Subscription, cheap and free – where do you get bargain audiobooks?


I previously wrote about how I learnt to love audiobooks. Once you’ve acquired a habit, where do you get your fix? Audiobooks can be expensive. Here are some value and free options. NB I have updated prices as at January 2020 but things change all the time so please check before signing up to any of these services.

Audible subscription

Amazon-owned Audible price single audiobooks extremely high – at prices comparable to audio books on CD. That’s because they don’t want you to buy them individually. They want to tie you into a bundle. You can buy them significantly cheaper if you buy the Kindle and the audiobook together on the Amazon website.

What they really want you to do though, is take out an Audible subscription. Prices start at £7.99 per month for one credit (which you can exchange for any book). You can roll over credits or pause your contract if you want to. The best deals are for annual contracts – I have the 24 credits for £109.99 contract, which works out at £4.58 per book. However, with the annual contracts, you are unable to cancel if you change your mind.

With all the contracts, you can return books at any time, for any reason. You could effectively use it as a streaming service, but I’m not sure that would be ethical (it’s not clear how authors and narrators get paid under this model). I have returned a couple of books which I started and didn’t enjoy, and one because the narrator didn’t feel right for the particular book. The return guarantee means you can also take a chance on something new, which you might hesitate to pay full price for.

Audible offers occasional free audiobooks. They also have ongoing offers (some exclusive to subscribers) including a Daily Deal.

Audible in the US has just started offering  Audible Romance, an unlimited “reading” service for romance audiobooks. This is only available in the US and costs $12.95 per month. It includes use of sub-categories for better discoverability (Audible’s search is currently pretty poor, which is why I buy my audio books through Amazon) and the ability to skip to the good parts (!). It will be interesting to see if they roll out the unlimited model to other genres and countries.

Subscriptions with competitors to Audible

Kobo have started their own subscription audiobook service at £6.99 per month, clearly aiming to undercut Audible, and Playster offer an unlimited audiobook service for £14.95 per month (or you can bundle with other products). Single audiobooks are also much more reasonably priced on Apple Books if you can bear to negotiate their infrastructure. I haven’t tried any of these myself so can’t comment, however a number of audiobooks are exclusive to Audible which may be an issue for some listeners.

Overdrive and Borrowbox for libraries

stack-of-books-1531138-640x480.jpgMany libraries, including my own, offer ebook and audiobook loans via Overdrive. Their Libby app is very easy to use and well integrated with the library catalogue (much better than the previous Overdrive app). My library has also added the Borrowbox app which features Bolinda audiobooks.

I used to find the choice offered by the library quite limited when we only had Overdrive. I guess this is to be expected. Libraries have a massive back catalogue of physical books but are starting from scratch with audiobook downloads.

However, now there are two apps to choose from, the choice is much better. I find I get a lot of audiobooks from the library, to the extent that I’m thinking of reducing my Audible subscription to 12 books per year instead of 24.


Librivox is a fantastic resource providing audiobooks of public domain works recorded by volunteers. It has a really user-friendly app with good search (including search by narrator, which is particularly useful – see below).

Because the narration is done by volunteers, you find that in some books, each chapter is recorded by a different narrator. There may be different genders, nationalities and accents in a single book. In one classic novel which I started (but didn’t finish), the narrator read every footnote as it occurred on the page!

If you are trying to immerse yourself in a novel, you may find this distracting but I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. It is a wonderfully generous thing for a volunteer to narrate even a chapter. I’ve been dabbling with dictation software recently and realise how hard it is to speak continuously for any length of time.

There are also some fantastic narrators on the site, including professional actors and voice artists, and I’ve had some great finds. Being able to search by narrator means once you identify one you like, you can easily find their other books.

What have I missed? Where do you get bargain audiobooks?



  1. Audiobooks have been the big discovery of my year. I have been particularly grateful for them during several periods when I was bed bound and sick to the back teeth of news magazine programmes on the radio. The Audible annual subscription has worked well for me. I’ve topped it up with purchases from their daily deals and they’ve pretty much always had what I wanted. I’ve tried the local library service but as they are hardly buying any hard copies of books at the moment there is little hope of any real variety there.


    1. I’m hoping that our library’s choice of audiobooks might get better over time, as they see what people borrow and request. It’s a relatively new service. But libraries are under so much pressure at the moment it’s hard to be optimistic…


      1. Oh tell me about it. In the last two years our local library has gone from being open five days a week to just one. Still, I suppose I should be glad it’s still there at all. What really grieves me is that I live in one of the poorest parts of the city, where a library is an essential. The richer areas still have five day coverage.

        Liked by 1 person

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