f you’re a fan of audiobooks, you’ve probably heard of Audible. It’s the biggest online audiobooks store, with hundreds of thousands of titles, and player apps for almost every device under the sun. But is Audible worth its membership price?
Unlike some other online stores that sell audiobooks, Audible pushes you towards a subscription – without it, prices of individual titles are quite costly. So in essence, Audible is like a membership-based VOD store for audiobooks. But the subscription model isn’t for everyone…
In this review, I’ll take a look at how Audible works, what you get with your subscription, and whether it’s the right service for you. (If you want to jump right ahead and try it out – you can get Audible for free, for 30 days, via this link).
Audible UK - Quick Look
Who Is It For: People who love listening to audiobooks, and tend to do it regularly.
A huge audiobooks store that works best when you join with a monthly subscription – for £7.99/month, you get one credit (=1 book) each month
Table of Contents
What Is Audible?
Audiobooks, in general, have been popular for years on physical media: first on vinyl records, cassette tapes, and eventually CDs. Audible was launched in the US back in 1995, as a place to buy online audiobooks.
In 2008, Audible was bought by Amazon for $300 million and is now a subsidiary of the American retail giant.
Here in the UK, audiobooks usually reference both actual ‘books’ that are read out loud on a recording, and ‘audio dramas’, which were also popular on the radio, in which stories – sometimes original ones – are dramatised with actors and special effects. The Doctor Who audio dramas, for example, have been quite popular for many years.
Today, Audible has more than 400,000 audio titles. These range from full-length books, to recorded lectures, magazines and children’s stories. In recent years, Audible has also become one of the leading audiobook producers, and they record and release new books each year, in-house.
Although Audible does sell individual audiobooks, it’s not really geared towards that, and the books are quite expensive if you buy them this way – often more so than on other online audiobook stores.
Instead, Audible wants you to subscribe to their membership scheme, where you pay monthly (or yearly) for a set amount of audiobooks.
What Does An Audible Membership Get You?
Once you join Audible’s basic membership tier, you get 1 “credit” every month.
Each credit can be exchanged for one audiobook, regardless of its original price – so you might see books that are sold for £31.99 and are 30-hours-long, collections of works that span over more than 70 hours and normally cost £79.99, and plays that are 1-hour long and cost £4.99. ALL of these examples would cost you… one credit.
Therefore, value-for-money is a bit hard to measure on Audible, as it really depends on how you use your monthly credit. Generally speaking, since the normal Audible price is £7.99/month, it’s always best to use your credit on a book that costs more than that (and most do) – as that will give you the best value for money.
Interestingly, any book you’ve bought on Audible can be returned and exchanged for a different one, for any reason (up to 12 months after the purchase) – even if you’ve listened to the entire book. Audible does limit this benefit, and if you abuse it and return “too many” books, they might remove your ability to return books – though they don’t specify what the limits are, exactly.
If you’re a big (audio)bookworm, and one credit isn’t enough for you, Audible also offers a plan with 2 credits each month for £14.99. Additionally, you can pay for a year in advance – either for 12 or 24 credits – and get discounts:
- 1 Book A Month £7.99
- 2 Books A Month £14.99
- 12 Books A Year £69.99
- 24 Books A Year £109.99
Audible’s monthly credit system is a blessing if you’re an avid listener, as it always reminds you to look for a new book, and the price (via credits) is, in most cases, very attractive.
However, if you don’t finish a full book every month, the credits start to accumulate. If you don’t use a credit during the month, it will rollover to the next month (provided you’re still a member) – but there are rollover limits: 5 for the 1 credit/month plan, and 6 for the 2 credits/month plan, so eventually credits WILL expire, if you accrue too many of them.
Also, if you cancel your membership, any unused credits will expire, so make sure you use all your credits before you cancel your membership.
However, audiobooks you’ve purchased during your membership will not expire, even if you cancel the subscription, so you can always download them again to new devices.
Instead of cancelling, it’s also possible to put your membership on hold, for up to three months at a time. During that period you will not be billed, and won’t get new credits – but can still use your existing credits.
More Audible Membership Perks
The monthly credits aren’t the only thing you get with an active Audible subscription, and there are a few additional benefits:
- Free Audible Original Podcasts – Unlimited (as long as you’re a member) listening to episodic documentaries, comedies and more.
- Regular sales on other audiobooks, which you can purchase directly – with a discount.
- The ability to purchase additional monthly book credits (up to a limit)
Is Audible Free For Amazon Prime Members?
