Comparing Paid Audiobook Services: Part One

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: 4 plans
Gold Monthly Membership $14.95/mo.=1 credit
Platinum Membership $22.95/mo.=2 credits
Gold Annual Membership $149.50/yr.=12 credits (at once)
Platinum Annual Membership $229.50/yr.=24 credits (at once)

Selection: 180,000+ titles

Free Trial:
Standard- 30 days +1 free audiobook
➜Special- 30 days +2 free audiobooks
Amazon Prime- 90 days + 3 free audiobooks

What I like:

  • Frequent sales: Audible regularly boasts great sales and deals. They post a new 24-hour “Daily Deal” each day, where you can snag a title for as little as $2.95. They recently concluded a “First in Series” sale in which 150+ titles were $4.95. Surprise sales like that & membership exclusives pop up all the time. They occasionally run membership discounts too (i.e. 3 months for $1.95 each).
  • Great Listen Guarantee: Not happy with an Audible purchase? Return or exchange it with a click of a button.
  • Customer service: I’ve contacted Audible’s customer service a few times & have always been extremely pleased with it. They have one of the best I’ve ever dealt with.
  • The title selection: Audible is clearly the one to beat when it comes to the number of titles offered. Their selection contains more than 180,000 audiobooks. It’s basically heaven.

What I don’t:

  • The price: Honestly, this is the only thing I can really complain about. $14.95 isn’t that bad for an audiobook if you’re an occasional listener, especially compared to $30-40+ if purchasing through the publisher or elsewhere. But I can easily see how this point would dissuade audiobook listening in favor of a much cheaper book habit. New books may cost about the same as Audible’s gold membership, but used books can be found for half that price or less. This point is also why I think it is so important to mention that Audible offers regular sales. $4.95 for a book isn’t bad, much less for an audiobook! But it still adds up. I wish they would consider offering a digital rental program.
  • No mobile purchasing: A tiny complaint I have is that audible does not allow YouTube purchase on audiobooks through their mobile app. That means you’d better have something lined up to listen to when leaving the house!


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Type of Service: Subscription

Cost: Premium membership $8.99/mo.=1 credit (additional credits can be purchased for $8.99 each)

Free Trial: 14 days (*2-months with special offer)

Selection: approx. 45,000 audiobooks; over 1 million eBooks, documents, and sheet music

What I like:

  • The price: $8.99<$14.95. That’s simple math. Back when Scribd offered unlimited audiobook listening, I was singing its praises from my rooftop. But they have now transferred to a one credit per month system, similar to Audible’s, but for $5.94 cheaper.
  • It’s inclusive: That $8.99 doesn’t just buy you an audiobook credit each month, it also allows you unlimited access to a rotating selection of free audiobook titles, and three credits for their selection of eBooks. If you enjoy reading eBooks at all, I highly recommend this service. I find their eBook selection to be very strong.
  • Longer samples: While an audiobook sample on Audible only lasts a few minutes (<5, I think), Scribd samples usually last anywhere from 15-30 minutes. *Update: I’ve experienced a few 100 minute samples (not sure if that’s the norm now). I think that is more than enough time to decide whether or not to spend a credit!
  • Refund policy: If you get an hour or so (but no more than two) into an audiobook and decide you don’t like it, Scribd says the credit you spent is refundable. I have yet to take advantage of this policy, so I cannot speak to its ease of use.
  • Referral program: Something I have taken advantage of, however, is the Read for Free opportunity. It offers 1 free month to you for every email referral you make (and 2 free months to the person you refer). For example, *click my referral link here to get your first two months free (in addition to the initial two week free trial).
  • Membership pause: Another feature I can personally attest to is the option of pausing your membership for three months. It doesn’t cancel your membership, so you still have access to all of the books and audiobooks saved in your library. After three months, your membership (and monthly charges) will automatically resume. You won’t receive new credit during this time and cannot spend credits during the paused either (without resuming).

What I don’t:

  • The audiobook selection: To put it simply, it’s not what it used to be. Although I understand their reasons for cutting it and for using a credit system (they were losing way too much money), that doesn’t mean I have to like it. This is the primary detraction that separates Scribd’s service from Audible’s, in my eyes. I suppose it still not bad for the price though, especially with the additional eBooks included.
  • Temporary ownership: Unlike Audible, you don’t actually own the audiobooks purchased at Scribd. Once your membership is canceled, your access to the audiobooks you have previously purchased vanishes.
  • No downloads: This service is streaming only, making it very difficult to listen on the go without eating up all your data. *Update: You can now choose the “Store to Device” option when using the mobile app. Yay!

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: $14.95/mo.=1 credit (additional credits can be purchased through the website and mobile app, probably for another $14.95 each)

Free Trial: 30 days + 1 free audiobook

Selection: 100,000+ audiobooks

What I like:

  • The title selection: After briefly scanning, I am pretty impressed with the selection available. I see several new releases and best sellers that I would happily gobble up.
  • Downloadable selection: Audiobooks.com gives you the option of streaming or downloading your purchases.
  • Mobile purchasing: Audiobooks.com allows you to purchase and spend credits in their mobile app for iOS and Android. They have a leg up on Audible here.

What I don’t:

  • The price: This service is the same price as Audible’s, but none of Audible’s considerable bonus perks and a smaller title selection. I can’t see why anyone would choose this over Audible for the same price (unless there’s something I’m missing!). * I have not yet personally used this subscription service, so I cannot fully judge all of its features. Opinions here are based on the information I could find from the website (as a non-subscriber). If you have additional information, please share!


