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The Essential Guide to the Best Audiobook Apps: An Expert‘s Perspective

Audiobooks have emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments in digital publishing, with recent reports showing a 16.5% year-over-year increase in sales and over $1.3 billion in revenue in 2021 alone.[^1] The rise of smartphones and smart speakers has made it easier than ever to enjoy audiobooks anytime, anywhere, turning idle moments into opportunities for literary enrichment and entertainment.

As a digital technology expert and avid audiobook listener myself, I‘ve watched the audiobook landscape evolve rapidly in recent years. With an explosion of new titles, formats, and listening platforms, it can be overwhelming to determine which audiobook app is the best fit for your needs and preferences.

In this essential guide, I‘ll break down the key factors to consider when choosing an audiobook app, share my top picks for the best apps on the market today, and provide expert tips and insights to help you get the most out of your audiobook experience.

Choosing the Best Audiobook App: Key Criteria

When evaluating audiobook apps, I consider five primary criteria:

  1. Library Size and Selection: The best audiobook apps offer a vast library of titles across a wide range of genres, from bestsellers and new releases to niche topics and hidden gems. Look for apps that feature major publishers as well as exclusive original content.

  2. Audio Quality and Narration: A great audiobook app should deliver crystal-clear, studio-quality audio with professional narration that enhances the story. I prefer apps that allow you to adjust playback speed and set custom bookmarks.

  3. Discoverability and Recommendations: With so many titles to choose from, a good audiobook app should make it easy to discover new books you‘ll love. Look for robust browse and search features, curated lists and collections, and personalized recommendations based on your listening history.

  4. Price and Purchasing Options: Audiobook apps offer a variety of pricing models, from a la carte purchases to monthly subscriptions to pay-per-minute plans. Consider how many books you plan to listen to each month and whether you prefer to own or rent your audiobooks.

  5. Cross-Device Sync and Integrations: A top-tier audiobook app should allow you to access your library and pick up where you left off seamlessly across all your devices. Bonus points for integrations with smart home assistants, car infotainment systems, and other devices or services you use regularly.

The Best Audiobook Apps

With those key criteria in mind, here are my picks for the five best audiobook apps available today:

1. Audible

Audible, an Amazon company, is the 800-pound gorilla of the audiobook world, and for good reason. With a massive library of over 200,000 titles from every major publisher and exclusive Audible Originals, Audible has the most comprehensive selection I‘ve seen.

I‘ve consistently been blown away by the audio quality and narration in Audible titles, which feature a roster of A-list celebrities, renowned voice actors, and even some authors reading their own work. The app offers granular playback speed controls, bookmarks, notes, and integrations with Amazon Alexa and cars equipped with Audible support.

Another game-changing feature is Whispersync, which allows you to swap seamlessly between reading a Kindle ebook and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place. It‘s a book lover‘s dream.

The main downside to Audible is the price. Plans start at $14.95/month for one book credit (most bestsellers cost one credit), and you can buy additional titles at a 30% discount. It‘s an investment, but for hardcore listeners like myself, the expansive library and immersive experience is worth the cost.

2. Scribd

If you‘re looking for an all-you-can-read (and listen) buffet, Scribd is the best value in the audiobook biz. For $9.99/month, you get unlimited access to a library of not just audiobooks, but also ebooks, magazines, newspapers, sheet music, and more.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and selection of Scribd‘s audiobook catalog, which includes plenty of bestsellers and new releases alongside old favorites and hidden gems. While not as extensive as Audible, I‘ve rarely encountered a title I wanted that wasn‘t available.

The Scribd app is clean and intuitive, with detailed genre classifications, curated collections, and algorithmic recommendations that help you discover great listens. You can bookmark, make notes, and even highlight and annotate the text of ebooks.

One small downside is that Scribd has to occasionally remove popular titles due to agreements with publishers, so a book in your saved list might disappear. But overall, Scribd is an unbeatable value for omnivorous readers who want to enjoy multiple formats.

3. Google Play Audiobooks

Not ready to commit to a monthly audiobook subscription? Google Play Audiobooks offers an unbeatable selection of a la carte purchases, seamlessly synced with your Google account.

As an Android user, I love the convenience of having my audiobooks right alongside my apps, ebooks, and music library in the Play Store. You can buy audiobooks one at a time with no recurring fees, and the app will even alert you to price drops on your wishlist titles.

