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The best audiobook sites 2020: easy listening anywhere

The best free audiobook sites
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In today’s world, books are a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of life. At the same time, it’s getting harder to find the time to settle down with a good novel. Audiobooks are a great solution to this problem, offering you the perfect format to appreciate a few chapters during a busy commute or while working on other tasks. 

But what’s the best place to find your next audiobook? Thanks to its enormous advertising budget, Amazon’s Audible site remains the best-known name in the industry. However, there are lots of other great places to find audiobooks. 

In this article, we’ve collated the top audiobook websites. Using these services, you’ll be able to find both classics and the latest releases, all recorded in high-quality and read to you by engaging actors. 

The best audiobook sites at a glance:

  1. Audible
  2. Google Audiobooks
  3. Librivox
  4. Kobo Audiobooks
  5. Downpour

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Audible

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Audible

Amazon’s platform stands out for its extensive library

Enormous catalog of titles
Listen on any device
Unique Audible Originals
Relatively expensive

Audible is unquestionably the biggest name in the audiobook space, and it deserves that status because of its giant library of more than 200,000 unique titles. Through this platform, you’ll also gain access to hundreds of Audible Original titles that you can’t be found through any other service. 

If you like podcasts, you might well have heard Audible advertisements on your favorite shows. Fortunately, it manages to live up to the marketing hype with a set of simple subscription plans that have something to offer any audiobook fan.

Audible subscriptions work using 'credits'. Each credit can be used to obtain an audiobook for free, regardless of its price. A US$14.95/£7.99/AU$16.45 per month plan will get you a single monthly credit, but you can upgrade to two credits per month as well. If you run out of credits or purchase a slightly cheaper “credit-free” subscription, having a membership will still mean you get heavy discounts Audible titles.

The great thing about Audible is that if you don’t like an audiobook you’ve purchased, you can exchange it free of charge. And, if you aren’t entirely sure Audible is the right service for you, you can cancel your subscription for free in the first 30 days. Audible books work on more-or-less any device including products running iOS, OS X, Android, Windows, and Amazon Alexa.

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Google Audiobooks

2. Google Audiobooks

Buy premium audiobooks without being locked into a subscription

 Doesn’t lock you into a subscription
 Use your voice to manage playback
 Gets all the latest bestsellers
No membership discounts

Launched in 2018, Google Audiobooks isn’t as well established as Audible, but it’s clearly designed to take it on. The key differentiator of Google Audiobooks is that it only sells audiobooks individually, and there’s no need to pay a monthly fee to access to affordable prices.

Our price comparison of a handful of best-seller titles showed that Google Audiobooks consistently prices audiobooks equal to or cheaper than a single credit monthly subscription with Audible. That means if you only listen to around a dozen titles per year, Google will probably be the cheaper of the two.

Although its selection of titles is certainly smaller than Audible’s, there are still thousands of audiobook titles available through the Google Play store. Of course,  you can listen to audiobooks from Google on any Google OS device such as Android and Chromecast products, but there’s also a Google Audiobook app for Apple products. 

The best way to listen to a Google audiobook is through Google Home or on any device that supports the Google Assistant tool. That’s because Google Audiobooks works with a variety of voice commands which allow you to jump chapters or adjust playback speed without pressing a button. 

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Librivox

(Image credit: Librivox)

3. Librivox

The best place to save cash with public domain audiobooks

Free to use
Download in MP3 format
Involved open source community
Lacks many modern titles

If you don’t want to burn through your savings with a monthly audiobook subscription, LibriVox is probably the right website for you. Unlike the other audiobook services we’ve already explored, this is a place where you can find completely free audiobooks to download and listen to.  

How is that possible? Well, LibriVox only offers public domain titles, which are typically based on novels or non-fiction works written decades ago, long enough for their copyright protection to have expired.

Another unique thing about LibriVox is that some of its titles are read and recorded by volunteers who make community submissions from anywhere in the world. Plenty of LibriVox audiobooks are read out by celebrities or authors too.

Although LibriVox has a smaller selection than its competitors, it’s an ideal place to listen to classic works. You can download MP3s or stream recordings in your browser. Alternatively, if listening via a smartphone, you can use a handful of apps created by third-party developers to access the LibriVox library.

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Kobo Audiobooks

(Image credit: Rakuten)

4. Kobo Audiobooks

A more affordable audiobook subscription platform

Cheap audiobook subscriptions
New works from big-name authors
Slick interface and apps
Selection could be larger

Kobo is a Toronto-based company known for producing a slick range of e-readers. Just as Kobo’s physical devices rival Amazon in the ebook space, the Rakuten Kobo store is competing Amazon’s Audible when it comes to audiobooks.

Like both subscription platforms we’ve already explored, you can purchase standalone titles through the Kobo store. When buying without a membership, Kobo is typically more affordable than Audible. However, in some cases, you won’t be able to get new titles in every region. This is best illustrated by the latest Malcolm Gladwell release, Talking to Strangers. At the time of writing, this title is nowhere to be seen on Kobo UK but, respectively, costs US$26.98/AU$14.99 in the USA and Australia. Meanwhile, it’s available in all regions with Audible at US$41.88/£31.99/AU$48.62.

But the real advantage of Kobo is its affordable subscription pricing model which costs US$9.99/£6.99/AU$12.99. That’s around a third cheaper than Audible, depending on your region. Kobo’s subscription service works similarly to Audible’s, giving you a universal credit for a single audiobook per month. 

If you’re worried that the Kobo audiobook range might not be extensive enough for your tastes, you can always try out this service for free. That’s because Kobo audiobook subscriptions begin with a 30-day free trial period.

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Downpour

5. Downpour

Audiobooks from one of the world's biggest publishers

Membership provides access to almost all audiobooks
Easy to navigate catalog
Keep audiobooks after canceling
Can't purchase in-app

Downpour works like Kobo and Audible. It’s an audiobook subscription site that, for a membership fee, will give you a recurring monthly credit that can be used to purchase almost any audiobook in the Downpour collection. According to Downpour’s own statistics, over 97% of its titles can be obtained with a single credit. 

No matter where you are in the world, a Downpour subscription costs US$12.99 per month, putting this service in the middle of Kobo and Audible in terms of pricing.

Downpour is brought to you by Blackstone Audio, which is one of the biggest independent publishers of audiobooks in the USA. Blackstone has around 30,000 titles in its back catalog so Downpour members have an enormous selection of works to choose from, including the latest bestsellers. 

The Downpour purchasing system is a little more basic than other paid audiobook subscription services. For example, you can listen to Downpour audiobooks using a mobile application, but purchases can only be made through a desktop browser.