If you're looking for ways to fit more books into your life, picking up audiobooks is a great way to do it. You can listen on your commute, on vacation, or just at home while you're doing other things. This week, we're looking at five of the best audiobook services, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week we asked you which audiobook services you thought were the best. Sure, there are definitely some juggernauts in the field, we all know who they are, but options are good things to have, and you delivered. You gave us way more places to grab well composed, cheap, and otherwise unavailable audiobooks than we can highlight here. Even so, here are the five services that you nominated more than any others—in no particular order:
We all expected Audible to make an appearance in the top five, and sure enough, it got plenty of love in the nominations thread. Audible—an Amazon company—has over 150,000 audiobooks available to buy and own, rent and stream, or listen to offline, anytime you want. You can try the service for free for 30 days and a free audiobook that's yours to own, and if you like the service, stick with it for $15/mo. From there, you get a discount off of the retail price of any books you enjoy, a free book every month, and of course the luxury of listening to your books on your smartphone using Audible's mobile apps, on your computer, or just about anywhere you go. You don't have to be an Audible member to buy their audiobooks though—you just get a 30% discount if you are on any purchases you make. Those books are available for you to listen to anytime, even offline, and the service integrates with your Amazon account so your progress on physical books and audiobooks are synced, and you get discounts on audiobook versions of books you own.
There's a lot to like about Audible, and many of you shared your personal uses for the service in the nomination thread. Many of you even said you didn't know there were alternatives to the service, either because you've never had to look for them, or you were just so happy with Audible as a service. Audible's combination of both subscription (which gets you free books) and storefront (where you can purchase and own the books you buy) made it especially attractive to many of you as well. Even if you don't integrate with Amazon, or pay for a subscription, its selection is out of this world. Read more in its nomination thread here.
Over 30,000 libraries use OverDrive to make it easy to check out audiobooks and ebooks right from your smartphone or tablet-all you need is your library card, and a library in your community that supports the service (and odds are you'll find one.) From there, just install the app on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop (Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, Nook, Chrome, Amazon devices and more are all supported.) Features like offline listening are supported, and many books can be burned to CD or copied to portable media from your desktop so you can listen to them on the go, even if you don't have the app on another device. When you're all finished, your books are automatically "checked in" to the library (or removed from your collection.) You are, of course limited to the selection of audiobooks available at your local supported library though, and the level of demand in your community for the books you want to check out. Even so, Overdrive is completely free, as long as you have a library card.
Those of you who nominated OverDrive also shared your love for the service, noting that free audiobooks are an amazing thing, and while you do have to deal with the selection available to you (and that can vary depending on where you live and how many supported libraries are in your community), it's great to be able to check out audiobooks—as well as ebooks or video—right from your computer or mobile device, without lifting a finger. For those of you who nominated "Your Public Library," this is an amazing way to get the most of what your library has to offer. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Downpour is an audiobook store and subscription service with a rapidly expanding catalog (the service adds thousands of new titles every month) and completely DRM-free audiobooks, both for sale and to rent. You have the option to download your audiobooks as mp3s, or as chaptered .m4b files, and you can listen to them on any device where you have the Downpour app installed (Android, iOS, and Windows Phone are supported, as well as tablets like the Nook and Kindle) or you have web access to the site. Your place is automatically saved and synced across devices, and you can download, replay, or listen to your audiobooks as much as you like. When your rental period is up, you won't be able to access the books from your library anymore, but any purchases you make are yours forever. The service works like a bookstore, and you can buy books directly to own forever, or you can subscribe for $13/mo and accumulate credits to get free audiobooks, again to own and keep forever. If you choose to rent, you can pay a lower price and listen to the book you've rented, and if you're not finished, you can even extend your rental for a few days (for a fee, of course.) Downpour's biggest benefit, aside from offering completely DRM-free books that are yours forever—and no one can pull them back from you or block access if something happens to your account, is how affordable their books are. You'll find tons of great books at steep discounts, including new releases and New York Times' bestsellers.
Those points are ones you echoed in Downpour's nomination thread. You mentioned that while it may seem like a smaller service, you've rarely had difficulty finding books you're looking for, or something great to listen to—and if you're not sure about a book, you can always rent it and save some money to see if you'll get through it. Membership in the subscription program nets you free books and cheaper books to own, which is great if you're a frequent reader, but you don't even have to sign up to take advantage of everything the service has to offer. Read more in its nomination thread here.
You may not initially think of Scribd as a service associated with audiobooks, but it actually has a broad selection of titles, both fiction and non-fiction, available to download right from the site. The service is affordable, only $9/mo compared to other services, and while its book selection isn't the biggest, it's still massive and offers tons of listening options and popular titles to enjoy. The service overall has something like 30,000 audiobooks, and once you're a subscriber, you can listen to as many as you like, anytime. Scribd also makes it easy to find what you're interested in, either through the search bar at the top of the page, or by clicking one of the categories to see what's new, trending, or what the site's editors suggest from the category. You can listen to your audiobooks on the web, or on the go, thanks to Scribd's Android and iOS apps.
Those of you who nominated Scribd pointed out that its entry price is good and low, while its selection is broad and full of great titles. You also mentioned that with your subscription, you get more than just audiobooks—you get access to Scribd's book collection as well, and the service is working on the ability to sync books, as well as reading and listening places across your devices so you can pick up easily where you left off. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Much like OverDrive, Hoopla Digital is a service that libraries and other institutions use to allow people to check out audiobooks, ebooks, music, TV shows, and other media. As long as you have a supporting library in your community and you have a library card, the Hoopla web site or mobile app (available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire) allows you to sign in, check out any audiobooks available on the site or to your community library, listen to them whenever is convenient for you, and then have them automatically "checked in" when your lending period is over. Books and audiobooks stream to you, so you have to make sure you have space on your device for them before you check them out (a number of people complain about skipping in the mobile apps—this is largely why) but beyond that, the service works well, and is completely free.
Those of you who nominated Hoopla Digital did so because of its availability—it's not as broadly used as OverDrive, but it may be available in communities where OverDrive isn't supported, and their catalog of audiobooks is impressive. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Now that you've seen the top five, it's time to put them to a vote to determine the Lifehacker community favorite:
This week's honorable mentions go out to Librivox, a service full of completely free, public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers from around the globe. Sure, you're not going to find fancy new New York Times' bestsellers on the list, but if you're into classicliterature or just great stories in general, you can't go wrong. The books are well produced, most are free (and you can search both free and paid books if you like), and if you want to give back, you can volunteer to read a book yourself and contribute to the project. You can read more in their nominations threads here and here.
We should also give a nod to Graphic Audio, which had a strong showing in the nominations thread mostly because they have the rights to do adaptations of Marvel and DC properties, and because they don't so much record "audiobooks," but "movies for your mind," as it were. Stories are read and acted out by a full cast of characters, so the narrator is one person, and the people they interact with are all voiced by others—the whole thing adds to the immersion, and can make great books feel more like radio dramas or plays instead of just books read by one person. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn't get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it's a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at email@example.com!