As an auditory learner, audiobooks are more than a luxury for me; they are a necessity. Readers of any learning style can benefit from audiobooks, however. While auditory learners are probably going to be streaming classics every free moment that they can get, other learners (moms, dads, and children alike) can still benefit from being read to while their hands are busy doing the labor that must also get done. Affiliate link to a free trial for Audible here with **2** free books.
Of the many options for audiobook listening, my favorite is Audible. I do stream some books from Librivox and from Overdrive (through my public library). Audible, however, is more convenient than Overdrive. The app is easier to use and I can listen on my schedule without being hampered by return dates. I prefer Audible to Librivox because I think that you get what you pay for and the professional recordings Audible carries can make a monumental difference in your pleasure and your learning.
What is the price tag?
Audible makes their books available in three formats: pay as you go, monthly membership and annual contract.
When you pay as you go, you are not getting any monetary deal or price break but you have no contractual obligation. If you only plan to buy one or two books a year, this is about the same as buying it on cd from Amazon or a bookseller. Once you buy the book, it is legally yours. Membership or not. It belongs to you and lives in your Audible “account”.
Those who plan to buy a number of audiobooks and are interested in expensive books (like John Adams or The Great Courses Company courses) can get a great deal by subscribing to the monthly contract – either the Gold or Platinum deal. For approximately $15 per month, the subscriber gets 1 book credit (for “free”) and a 30% (or more) discount on everything else in the Audible library. For $23 per month, members get 2 credits plus the discounts. Members are not limited in the number of books that they can choose to buy throughout the month and so they can use their credit for a pricey book and then accumulate a sizable library by buying the less expensive and discounted books at member prices.
Additionally, if $15 a month is still too rich for your blood, know that Audible allows its members to take up to 3 months per year off as a sabbatical. During this time, members maintain their membership benefits and can still purchase books at the normal discounts but they are spared the monthly contract (and do not receive a credit during that time). This would reduce the annual cost to something a tad bit more affordable.
The third option, the annual contract, is for families like mine who consume a high volume of audiobooks. Brace yourself for the sticker shock. The annual contract is available at two levels – 12 credits and 24 credits – each arriving at the point of purchase. In both cases, the subscriber would pay all at once and get all of their credits at once but they would maintain membership benefits/discounts for 12 months. How the member chooses to use the credits (and at what rate) is entirely up to the user. The 12 credit plan is $149.50 per year. The 24 credit plan is $229.40 per year. In the case of the 24 credit plan, that works out to $9.56 per credit or just over $19 per month.
Because many professionally recorded audiobooks are expensive, the credit is extremely useful in purchasing pricier books like Les Miserables or The Great Courses Company or John Adams. Les Mis is $48.99 normally. A Great Courses Company class can be $50-$200 normally. John Adams is $79.93. To pay a mere $9.56 for any of those plus all the benefits of being a member is really a steal.
How expensive are the books?
Now there is a very interesting price point which drove my family into the annual contract. Little Britches, for example, is $10.95 (member price). It would be foolish to use a $15 credit on an $11 book. After months of buying these $10-13 books on top of my monthly fee, I began to see the wisdom in purchasing an annual contract in which the books could be acquired with a $9.56 credit instead. This has actually made my Audible experience more affordable and my costs more predictable.
What about Whisper Sync? A great many of the classics are very expensive unless you buy the free or cheap kindle version! For example, Jane Eyre is available in Kindle format for $.99. There are several audible versions available in the $15 range. One of my favorite narrators is Juliet Stevenson. Her Audible version is $16 but, because I “already own the Kindle copy,” I get it for the “special price” of just $2.99. So, for less than $5, I will have the Kindle and the Audible books in my library. If I choose to use them together, I can watch Whisper Sync read it out loud to me as it highlights the text!
How do you get it to play?
Several ways. Download your books into iTunes or stream through your Audible app on any platform. If you have a Whisper Sync enabled Kindle, you can also listen through the Kindle as an audiobook or paired with your Kindle text. A nice feature about the Audible app is, that as long as you are connected to your wifi, you can remove all of the books from your phone/ipad/Kindle and merely download the book you are interested in listening to. It downloads in seconds. Remove it when you are done (if you wish to save space) and re-download it any time!
What if I am listening on several platforms?
Easy! Audible keeps track of your progress across all of your platforms. When you switch devices, it will queue up to your place within about 15 seconds of where you left off. This goes for reading in the Kindle text as well. If you are listening to an Audible book while folding laundry and then decide that you want to highlight something you heard, simply open your Kindle and it will prompt you to move to the “last place heard.” Likewise, if you decide to read in bed at night and then want the audiobook to keep you company while taking your kids to swim lessons the next morning, Audible will ask you if you want to return to where you left off in your Kindle.
What if my husband and I want to read the same book at the same time but not together?
Easy. You are able to have several versions open at a time. Many nights, my children in different bedrooms will fall asleep listening to the same version of The Green Ember while my oldest is reading it on the Kindle downstairs.
I want to purchase an audiobook that we can listen to on a cd.
Again, easy. Once you purchase the book in Audible, you have the legal and ethical right to burn it to CD and play it in your car or a child’s boombox. Audible even has video instructions on how to do this with various different platforms (PC vs Mac, etc.).
What if I hate a book or I love the book but the narrator is grating?
Audible has a book love guarantee which I have tested more times than I can count. If, for any reason, you are not completely satisfied, a customer service agent will facilitate a speedy refund in the format that you paid (if you used a credit, your credit is instantly restored to your account; if you bought the book, a refund is issued to your credit card).
I have a given Audible a lot of my homeschool budget but it has given my family over a thousand hours of enrichment in the last year. (Audible has a nice little tracker in your app that tells you how many hours you have been listening!) Thanks to Audible, I have been able to preview classics before we inserted them into our family read aloud rotation, I have been able to listen to classics that support my personal schole and our family is building our culture around a shared love of incredible audiobooks. Affiliate link to a free trial for Audible here with 2 free books.