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Type of Service: Subscription, Rental

Cost: 4 rental plans & 4 digital plans
Monthly Rental Membership (1 audiobook at a time) $19.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (2 audiobooks at a time) $29.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (3 audiobooks at a time) $39.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (4 audiobooks at a time) $49.98/mo.
Monthly Download Membership $14.95/mo.= 1 credit
Monthly Download Membership $24.95/mo.= 2 credits
Monthly Download Membership $31.95/mo.= 3 credits

Selection: 20,000+ rental titles & 9,000+ digital titles

Free Trial: 15 days with the $29.98 rental membership

What I like:

  • Dual plan types: This service offers multiple rental and download memberships. I really like this. Simply Audiobooks is the only rental service I’ve found (so far) that offers physical and digital rentals.
  • Free shipping: Rental audiobooks are shipped directly to (and from) your house free of charge.
  • Unlimited rentals: The word “unlimited” is always eye-catching. It makes an audiobook rental service that much more appealing.

What I don’t:

  • Free trial: I don’t like that you have to purchase a more expensive rental membership in order to get a free trial. This type of service is so different from what I have used in the past, that I would be very hesitant to try it without a free trial. I shouldn’t have to spend more money in order to find out if I even like the service.
  • The selection: The download selection is extremely small to be so expensive. It costs the same as Audible, but with 171,000 less tiles to choose from. Even though a slightly larger rental selection is nothing really to write home about.
  • Physical CDs: I don’t own a CD player and haven’t for sometime. I would much rather them offer a digital rental service instead.
  • Snail mail: The rental service only takes 2-6 business days, but I’m so spoiled by instant digital downloads, that 2-6 business days would probably feel like an eternity to me (especially when waiting for sequels!).
  • Fluctuating prices and an informative website: I’m grouping these issues together, because one lead to the discovery of another. The Simply Audiobooks website is not exactly user-friendly (and I’m pretty adept with computers) and it was very hard to get a straight answer on the specifics of their services. So, naturally, I googled it and found several reviews with outdated pricing information. It seems that the prices and detail plans have changed quite a bit in the last couple of years. To be honest, I’m still not 100% confident in the exact details provided here.

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: 2 plans
Monthly Club Pricing Plan $5.00/mo. membership + the discounted price of audiobooks 50% off first book each month & up to 40% off additional books that month
12 Audiobooks Club Pricing Plan $36 per plan
50% off first 12 audiobooks & up to 40% off books thereafter. Renew as needed for $36.

Free Trial: 30 days + 1 free audiobook

Selection: 60,000+ audiobooks

What I like:

  • Multiple plan offers: This service offers two very different types of plans. In my opinion, the $36 plan is the way to go. That boils down to $3 a month for membership & some very deeply discounted audiobooks. For example, John Green’s Paper Towns is just $7.50 (with the 50% discount) + the $3 monthly membership (if using the $36 dollar plan)= $10.50. That’s cheaper than it could be purchased using a credit system like Audible’s for $14.95/mo.
  • No limits: The number of audiobooks purchased each month is completely up to the consumer. The membership fee more than pays for itself through the significant discount you receive.
  • Great selection: I saw a ton of best sellers while browsing and several new releases, all of which made me extremely tempted to take advantage of the free trial.
  • Download or stream: You are able to choose between downloading or streaming your purchases.
  • Specials: There is a section on the website dedicated to current specially priced audiobooks, some as cheap as $4.95.
  • Everything is discounted: With this service, you’ll never have to pay full price for an audiobook. Imagine walking into a retail store and seeing everything listed as 40-50% off. You’d jump at that opportunity, right?
  • No credit system: For those that dislike the credit system commonly used by audiobook services, this company offers something very different. It gives more control to the customer and operates more like the retail market we are generally exposed to today.

What I don’t:

  • Varying Book prices: Put plainly, some books are more expensive than others, for reasons largely unknown to the customer. The Selection series by Kiera Cass, for example, is priced from around $12.92-14.96 per installment (with the 40% discount), but the Matched series by Ally Condie is priced a few dollars more from $19.91-21.94 per installment.
  • Math: If you decide to use this service, I would suggest keeping a calculator handy, just to make sure you get the most out of your plan. The John Green example used above is a great deal because that is one of the lower-priced audiobooks. However, if we replace it with Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, the results are a little different. With the 50% discount, the book is priced at $14.95. Combine that with the $3 monthly membership fee (from the $36 plan) and you’d be paying $17.95. Or combine the $14.95 book price with the $5 monthly membership plan and the total would come to $19.95. In cases like that (with more expensive books), it would make more financial sense to use a $14.95 flat rate credit from Audible or Audiobooks.com. Of course, there’s still the added benefit of multiple monthly discounted purchases, depending on your spending habits.

AudiobooksNow - Digital Audiobooks for Less

 

If you have any opinions or insights on these services, please comment! I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone that has had first-hand experience with the latter three services. Also, please [politely] comment if I have made any informational errors here.

This post is part of a series. Part Two to come. ♣︎

2 Comments

  1. Hello! I just want you to know that I used your referral link today for Scribd…thank you so much!! My trial lasts until August, and then I’ll be charged $8.99. Soooo…you should be getting a free month for yourself! Yay!! I don’t know too much about Scribd, but I’m a high school teacher, and as I was taking a look around, I saw some really great educational resources. I think by having access to unlimited docs, it’s going to be quite beneficial for me. 🙂 Thx again!

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