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What is Audible? Amazon’s audiobook service explained

If you love reading books but can’t find much time to actually read, how about listening to books instead? Audible is an Amazon company that sells and produces spoken audio content. While Audible offers a wide range of content, including radio and TV programs, the company is best known for its offering of what could once be called “books on tape” — now known as, more appropriately, digital audiobooks. Launched over 25 years ago, Audible can help you grab your favorite audiobooks on Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Kindle, with the push of a download button.

The history of Audible

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Audible launched as an independent company in 1995; it produced a digital audio player that consumers could purchase to listen to their favorite audiobooks. Due to the technology available in the mid-1990s, the device was limited, only able to hold around two hours of audio in Audible’s proprietary format. The company went through some hard times after the previous CEO, Andrew Huffman, died of a sudden heart attack. However, Audible didn’t give up, and by 2003, the company had signed a deal with Apple to provide books for iTunes.

When 2008 came around, the company began its venture into audiobook production under the Audible Frontiers imprint. As Audible continued to grow, Amazon took note and purchased the company later that year for $300 million. Audible has continued marching forward as one of the internet’s top options for acquiring digital audiobooks since then. Today, Audible produces originals under the Audible Studios name; it is the largest producer of Dow label audiobooks in the world. Since Amazon’s acquisition, you can log in to the site using your Amazon credentials for quick access. The service also offers a variety of ad-free podcasts.

How much do audiobooks cost on Audible?’

The collection from Audible sports over 200,000 audio programs, helping to make Audible the United States’ largest audiobook producer and retailer. The most straightforward option to purchase from Audible is to pay a monetary amount as with most online retailers.

However, Audible also offers a credit system — subscribing to an Audible subscription will give you one or two credits a month to spend. Most audiobooks will cost you a single credit, with some more significant works requiring two credits and some short works requiring a fraction of a credit. Subscribers can also purchase additional books without credits, receiving a $30 discount. You can also take advantage of an Audible free trial.

Current Audible membership plans

  • Audible Plus: This tier provides unlimited access to Audible Originals, Audiobooks, and Podcasts for $7.95 per month.
  • Audible Premium Plus: This tier adds a free “premium select title” per month that’s essentially a permanent purchase you can keep as an audiobook even if you stop using Audible, for $14.95 per month.

audible free trial

Which devices are Audible available on?

Audible is available across a wide range of devices, which is essential as most of the company’s content is protected by DRM, meaning it can’t be played on unauthorized devices. You can often stream the Audible Cloud Player on any internet-connected devices, but if you’re looking to download the app on a particular device, here’s what is supported:

  • Windows and Mac computers
  • All functioning Kindles (currently 8th-gen Kindles and newer, although Kindles do periodically lose support and will stop working)
  • All Alexa devices (this is an enormous catalog of smart speakers including all Echo devices, compatible car dashboards, etc.)
  • Amazon Fire Tablets with OS 5 or newer
  • The SanDisk Clip Jam
  • The Bones Milestone 312
  • The Victor Reader Stream

What is the quality of Audible audiobooks?

Audible has moved through several audio formats over the years, including Format 2, Format 3, Format 4. Audible eventually dropped the names and uses an enhanced audio format for all titles. Note that if you are a returning user, none of the previous numbered formats work on the app, and you will have to re-download them (the window to download them directly to your device passed in 2020).

If you want to manage audiobook size or work within data streaming limits, etc., note that you can switch between High Quality and Standard Quality formats in your Audible settings.

Audible Original Series

Audible hired the former vice president of programming at NPR, Eric Nuzum, to help create new and original content in 2015. While Audible has decreased the number of original series it is producing, a few options to continue to exist, including Where Should We Begin?, a series that brings you inside therapist Esther Perel’s office, hearing couples deal with sexual issues.

Sincerely, X is another Audible Original featuring Ted Talks from anonymous individuals, including a doctor who believed he killed his patient and a Silicon Valley executive who experienced a mental breakdown. Two other options from Audible include Ponzi Supernova, an investigative podcast looking at the Bernie Madoff $65 billion Ponzi scheme, and West Cork, a true-crime series investigating an unsolved murder from 1996 West Cork, Ireland.

Common Audible questions

Is Audible free with Prime?

Amazon’s Audible service does not come free with a Prime subscription, but some e-books available in the Prime Reading library do include Audible narration. Audible does offer a trial subscription to Prime members, which includes two free audio credits, but after the 30-day trial period, you will need to begin paying like any other subscriber.

Are books on Audible free?

While Audible is a storefront looking to make money, the company does offer a small selection of free audiobooks. Additionally, Audible is running a program known as Audible Stories, where children can access a library of free content in up to eight different languages. Even if you purchase a subscription, audiobooks are limited based on the Audible credit system.

Is there a cheaper alternative to Audible?

If you want audiobooks, but don’t want to use Audible, there are quite a few options available, including AudioBooksNow and You can also obtain free library audiobooks from Overdrive and free public domain audiobooks from LibriVox. The cheapest alternative to Audible appears to be AudioBooksNow.

Editors' Recommendations

Michael Archambault
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Michael Archambault is a technology writer and digital marketer located in Long Island, New York. For the past decade…
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