Fitting in time for reading nowadays is harder than ever. But whether you're trying to cram a few more books into 2019, revisit your favorite novels, or pass the time on your commute, there are plenty of audiobooks waiting to help you out.
For people who like to have their books read to them, Audible is the biggest name in the field, but it's certainly not the only option. Here we've picked the very best sites for finding and downloading top quality audiobooks – both free and premium. Save yourself a trip to the library and build up a sizeable library from the comfort of your computer or smartphone.
The best audiobook sites at a glance:
- Google Audiobooks
- Kobo Audiobooks
Amazon's platform offers an unbeatable choice of premium audiobooks
Undeniably the biggest name in the world of audiobooks, Audible has earned its position at the top of the charts.
The selection of audiobooks on Audible is amazing, and the subscription plans are easy to understand. There are two options available for customers in the US and UK: pay US$14.95/£7.99 per month, and you can download one audiobook per month; pay US$22.95/£14.99 and you can listen to two. There's one plan for Australian users: AU$16.45 per month for one audiobook.
There's also a 30-day trial you can take advantage of, meaning you can get your first book free of charge. You can also buy audiobooks one at a time without a membership, but this is rather more expensive.
There are tens of thousands of books to choose from, including many exclusive titles. You should find it easy to find something you like, but if you select a book and change your mind about it, you can exchange it for another free of charge.
You can listen to your audiobooks on Windows Phone, iOS and Android devices, Windows and macOS machines, and any device with Amazon Alexa.
A new subscription-free service that's taking the fight to Amazon
Audiobooks are the latest addition to the Google Play Store. The newly minted service is clearly designed as a rival to Audible, with Google making a virtue of the fact that books are sold individually, with no subscription.
Like Audible, Google Audiobooks lets you listen to books on virtually any device. There are apps for iOS and Android, a web app, Chromecast, and any device with Google Assistant. There are only a few voice controls for Audiobooks at the moment (you can ask it to stop reading after a certain time, for example), but we expect these to be expanded as the service grows.
Google Audiobooks launched with thousands of titles, including many bestsellers, but the selection isn't yet as extensive as Audible's.
The Google Play Store has sold ebooks for many years, but has struggled to establish a foothold in face of Amazon's mighty Kindle platform. We'll be interested to see how its Audiobooks service fares in the face of Audible.
The cheaper but slightly less extensive competitor to Audible
Ereader manufacturer Kobo has taken the fight to Audible with its own audiobook service, which launched toward the end of 2017. The selection isn’t as extensive as Audible's, but you'll find most of today's most popular titles.
We went through 10 books that we already owned on Audible (mostly bestsellers from the last few years), and found nine of them on Kobo.
Kobo’s benefit over Amazon's service is a lower price at $9.99/£6.99/AU$12.99 a month for one audiobook a month, compared to Audible's $14.95/£7.99/AU$16.45 per month.
As with Audible, you can also buy audiobooks individually, but we found it more expensive to do this on Kobo. For example, Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff is US$21.31/£17.49/AU$31.21 on Audible at the time of writing, but is US$21.59/£19.99/AU$35.99 on Kobo.
If you’re planning to read big name titles every month and want a subscription package, Kobo's affordable package may suit you well, but if you’re planning to buy titles separately you may want to look elsewhere.
A brilliant selection of public domain audiobooks to download free
In contrast to Audible, LibriVox is completely free of charge. This, of course, means making compromises. You won't be able to download the latest bestsellers here, and the library of titles is rather smaller than Audible's.
You're limited to public domain audiobooks, but there are still thousands to choose from. Many of the books included here are classics that are now out of copyright, and LibriVox gives you the choice of downloading audiobooks so you can copy them to any device you want, or just listening to them online.
While audiobooks on Audible are often read by celebrities or the authors, audiobooks on LibriVox are read by volunteers from around the world – and you can offer to take part if you have the time and want to support the community.
There are mobile apps available, so you can access your books from your smartphone. The reliance on public domain titles means LibriVox is a little limited, and the quality of recordings varies, but for classics, it's a great resource.
Premium audiobooks from one of the biggest producers around
Like Audible, Downpour is a subscription-based service. For US$12.99 (about £10, AU$15) per month, your subscription buys you one credit, which should be enough to buy one audiobook. If you need more credits because you want more than one book per month, or you want a book that costs more than one credit, you can buy more credits as and when necessary. If you cancel your subscription, you can keep your books.
Downpour is the work of Blackstone Audio – producer of many, many audiobooks, and offers an impressive selection of titles. Some audiobooks are only available to buy in the US, but there's still a good choice for listeners in the rest of the world, and there's even the option of renting audiobooks.
Downpour offers a mobile app, but unlike Audible this only allows for playback, not purchasing, so you'll have to stock up on books via the website first.