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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

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. Due to Amazon’s acquisition, you can log in to the site using your Amazon credentials for quick access.

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

  • Gold: 1 credit/month ($15 monthly, $150 yearly)
  • Platinum: 2 credits/month ($23 monthly, $230 yearly)
  • Escape: Unlimited romance titles ($13 monthly)

audible free trial

Which devices is 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. Official smartphones supported by Audible include those running iOS, Android, or Windows Phone OS. At home, you can access Audible content via an Alexa-enabled device, such as an Amazon Echo or a Sonos speaker. Listening via Windows and MacOS desktops are still available, as well as a tablet app designed for the Windows 10 store.

Amazon also offers the ability to listen to Audible via its Kindle eReader devices and Fire Tablet platform. Lastly, those who are visually impaired or prefer to use a more classic MP3 player can do so using Audible Sync, an app for Windows 10 that allows you to download and transfer titles. Currently, there is no option for Audible Sync on MacOS devices.

What is the quality of Audible audiobooks?

Audible has moved through several audio formats over the years, including Format 2, Format 3, Format 4, and Audible Enhanced Audio. Before Audible Enhanced Audio, all formats ended in the ‘.aa’ extension. The latest extension from Audible is now ‘.aax’ for its Enhanced Audio format. All formats before Enhanced Audio have been mono, but the latest format now offers stereo recordings. Current audiobooks from Audible are offered in either Format 4 or the Enhanced format.

From a quality perspective, Format 2 and Format 3 have been compared as listening to AM radio and FM radio, respectively. Format 4 is a more modern format akin to most MP3 files, while Audible Enhanced Audio is compared to the more sonically enhanced AAC format. Audible continues to keep files small, with Enhanced Audio ranging anywhere from 32-127 kbit/second. Books recorded in Format 4 are about 14.5MB/hour, while Enhanced audiobooks are around 28.8MB/hour.

Audible Original Series

Audible hired the former VP 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; however, some eBooks 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 audiobooks.com. 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.

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