HOW TO AUDIOBOOK: PART 1
where to find, buy, and borrow audiobooks
(and where NOT to)
Recently I have heard from several people who have a desire to increase their reading by listening to audiobooks. Many people aren’t listening to audiobooks yet because they don’t really know where to begin, or they think audiobooks are off the table because they can’t afford to keep buying books. (which is completely understandable!)
When I moved to Paris in 2013 one of my biggest concerns was not being able to find books in english and no longer having a local library. It was then that I discovered the overdrive app which allowed me to borrow eBooks and audiobooks from my home library in the US. Since then I have used nearly all of the audiobook apps and resources out there. So, I wanted to share the knowledge I have gained through this experience with you!
Now, if you are new to the idea of audiobooks, it can be overwhelming not only to know where to get books, but also how to select a book that you will enjoy listening to. This post will give you the info you need to find an audiobook provider that is right for you, then make sure to read How To Audiobook: Part 2 and Part 3 (coming soon!).
There are so many great options beyond just buying them off audible. I listen to about 3-4 audiobooks a month and I haven’t paid for an audiobook since 2013. I hope that armed with the information that follows you too will be able expand your reading life and enjoy more books on a regular basis.
Chances are if you know anything about getting audiobooks it’s Audible. It might seem like they have a monopoly on audio books but this is far from the truth. An okay option if you want/are able to buy books and plan on listening to at least one audiobook a month.
This is an Amazon Company
Subscription/Membership: meaning each month you pay 14.95 which gets you “one title credit” each month, and 30% off additional titles.
First Month Free: a ton of podcasts and other media influencers and creators are partnered with Audible and you can use their “code” to get your first month for free. This is also great because using their code helps them continue to be supported through the audible partnership. (If you don’t have a code, use audible.com/mamrie, and better yet get Mamrie’s new book!)
Guaranteed (pretty much) to Have Any Title: their selection is vast and if an audio version of a book exists, chances are they have it.
Option to Exchange a Book: unhappy with your selection? Didn’t realize the narrator's voice sounds like Minnie Mouse with a cold? There is a chance you can exchange it for something different, which is pretty convenient.
Support a Local Bookstore: when you create an account with libro.fm you get to link your purchases to an independent bookstore. This is another great way to help “the shop around the corner” and keep big bad fox books from squashing our beloved indie bookstores.
Good Selection: while they may not have some of the more obscure or older titles, they keep up with what is popular and have at least 90% of what is on the NYT best seller lists.
A+ Customer Service: they respond well to feedback and will add titles if requested. Their customer service has a great reputation and they also have a history of adding titles that customers want but they do not carry.
Better recommendations: with your account or membership you will get a “playlist” curated by actual booksellers with recommendations for what you should listen to next.
Yes they have an app
Membership option: while you can buy books “a la carte” there is also the option to become a member for the same price with the same perks (30% off additional titles) as Audible!
You own your purchases: You are free to listen to your audiobooks on as many different audiobooks as you like, without the restrictions you would find with Audible or audiobooks.com.
This is my audiobook "secret" weapon. If you have a library card (which you definitely should. Libraries are wonderful!) Then you (likely) have access to so much more than what the library has on their bookshelves. You can also borrow eBooks and Audiobooks.
Works with your local library: log in with your library card barcode and add additional cards if you belong to more than one library. (Don't forget about school libraries.)
Borrow Audiobooks: just like you would rent a book from the library, you can rent an audiobook (or eBook) for a couple weeks. Audiobooks are automatically returned on their due date.
One App, Easy to Use: Browse, borrow, download, and listen all in the same app. If you are familiar with overdrive, this is their new, improved, and updated app.
Bookmark the titles you are interested in: if you find a book that sounds good, but don't want to listen to right away, you can bookmark it and come back later.
Create Custom Lists: You can also create custom "tags" for books and they will be grouped together in a list. This is great to organize books are you potentially interested in. (These could be lists like: to be read, eBooks for eMergencies, or books to listen on a summer road trip.)
