I wrote a couple of years ago about my conversion to audiobooks. At the time I was an enthusiastic subscriber to the Audible 24 books per year plan. I’m down to the 12 books per year plan (£69.99 or £5.83 per book) and haven’t bought as many (and have a small stockpile of unfinished books to get through). I’m wondering if I’ll cancel my subscription altogether when it runs out in the summer.
So is an Audible subscription still good value? These are some of the factors I’m weighing up.
Better selection of audiobooks from libraries
When I first started listening to audiobooks, my library had a fairly limited selection from one app with a heavy emphasis on commercial fiction and backlist titles. It was a struggle to find books I would enjoy. Now it has three different apps, each with their own strengths so I often find books I’m looking for, and also happen across interesting books I would otherwise have missed.
Audible price promotions and 2-for-1 promotions
Audible offers price promotions that are exclusive to subscribers. In the past I’ve discovered interesting new authors through these promotions, and picked up the odd book which I wanted to read but couldn’t justify using a credit on. (For the uninitiated, every audiobook costs one credit to a subscriber, so a book that’s 5 hours long costs the same as one that is 50 hours long. It makes short books quite unappealing.)
Now, however, it seems that the same authors are promoted over and over again. These also tend to be authors that have publishing deals with (surprise, surprise) Audible or the wider Amazon ecosystem.
Amazon built its brand on showing customers what it believes the customer most wants to see. This was what made it different from bookshops where the most visible books were usually the ones that publishers had paid to promote. Now, though, they’re going the same way.
Poor discoverability and layout on Audible
The Audible site is terrible to navigate and the promotions discussed above are particularly poor. Because subscriber promotions are fenced off away from the main site, you can’t search for books in the offer, you have to scroll through all the books you don’t want to read. I used to do this enthusiastically, but now I don’t even try.
Aside from subscriber promotions, I search for and buy books on the main Amazon platform, which, to be fair, integrates seamlessly with Audible.
Subscriber-only or free-to-subscriber content isn’t as appealing as it used to be
Audible offers podcasts and audiobooks which are either exclusive to subscribers or free. I’ve downloaded and enjoyed several podcasts, including The Butterfly Effect and West Cork. It still does offer a number of podcasts, but many of them seem more focused around celebrity chat than serious, quality content (although there are exceptions, I’d highly recommend the drama Hell Cats).
Audible’s returns policy helps discovery
One of the benefits I would miss is the right to return any book on Audible you don’t like. I do use this from time to time as it allows you to try a book you’re not sure about (I use it as the equivalent to downloading a sample on the Kindle). Without this I would probably be more cautious about buying an audiobook by a new author.
Audiobooks are cheaper on Apple and Google
If you look at the prices of audiobooks on Amazon / Audible, they are incredibly expensive. The purpose of this is to make the Audible subscription look good value. However, the same books are significantly cheaper on Apple Books or Google Play. You can also sometimes pick the audiobook up cheaper on Amazon by buying the Kindle and audiobook versions together.
Netgalley now has audiobooks
Netgalley now offers audiobooks via its own app. Unfortunately, when I tried it, I had significant problems with it, meaning I had to reboot, uninstall and reinstall, and so on. Judging by the reviews of the app, I’m not alone. I’ve decided not to request any more audiobooks from Netgalley for now, but hopefully in the future it will be improved and I should be able to listen to upcoming titles with them.
What to do?
If I let my subscription lapse, I could get audiobooks from the library, and possibly Netgalley. If there’s a book I really want to listen to and I can’t get it from either of those, I can either buy it in another format, or buy it from Apple or Google where many audiobooks are in the £7.99 to £12.99 price range.
Although the cost per book would be higher, if I bought fewer than 7 titles at an average cost of £10 I’d break even. I would, however, lose all the extra benefits of being a subscriber, and 7 doesn’t sound like that many over a year.
Alternatively, I could sign up for Audible on the monthly plan, which is £7.99 for one credit per month with the freedom to cancel at any time. But then am I just paying more for what I’ve already got? I suppose it depends on how many books I want …