Audiobook Downloads and Rentals

Updated 06-16-2015

From subscription services that give you a set number of audiobooks each month to pay-as-you-go sites and CD rental services, we've tested all the best sources for audiobooks so you can get the best deals on the books you want. Whether you listen to audiobooks on your MP3 player, your computer or your car stereo, these sites can give you access to an enormous library of books, from Jane Austen and Herman Melville to JK Rowling and Stieg Larsson.

Audiobook Downloads and Rentals

Services: Our Ratings: Bottom Line:
Audible Rating:stars
Membership plan saves frequent readers money on the biggest download library in the audiobook business
Booksfree Rating:stars
Fast, free shipping with the biggest rental library makes this a great service for frequent listeners
eMusic Audiobooks Rating:stars
Cheapest plans and good selection, though it may lack some high-profile titles; audio quality is not top-notch
Simply Audiobooks Rating:stars
There are two plans to choose from, but the rental service is by far the best bargain
iTunes Rating:stars
Better for casual listeners; not as cheap as subscription services; must use iTunes/iPod/iPhone Rating:stars
Same pricing as Audible, but for streaming books; you lose access to your books if you cancel your plan
Barnes & Noble Rating:stars
Good selection, often cheaper than iTunes, but checkout, download, and audio are disappointing

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The Audiobook Advantage

Audiobooks are an increasingly popular way for very busy people to keep up with their reading. At one time audiobooks were known as "books on tape," but with tape sales only representing 3% of the market, most people are listening with their CD players or digital media players. Buying or renting audiobooks online is a convenient way to get the titles you want, when you want them. While iTunes and Audible seem to dominate the category, there are actually a number of services for customers to choose from, offering differences in price, delivery, selection and audio format. Many of the less well-known services offer advantages over their more famous competition. We set out to help readers find the service that's best for them.

Audiobook prices and plans

Are you a voracious reader? Do you read or listen to a book a month? Maybe two? If so, an audiobook subscription service is probably for you. With a subscription plan you get a certain number of credits per month, with most titles having a cost of a single credit (though a few titles cost more). You can find one-credit-per-month subscription plans starting as low as $9.95, a vast savings over the price of a non-subscription download which can be $30.00 or more. If you just buy the occasional book for summer listening, you'll probably want to go with single downloads from Audible or iTunes.

Audiobook formats

How will you listen to your audiobooks? Different services offer different audio formats. Rent-by-mail services offer their audiobooks as traditional CDs, which provide great sound and are playable on CD players and CD-ROM drives, but the audiobook is not yours to keep. Audiobook download services use a variety of different formats, so you'll need to make sure the service you choose is compatible with your computer or digital audio player. You should also take into account sound quality. Not all audiobook files are created equally. We spent time listening carefully to audiobooks from each service so that even the most discerning listener will be able to find a service that suits their taste.

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