Audiobooks—or books on tape—have been around for decades but they’re booming in popularity now that they no longer take up a dozen CDs and the cost has plummeted. Let’s look at how to get started.

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. I find they’re the best way to fill dead time when you’re driving, cleaning, cooking, taking your dog for a walk, or otherwise doing pretty mindless tasks. If you spend a couple of hours sitting in the car alone commuting, then you should really check them out.

Where Can You Get Audiobooks?


Audible is our go-to audiobook service here at How-To Geek. While you can buy audiobooks there, if you start listening to audiobooks regularly you’ll want to sign up for their subscription service. For $14.95 per month you get one credit which can be used to buy any book, regardless of price. For $22.95 per month, you get two credits. Your first book is also free when you sign up so you can check it out before paying any money.

The best thing about Audible is the fixed price. You only pay $14.95 for every book. While you can occasionally find other books cheaper on other services, audiobooks tend to be quite pricey and often retail for around $30. Even when other marketplaces have secured a discount from the retail price, they tend to cost $14.95—curiously, identical to the price of an Audible credit.

The Other Options

Audible isn’t the only game in town, it’s just the most popular. Both iTunes and the Google Play store have large collections available.

If you’re looking for the easiest way to buy just a single audiobook, then iTunes is your best option if you use iOS and Google Play is your best option if you use Android. You already have an account and the apps are built into your smartphone.

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There’s also a good chance your local library will have audiobooks, as well as ebooks, available for you to check out. The selection won’t be as good as any of the online stores and you may have to wait for a title you’re looking for to become available, but it is free.

How to Listen to Audiobooks

The simplest way to listen to audiobooks is using the app on your smartphone or tablet. Any books you buy from Audible appear in the Audible app available on iOS and Android. Books you buy through iTunes are available to listen to through the iBooks app. Books from the Google Play store are available in the Google Play Books app on Android and also iOS. Just put in a pair of headphones, press play, and enjoy.

Playing over smart speakers is also possible. You can listen to Audible books using your Amazon Echo or Sonos speakers, and you can listen to Google Play audiobooks on a Google Home device. Your place will automatically get synced between your smartphone and your smart speaker.

RELATED: How to Listen to Audiobooks on the Amazon Echo

All the services also let you download mp3 files so you can play your audiobooks anywhere, or even burn them to CDs if that’s your thing. If you’ve got an old iPod lying around somewhere, you can turn it into a dedicated audiobook player.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Audible and Audiobooks

Audiobooks take a little bit of getting used to. It can be strange having someone read to you rather than listening to music or talkshows on the radio. Here are some tips to get the most out of it:

The narrator makes or breaks an audiobook. Even your favorite book will seem awful if it’s read by someone who’s voice you can’t stand. Listen to the samples and check out the reviews on each store before buying, just in case the narrator sounds like Gilbert Gottfried on helium.

If you’re just starting out with audiobooks, try listening to some read by the original author. That way, you know you’re getting the authentic experience rather than the take of some producer in an office building.

There are two kinds of audiobooks: abridged and unabridged. Abridged audiobooks were more common when tapes and CDs were used, but they still exist. If you want the full written text, make sure you go with the unabridged version.

Audible has a great return policy. If you don’t like a book, you can return it at any stage within a year of buying it. Don’t be afraid to use it if you don’t enjoy a book or if the narrator annoys you too much.

Because of Apple’s rules, Amazon can’t easily sell audiobooks through the Audible app on iOS devices. To buy audiobooks from your iPhone, you need to use Safari. The same is also true for Google Play books.

If you find the narrator a bit slow, don’t be afraid to use the “Speed Up” options. I often listen to audiobooks at 1.25x or 1.5x speed. I’ve even gone as far as 2x for some particularly slow narrators.

I have literally listened to thousands of hours of audiobooks. I’ve listened to an average of around three hours a day for more than the last decade. I’m not sure how I’d stay sane while cleaning without them. Check out Audible you won’t be disappointed.

Profile Photo for Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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