Google Play Audiobooks may not have quite the selection of Audible, but there are plenty of bestsellers, new releases, and diamonds in the rough to choose from. You can listen at up to 2x speed and set a sleep timer, although I wish there were more playback customization options.

One major downside of Google Play Audiobooks is the lack of a user-friendly returns or exchanges policy – all sales are final. But if you prefer to pay only for the books you want without a membership fee, Google‘s app is the way to go.

4. offers the best of both worlds: a deep library of over 150,000 a la carte titles PLUS a "Discovery Club" subscription with one free book per month and access to a rotating selection of 8,000 "VIP" listens.

I‘ve been impressed by the quality of the audiobooks and narration on, with plenty of bestsellers and new releases alongside niche genres. The app offers playlist building, bookmarks, and a sleep timer, as well as cross-device syncing and pick-up-where-you-left-off functionality.

One of my favorite features is the "Surprise Me" mode which serves up a random recommendation from your favorite categories. It‘s a great way to discover hidden gems!

The main downside of is the clunky return process – you have to contact customer service to get a refund or exchange, unlike Audible‘s "no questions asked" return policy.

5. Kobo Audiobooks

If you frequently switch between ebooks and audiobooks, Kobo is the app for you. Kobo offers a seamless way to go from reading to listening and back again without ever losing your place.

I love how granular Kobo‘s playback speed controls are – you can adjust by increments of just .05x from 0.5x to 2.75x, much more precise than other apps I‘ve used. You can also set custom sleep timers in minute increments up to two hours.

Kobo‘s audiobook library includes many bestsellers and popular titles, although it‘s not as extensive as Audible or Kobo does frequently offer discounts and promotions on audiobooks, so you can build your library on a budget.

One caveat is that Kobo requires you to purchase audiobooks on its website rather than in-app for iOS users due to Apple‘s App Store policies. But the actual listening experience is seamless on all devices.

Getting the Most Out of Audiobooks: Expert Tips

Once you‘ve chosen your audiobook app, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your listening experience:

  • Start with a familiar genre, author, or narrator to ease into the audiobook format
  • Listen actively by taking notes or pausing to reflect on key passages
  • Experiment with different playback speeds to find your sweet spot between comprehension and efficiency
  • Create a "to listen" list and set personal challenges or goals to prioritize your audiobook habit
  • Share and discuss listens with friends or on social media for added accountability and enjoyment
  • Take advantage of hands-free moments like chores, errands, and commutes to squeeze in extra listening time

As an audiobook aficionado, I‘m excited to see continued innovation in the space. From AI-powered recommendations to immersive 3D audio to interactive choose-your-own-adventure stories, the future of audiobooks is bright.

Whether you‘re a curious newbie or a seasoned listener, I encourage you to explore the wonderful world of audiobooks and find the app that best fits your lifestyle and interests. Trust me, your inner bookworm will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the benefits of audiobooks?

A: Audiobooks offer a convenient and immersive way to enjoy books while multitasking or on the go. They can also help improve comprehension and retention for some readers, and provide a more emotional connection to the story through professional narration.

Q: How much data do audiobooks use?

A: A typical audiobook uses about 50-100 MB per hour, depending on the quality and format. Most audiobook apps allow you to adjust the download quality or stream only over Wi-Fi to conserve data.

Q: Can I listen to audiobooks offline?

A: Yes, all of the audiobook apps listed here allow you to download titles for offline listening, so you can enjoy your books even without an internet connection.

Q: Are audiobooks good for learning?

A: Absolutely! Audiobooks can be a great supplement to classroom learning or a way to dive deep into a topic of interest. Non-fiction audiobooks in particular can be an efficient way to absorb information and ideas while commuting or doing hands-free activities.

Q: How do I cancel my audiobook subscription?

A: Each app has a slightly different cancellation process, but in general, you‘ll need to visit the app‘s website or your account settings to cancel your subscription. Be sure to use any remaining credits before canceling, as most apps don‘t provide refunds.

Q: Can I share my audiobooks with friends?

A: It depends on the app and your subscription plan. Some apps like Scribd allow you to add family members to your account, while others like Audible allow you to send a free book to a friend. But in general, audiobook licenses are intended for personal use only.

Happy listening!

[^1]: Audio Publishers Association Annual Survey