Listen to a Good Book
Audiobooks make it easy to take a good read anywhere you want to go, listening to the latest bestseller while on a long trip, devouring a non-fiction piece while doing the dishes, or checking out the latest self-help hit or celebrity biography during a daily workout. They also happen to be a perfect fit for your smartphone.
Audiobook apps for your iPhone or Android device run the gamut from slick, full-featured players that also integrate online marketplaces to more humble affairs that still bring you the classics of world literature in audiobook form. Here's a look at some of our favorite audiobook options for mobile devices. (Image Credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock)
Audible (Android, iOS: $14.95 per month subscription)
Audible (Android, iOS) remains the powerhouse in the audiobooks field, with more than 470,000 titles in its library. Audible's audiobook player offers solid playback features, with chapter navigation, bookmarks, a sleep mode, variable playback speed and multitasking support for background playback and downloading. Audible’s increasing integration with Amazon's Kindle system has reaped added benefits for users, as Kindle users can pay a small fee to upgrade a Kindle ebook with an Audible audiobook; Amazon's Whispersync feature allows users to switch between audiobook and text near-seamlessly. You can even have Amazon's Alexa pull up your audiobooks from Audible to be read through an Echo, Tap or Echo Dot.
Audiobooks.com (Android, iOS: $14.95 per month subscription)
RB Audiobooks' cloud-based Audiobooks.com platform (Android, iOS) also offers a solid audiobook app for Android and iOS listeners, allowing subscribers to choose from a library of more than 150,000 audiobooks from every genre that they can stream or download for offline listening. The Audio Books app includes variable playback speed, automatic bookmarking and a sleep timer, among other features. Additionally, this app includes cross-device syncing, allowing listeners to easily transition from their smartphone, tablet or computer without losing their place in the audiobook.
Serial Box (Android, iOS: Free)
Rather than splurge on a single fat novel or audiobook, readers and listeners can spring for shorter, episodic content through Serial Box (Android, iOS), which offers bite-sized chunks of novels that are perfect for your commute or breaktime. Serial Box offers a range of genres from drama to fantasy and sci-fi. The first episode is free, and subsequent episodes cost $1.99 for both text and audio versions. A season pass or subscription options allow you to grab a story's entire season at a discount. With a strong library of offerings such as “The Witch Who Came In From The Cold”, “Bookburners” and “Tremontaine” and a highly configurable reader and audiobook player mode, Serial Box is an interesting new option for readers and audiobook listeners alike, especially now that there's an Android version of the app available.
Google Play Books (Android, iOS: Free)
Google Play Books (Android, iOS) also builds in audiobook features, allowing you to listen to your purchased audiobooks across platforms and devices. That enables listeners to pick up where they left off on their Android device, iPhone, or desktop PC. Audiobook controls allow you to skip ahead or scroll along the timeline, jump to chapters, and configure playback speed and a snooze timer. Unlike other audiobook services, Google Play Books doesn't run on a monthly subscription, instead allowing users to preview audiobooks and then buy what they want over the Google Play Books marketplace.
Kobo Books (Android, iOS: Free)
While Kobo (Android, iOS) may not have the same big name recall of Amazon in the US ebooks and audiobooks market, it offers a rich library of ebooks and audiobooks in its online marketplace and reader apps. Kobo's audiobook player covers your basics, with a timeline scrubber bar, timeskip buttons, chapter navigation, playback speed configuration and a snooze timer. The app provides cross-platform syncing and a customizable ebook reader in addition to the audiobook player. New users can sign up for a $5 discount on their first ebook purchase.
Bookmobile (iOS: $3.99 after free trial)
Bookmobile is a well-regarded iOS Audiobook player for those looking to play DRM-free audiobooks. Bookmobile supports DRM-locked content from iTunes and Audible, as well as DRM-free content ripped from CDs or downloaded, including M4B and MP3 audiobooks. The app features a thoughtful control scheme designed to keep you from easily losing your place and includes drive and sleep modes, as well as supporting background playback. Extra features include a custom bookmarking feature that can automatically remember where you last stopped, playback speed controls, and AirPlay support. The free trial lasts for 60 days and allows you to import three audiobooks.
Smart Audiobook Player (Android: $1.99 after free trial)
If you're looking to listen to DRM-free audiobooks already in your collection, Smart Audiobook Player is a popular choice for Android devices that comes with a good selection of features, such as variable playback speed, bookmarking, an audio equalizer, some basic collection management features, a sleep timer and control widgets for the notification tray and your home screen. The app provides users with a generous 30-day free trial before asking for a $1.99 unlock.
Listen Audiobooks Player (Android: $1.99)
Another well-regarded player for DRM-free audiobooks on Android is Listen Audiobooks Player, formerly known as Akimbo. Ad and IAP-free, Listen is a highly configurable player that includes variable playback speed, a built-in equalizer, sleep timer, embedded chapter support, bookmarks, lockscreen controls, and widgets. Users can sync their current position and bookmarks across multiple devices, configure skip times, UI colors, and configure headset button shortcuts.