Offline Listening: all books can be downloaded to the app and therefor can be listened to offline, which is great for traveling or commuting.
Your Libraries Inventory: what titles are available to you is completely dependent upon what your library. This means that you may have a hard time finding certain titles, and may also encounter a long wait period. Unfortunately not all counties have the same resources to put towards their libraries, and different populations have different interests, which librarians take into consideration when curating the libraries selection, and this include their electronic resources as well. (psssst, I definitely don't think there is any harm in sharing library cards with family or friend who live in different parts of the country and may have a better selection.)
Estimated Wait Times: if you are wanting to listen to a book that happens to be very popular at the moment you may have to wait a few day or weeks before you can borrow it. Libraries can only rent out as many copies as they have the rights to, so if they are all checked out, you’ll have to wait, just like with regular books.
Log in with you library card
Limited to 7 titles per month
Same Inventory for All Libraries: Your library card gets you access to hoopla’s selection, but your library does not curate what is available.
Non-fiction Go To: Hoopla is great to find spiritual and self-help books.
Christian Books: Hoopla is a necessary app if you want to read/listen to christian audiobooks. Often the local library will not have enough of a demand to carry the latest (or backlist) in christian non-fiction or spiritual life books, but hoopla tends to have a great selection of this genre.
Obscure and Older Selection: Whenever I am having trouble getting a certain title, especially one that is older (like it was first published in the 70s) I can find it on Hoopla and nowhere else. There have even been books that Amazon doesn’t have and Hoopla does.
Inconsistent Offline Listening: Offline listening is an option, most of the time... As someone who regularly rides the subway, and is therefor using the app underground, this feature can be frustrating. Titles are not easily or automatically downloaded to your phone and may stop playing if you no longer have data service. So, make sure to download the titles all the way before leaving the house. (Even still, you may encounter issues, but do believe they are sorting out these bugs in the app.)
No Wait List: if there is a 5 week wait time for a book on Libby I will check Hoopla and 9/10 I can get it that day.
More Than Books: through hoopla you can also borrow music and movies. They have a pretty good selection of new music albums and a bunch of old and sometime random movie titles. You can watch them on Roku and AppleTv apps. However, these borrows also count against your 7 titles a month so keep that in mind and don’t go crazy.
Less Selection, Same Price: Same price as amazon but with a much smaller selection and incredibly poor customer service.
Not Recommended: I cannot suggest that you use this service. (It's not even worth signing up just to get one book for free. It is very difficult to cancel your membership and close your account). If you are going to buy audiobooks or have a membership use libro.fm.
Borrow audiobooks all day, everyday.
Support your local library and use the resources they offer. These books have already been paid for and are there for you to enjoy.
If you want to own the book and have the means to purchase, definitely use Libro.fm. Even if your local bookstore does not participate you can support any local bookstore! There are Kathleen Kelly’s everywhere and we should what we can to help them keep up the noble business of running a bookstore! (If you don’t have an independent bookstore that you would like to support, you can always just pick on at random, or support one of my favorite indie bookstores-WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. )
A Few Tips:
Sample before you buy: make sure you enjoy listening to the narrators voice; listen to at least 1 minute of the book.
Beyond your TBR list: listening to audiobooks is always going to be a different experience than reading a book yourself, so try to adventure away from just what you would normally read. Audiobooks are a great way to explore new genres or find books that you wouldn't normally read but are terrific as audiobooks.
Get ahead of the wait list: If you see a book is coming out with in the next couple month or so, go ahead and request it from your library. (this is true for "traditional" books as well) The wait lists often begins to form long before the book is released.
Adjust the speed: Some audiobooks are read at a very slow pace and you always have the option of adjusting the speed. I find that this is especially helpful when listening to a book read by the author, where the author is not a performer. (Eat, Pray, Love for example). By adjusting the speed you can shave hours off of the listening time.