It’s a common question, but the answer, unfortunately, is no. In the American version of Amazon Prime, members do get to listen to Audible Channels for free – it’s a curated selection of – mostly – podcasts, narrated magazines, comedy shows, etc’ – and occasionally some books. However, Audible Channels is NOT available for Amazon Prime members in the UK.
Remember, though, you can still get a free 30 days free trial for Audible (that means 1 free book) by clicking here.
What’s Available On Audible UK?
With more than 400,000 titles, the selection of audiobooks on Audible is almost endless. If the book you’re interested has been released in an audiobook format – it’s most likely available on Audible. (And some audiobooks are ONLY available on Audible, as they produce them in-house).
These days, new books and bestsellers often come out with an audiobook version day and date of the physical book’s release – so, as of this writing, you can already find audiobook versions of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, David Cameron’s memoir For The Record, and Stephen King’s new book, The Institute.
Of course, with a selection this big, choosing what to listen to can become a chore. When it’s time to use my credit, I often spend two hours just browsing the endless selection, trying to decide on the “right” way to use up my credit. Audible tries to help by giving you suggestions based on past purchases, and you can also build a Wishlist for future reference.
As with Audible’s parent company, Amazon, reader reviews are quite prominent – you get the familiar 5-stars rating for each book, with readers (listeners) writing their opinions on the plot, and – just as important – the performance.
That’s something you need to remember with audiobooks – the performance is a crucial part of the product. Even a great book can be ruined by a bland narrator, and bland books can – sometimes – go up a level with a talented, lively performer.
Luckily, Audible also lets you listen to a sample (usually a few minutes) from every audiobook – so you can judge for yourself whether the performer sounds good, and whether you like his/her voice. Spending 40 hours with a voice you hate is NOT something you should pay money for…
In my experience, many of the readers on Audible are wonderful, but it’s often a matter of personal taste. With some books, the author is the narrator – that often works well for non-fiction books, but is not necessarily the best choice for fiction. Either way – listen to the sample… and you can, as mentioned before, refund and exchange the book if you still don’t like it after listening for a while.
How Can I Listen To Audible?
Audible has been around for so long, it’s available on almost any device you could think of – from Android phones to iPhones, tablets, Amazon Kindle and Fire devices, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, direct on your computer, and even via Smart Home devices and speakers like the Amazon Echo.
The smartphone app is functional and easy to use. Other than the expected player controls (which include buttons for skipping ahead – and back – 30 seconds), it also lets you set bookmarks (so you can easily listen again to a part). The app also lets you speed up the narration by up to 3.5x, so if you’re a fast listener (is that a thing?), you can
read hear more at a shorter time span.
Last but not least, the player on the app also has a sleep timer – so if you’re one of those people that listen to a book in bed, you can set it to automatically stop after a set number of minutes, as you drift off to sleep.
The app syncs with all the other Audible players you might use – so if you start to listen on your smartphone, and then continue on at home on your Amazon Echo, the book will continue exactly where you left off.
On Android, you can also use the app to buy (and immediately download) books right from your phone, though I still prefer to do it on a desktop (call me old fashioned).
Some books also support the WhisperSync For Voice feature: it connects ebooks you buy from Amazon (and read on a Kindle device) with their audiobook counterpart, and syncs the two together. That way, if you stop reading the ebook and want to continue hearing it in your car, for example, the Audible app will continue right where you left off on the ebook version.
This isn’t supported with all ebooks – you’ll need to check the one you want on Amazon’s Whispersync page. Plus, you do need to buy both versions of the book – both the kindle version and the audiobook version (though you do sometimes get a discount, in case you’re not using an Audible credit).
Is Audible Worth The Price?
The bottom line? Yes – IF you enjoy audiobooks.
The selection of books is very impressive (and gets bigger every month), and the price for members – basically £7.99 for a book – is great. If you plan on buying more books, you’re better off buying more credits, as that will almost always be cheaper than buying the audiobook outright.
The fact that book prices (and lengths) vary greatly makes it hard to judge the value you get for your credit – but I would suggest you don’t try to calculate it like that. Simply mark the books you want to listen to, and use your credits on them, without overcalculating things. The fact that you can easily exchange books you’ve bought, is also a great benefit.
That being said, you should take notice of the number of credits you’re accumulating. If you find you don’t have enough time to listen to a new book every month, it’s better to either pause the subscription, or cancel it – and come back once you’ve listened to everything and have the time to listen to new books.
It sometimes feels like we never have time to read books anymore, in this crazy new modern world – but using your wasted time on the tube, or in the car, or while doing the washing up – to listen to a book – is a great use of that time.