Voice Audiobook Player (Android: Free)
Of course, if you're not looking to spend a cent, you can always go with free and open source options. Voice Audiobook Player has a clean, Material design-based interface that comes free and delivers some useful playback features. Library management is a simple, folder-based affair, and playback options include variable playback speed, bookmarks and a sleep timer. It's comparatively basic, but you also can't argue with that price.
Nook Audiobooks (Android, iOS: Free)
Barnes & Noble offers the Nook Audiobooks app (Android, iOS), with a store library of more than 50,000 titles across a variety of genres. Rather than use a subscription model like Audible or Audiobooks.com, Nook features an online store where users can buy books, and then download and listen to them through the app.
Audiobooks Now (Android, iOS: Free)
Audiobooks Now (Android, iOS) offers an integrated market and audiobook player with a library of more than 80,000 bestsellers and classics. Users can stream audiobooks for on-demand listening, or download titles to read them on the go. The app comes with bookmarking and playback controls, incoming call auto-pause and resume, and multi-device syncing. In addition to its in-app marketplace, Audiobooks Now also offers a book club-style subscription system that provides steep discounts of up to 50 percent on your audiobook purchases.
Chirp (Android; iOS: Free)
Think of Chirp as a kind of deals site for audiobooks, where you can pick up different titles for $1.99 to $4.99 at a substantial savings from their regular price. (The selection skews to fiction, but there are all types of genres represented here.) There's no membership fee, and you own anything you buy. The Chirp app (Android, iOS) for mobile devices is where you can read your books, whether you choose to stream them or download them for offline listening. Features include a sleep timer, adjustable listening speeds and chapter-by-chapter navigation.
Downpour (Android, iOS: Free)
Downpour (Android, iOS) is an independent audiobook store with a fantastic library of DRM-free audiobooks for sale, as well as select audiobooks that you can rent for 30 or 60 days through the Downpour mobile app. The Downpour app allows users to access their entire library and download audiobooks on Wi-Fi or cellular networks for offline playback. Playback controls are fairly standard with chapter and 30-second skips, bookmarking, a sleep timer and support for background downloading and playback.
Bound - Cloud Audiobooks (iOS: $3.99)
Rather than have audiobooks use up gigabytes of precious storage on your iPhone, you can turn to a cloud-based audiobook solution. Bound is an iOS app that allows you to stream your DRM-free audiobooks from your favorite cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, iCloud or Google Drive, playing them on your iPhone. The app supports a variety of formats, such as .mp3, .m4a, .m4b, and .aac files, and comes with a sleep timer, customizable playback speed, and options for bookmarks and seek times.
Scribd (Android, iOS: $8.99 per month subscription)
Scribd (Android, iOS) has taken a different tack with its audiobook offerings, presenting them to users as part of its on-demand, Netflix style service. For $8.99 monthly, Scribd subscribers now have access to a library of more than 30,000 titles in addition to the more than half-a-million ebooks that they can already access with their Scribd account.
OverDrive (Android, iOS: Free)
Another audiobook option to consider is your local library if it has a digital media lending system. OverDrive (Android, iOS) is a media management app that allows users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from their library's collection, with all the flexibility and convenience of a digital app. OverDrive users can borrow titles from the library's collection 24/7, and users can create holds, wishlists and effortlessly return ebooks and audiobooks. Cross-device syncing of titles and bookmarks allow you the flexibility to listen to an audiobook on the device of your choice.
Libby (Android, iOS: Free)
Overdrive has also been busy revamping its electronic lending app with the new, mobile-centric Libby (Android, iOS), a combination of digital media management app, ebook reader, and audiobook player. Users can sign in, connect their library card, and then borrow digital media such as ebooks and audiobooks from their local library. You can use multiple library cards, sample books, download or stream content, tag titles, and sync data across devices.
Hoopla Digital (Android, iOS: Free)
Another popular digital media lending system is Hoopla Digital (Android, iOS), which allows users to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, music and movies from your library's digital collection. Easy setup and search, as well as hassle-free navigation, viewing, playback, and returns make it a strong contender if your library supports lending out media through Hoopla.
Librivox (Android, iOS: Free)
If you're not necessarily looking for the latest bestsellers, Librivox (Android, iOS) offers access to more than 15,000 free audiobooks of public domain works ranging from classic bestsellers to out-of-print titles that users can browse by title, author or genre. Users can save and listen to any number of books that they want, setting unlimited bookmarks as well as a sleep timer. As the work is done by volunteers, narration quality can vary, but it's a great way to get classic works of literature in audiobook format without breaking the bank.
Free Audiobooks HQ (iOS: Free)
Free Audiobooks HQ by Inkstone allows users to listen to more than 8,500 free audiobooks, as well as purchase and listen to any one of 10,000-plus premium titles in a variety of languages. Playback controls come with some good options, such as configurable playback speeds, bookmark support, and a sleep timer. You can check out curated lists of titles or use the app's built-in search functions to find just the titles you want.