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11 Options for Cheap Audiobooks

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

Though some still prefer the old-fashioned printed book, many people prefer the convenience and portability of audiobooks.

But how do you get the audiobooks you want without paying a lot of money? There are a number of audiobook services available, but the options can be overwhelming. Finding the right audiobook service is a matter of finding the right one for how you like to read.

Here’s our rundown of some of the best services where you can grab a book for your ears.

1. Audible

Woman listening to music
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Audible is a big name in audiobooks. As a part of Amazon, it’s heavily marketed and easily available, but it has its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Audible boasts one of the largest audiobook libraries out there with more than 500,000 titles and around 100,000 podcasts, according to a company spokesperson. Whatever you like to read, you can probably find it on Audible.
  • You get to keep any titles you read even if you cancel your subscription.
  • You also get daily deals and an extra 30% discount on additional book purchases.
  • You can download the books you choose and listen offline.
  • You can try Audible out with a no-cost, 30-day trial period.
  • Amazon Prime members can try Audible free for 90 days while also receiving 2 credits (1 credit = 1 title) per month.

Cons

  • Audible is a subscription service with five different subscription plans, the cheapest being $7.95 per month. At that lowest tier, though, you are unable to earn extra credits, and you won’t get discounts on premium selection titles or access to exclusive sales.
  • The other membership plans are pricey. They include monthly subscriptions of $14.95 for 1 credit per month or $22.95 for 2 credits per month. Annual plans are also available; they cost $149.50 for 12 credits per year or $229.50 for 24 credits per year.
  • Unused credits expire after one year. They also expire when you cancel your membership.

2. Audiobooks.com

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Audiobooks.com is another subscription service, much like Audible.

Pros

  • Very large selection with more than 300,000 titles plus more than 10,000 free audiobooks.
  • Access to more than 100 million podcast episodes for free.
  • Your subscription includes one book per month.
  • You can buy extra credits as needed. One credit equals one book.
  • You get free extra VIP books each month with no additional charge. VIP titles are older, less popular books, but they aren’t all obscure. For example, one book currently on the list is Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
  • With a free 30-day trial you get two books free and can also select one book from the VIP collection that changes monthly.
  • You can stream books or download them so you can listen offline.

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than many options at $14.95 per month.

3. Scribd

Teenager listening to music on headphones
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Scribd is a subscription service that allows you to access “unlimited” audiobooks and also offers features like e-books, podcasts and even sheet music.

Pros

  • At $11.99 a month, it’s cheaper than Audiobooks.com and you get to listen to as many books as you want.
  • There are a lot of extras like Kindle books, magazines and even sheet music available with your subscription.
  • You can choose from more than 1 million e-books, 200,000 audiobooks and 1 million magazine and news articles.
  • It includes a 30-day free trial.

Cons

  • The term “unlimited” isn’t 100% accurate. Users in the iPhone app store complain that after two or three popular books, your ability to read new and popular titles becomes very limited for the rest of the month.
  • You’re renting rather than buying the books, so you cannot keep them.
  • The platform is not loaded with extras like some of the other services.

4. Downpour

Woman listening to music
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For $12.99 a month, subscription service Downpour gives you 1 credit (good for any one book) per month. You can spend them as you go or save them up. Or you can simply rent or buy books without a subscription, but you’ll pay a little more for each title.

Pros

  • Less expensive than Audiobooks.com.
  • You own the books and can keep them even if you cancel.
  • You can download and listen offline.
  • You have the option to buy or rent books outside of the membership. Rentals are less expensive, but, if you buy the book, you’ll pay more than you would with a membership.

Cons

  • Smaller selection with just 80,000 titles (and counting).
  • Each credit expires after 12 months.
  • Books for purchase are pricey, though there is a tab for “Daily Deals” with sections for downloads under $10, $5 and even 99 cents.

5. Chirp

Woman listening to music
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Chirp is a sister site of Bookbub, an e-book site. When you sign up for the service, you get a daily email featuring special deals. Many of the deals are $3.99 or less for each book.

Pros

  • No subscription needed, so you only pay for what you buy.
  • You buy rather than rent the books, so they’re yours to keep.
  • You can purchase from a wide selection of books at regular price.
  • There is a “my wishlist” section where you can list out the books you want to listen to and get alerts if they go on sale.

Cons

  • The featured deals are random and aren’t catered to your taste, so you may or may not see books on sale that you actually want to read.

6. Apple Books

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Apple Books is a store for Apple users to purchase audiobooks. It’s not a subscription site, just a pay-for-what-you-want store.

Pros

  • New and popular books are available, as well as classics.
  • Apple editors curate general lists to help readers find new books.
  • You keep your audiobooks right on your phone.
  • You can download books and listen to them from your Apple Watch while you work out.
  • No pressure to download books to justify a monthly expense.

Cons

  • Individual books can be expensive.

7. Google Play Books

Google Play
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Google Play Books is much like Apple Books, but for Android and PC users, and with a few more perks.

Pros

  • No subscription, just buy what you like.
  • Listen to previews before committing.
  • Good sales and prices overall.
  • Can be used on iPhones and Macs.
  • Large selection of audiobooks.
  • Offers some free books.

Cons

  • Some users complain that the app is clunky.

8. Libro.fm

Teen listening to music on headphones
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Libro.fm is the independent bookstore of audiobook services — the anti-Audible if you will.

Pros

  • Libro.fm donates a portion of every purchase you make to the locally owned bookstore of your choice.
  • No membership required.
  • However, you have an option to become a member for $14.99 per month, which gives you one audiobook credit per month and 30% off individual purchases.
  • More than 250,000 audiobooks are available.
  • You own the books you buy, meaning you keep them if you ever cancel your membership.
  • Offers free iOS and Android listening apps.

Cons

  • Similarly priced plans through Audible and Audiobooks.com offer a larger catalog of books to choose from.

9. Blinkist

Blissful woman enjoying music on her headphones lying on her stomach on the sofa with her eyes closed in enjoyment
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Blinkist is a unique service in that it offers condensed versions of popular nonfiction books for people who don’t feel like they have time to listen to entire books.

Pros

  • It’s fairly inexpensive at only $8.34 per month.
  • You can try the service out for free for seven days.
  • Includes access to more than 5,000 nonfiction books in dozens of categories.
  • Most audiobooks can be listened to in 20 minutes or less.
  • Subscription includes unlimited access to all books.
  • If you like the condensed book, you can upgrade to the full version.

Cons

  • Nonfiction only
  • Good for a quick overview but not for in-depth knowledge.

10. Librivox

Young man wearing headphones and looking at his phone
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The Librivox audiobooks website declares “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” So what does that mean? Basically, it’s a free library of audiobooks that are old enough to have outlasted their copyright. They are read by volunteers.

Pros

  • Completely free to use.
  • Lots of great classics like “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein” and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.”
  • Available in the Apple app store.

Cons

  • Limited selection (50,000) with no recent titles.
  • No extras, such as podcasts.

11. Your Public Library System

reading
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Of course, you can go to your local library and check out audiobooks on CD, but that’s so 2005. These days most library systems are hooked up with apps like OverDrive or Hoopla so you can check out audiobooks digitally on your phone, tablet or reader.

Pros

  • With a library card, it’s completely free.
  • Not limited to your local library but connected to a large network of libraries, so there are many titles available.
  • You can place holds on titles you want if they are not currently available.

Cons

  • You may not find every book you want.
  • Books are checked out just like non-digital copies, so they are limited and you may have to wait for certain books.
  • New and popular books frequently have a very long waiting list.
  • You do not keep the titles, just borrow them.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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