiobooks until you commit to the higher pricing tier, making Playster fairly poor value for money and a poor user experience.
The advantage to Playster's model is that you aren’t limited to one credit a month, like Audiobooks.com, for example, so 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 only hosts 50,000 audiobook titles, and Audible has over 200,000, with the majority of texts on the site being eBooks. Also, as we tested with our Best of 2019 list, we found that the site only carried around 60% of the titles we searched for. 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 but, again, you won't actually be able to read any of the titles marked as 'premium'.
One thing that didn't go in Playster's favor is that the website was actually down for maintenance when we first tried to sign up. In fact, we experienced this several times during testing. As we used the service, its site often returned a lot of results for other types of media that we had to sift through to find the audio book we wanted – if you decide to go with the audiobook basic or premium membership rather than the all-inclusive pass, seeing media you can’t use does 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.
You can use Playster'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 - very much a case of Jack of all-trades, Master of none.
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. Like many other users, however, we experienced issues with the bookmark system, which simply didn't work on a number of occasions.
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 than 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. All the components are there, but it often feels like Playster doesn't want to be contacted.
Playster's promise of unlimited audiobook listening for a single monthly fee is excellent in principle, but falls apart in practice. The confusing pricing will frustrate most potential users, despite the premium audiobook membership being reasonable value. Its smaller library of audiobooks pales in comparison to many rivals, and the tech issues on site and within the app make for a poor all-round user experience. There is potential here, but we wouldn't recommend Playster as it is now.