So you have a library of audiobooks built up, whether from buying them online or ripping them off disks, and now you’re looking for a way to listen to them on your Android device
Audible is the first app most people will point you towards, but it’s of no use here, as it doesn’t let you import or export books. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to listen to DRM-free audiobooks (what is DRM?), even if some of them aren’t immediately obvious.
Let’s tackle this option first, as it’s probably what you’re here looking for.
Unfortunately, most of the standalone apps capable of reading DRM-free audiobooks for Android aren’t as visually pleasing or modern as those offered directly from audiobook sellers, as they all lock you into only consuming their own works. This includes sites that sell audiobooks restricted by DRM (Audible, Audiobooks.com, Barnes & Noble) and those that don’t (Downpour, LibriVox).
Material Audiobook Player is one major exception. As its name so obviously suggests, the interface is Material Design-inspired, so it looks great on any device.
This app is as simple to use as it is easy on the eyes. To add a book, just hit the floating action button in the bottom right hand corner. You can download covers, adjust playback speed, and set a sleep timer. There isn’t much else in the way of features, but if you just want to listen to your books, this free app should get the job done.
If you aren’t particularly hung up on looks and want something feature-rich, consider the Akimbo Player. We’ve given this app a shoutout not too long ago due to its support for various file sizes, customization options, and focus on simply providing a good local audio experience. It looks dated these days, but it’s also free.
For those of you who don’t mind spending some money, there are a few other apps worth checking out. The SpokenWord Audiobook Player goes for $5.99, and there’s a free trial you can try out to get a feel for things. If you don’t want to hand over quite that much, the Listen Audiobook Player goes for just $1.50.
BeyondPod is my podcast client of choice. When I started listening to audiobooks on my Android phone, I was surprised to discover that I could import them into the app as “Virtual Feeds.” Simply go to add a feed as you normally would and select Import Folder as Virtual Feed.
You can then browse through each part of the audiobook as you would individual episodes of a podcast. Since the app remembers where you left off and comes with options to tweak your listening experience (such as speeding up or slowing down audio), it’s nearly as good for books as it is for podcasts.
BeyondPod isn’t alone here. Pocket Casts supplies a “custom episodes” folder where you can store audio files that you wish to import into the app. They will appear in your list alongside your other feeds.
This is the least appealing of the options, but it’s worth including out of sheer convenience. If your files are saved as MP3s or some other unencumbered audio file, then yes, a music player that plays local files will also be able to play your audiobooks. This may seem obvious, but it’s an easy thing to overlook.
This approach comes with the easiest learning curve, since anyone reading this has likely used a music player for years (here’s my current favorite: Shuttle Player). But filling your music library with books also comes with numerous downsides.
For starters, you will have authors popping up alongside your musicians and audiobooks mixing in with albums on shuffle. Even if you don’t find either of these particularly bothersome, there will come a time when you forget your place in a chapter, because music players only memorize your position up until the point when you switch to another track. This will leave you re-listening to parts again and again in order to find out where you left off.
But no matter how frustrating turning to a music player as a primary means of consuming audiobooks may be, it can get the job done in a pinch.
Where Can You Find DRM-Free Audiobooks?
Audible may be the biggest name in audiobooks, but the site doesn’t actually give you full ownership over the titles that you buy. Instead of selling you books, it grants you a license to listen to them and supplies you with an app for doing so (a situation that doesn’t change even if you sign up for a subscription). This works for many people, but it’s still pretty restrictive.
Even if it means going without a particular title, I recommend buying books from sources that give you complete access to files so that you can listen to them however and wherever you like, long after a site’s servers have shut down. Such options include Downpour, LibriVox, Telltale Weekly, and others. You can find a longer list over at defectivebydesign.org.
For those books that you can’t find in an unrestricted format, you can always buy them on disks and rip them the old-fashioned way, and if you just want stuff to listen to for free, there are plenty of places where you could look.
Where do you get your audiobooks, and what’s your favorite way for listening to them? Chime in below!