A good audiobook deserves a great app player, but there are a lot of audiobook players out there—most with very similar names—so choosing one can get frustrating. We’ll make it easy: Here are the best audiobook apps, what audiobook services they work with (not all are dog-compatible), and what features we especially like.
Note: These audiobook players are free, but some may require a subscription service to download particular books.
With more than 100,000 titles, Audiobooks.com has shown a lot of growth recently, making it easier to recommend than ever. The service operates on a “credit” system that works out to $14.95 per month for one credit each month to get a new book, with the first book free. It’s not the greatest purchase method, but the expanded library is excellent and you can keep all your purchased books, even if you cancel your subscription. We also like the speedy interface, which has a good bookmarking system (plus compatibility with the Apple Watch). However, the controls are pretty tiny and not very suitable for in-depth control while driving or exercising.
Audible is a popular audiobook publisher (owned by Amazon and compatible with Amazon devices like newer Kindles), and its own player is worthy of consideration, especially if you’re content to stick to Audible’s 180,000 volume audio library. That’s one of the largest available, and includes the most recent and bestselling books, as well as plenty of newspaper and magazines. As a paid service, you will have to dish out $15 per month to access Audible’s top-notch collections, but there’s a 30-day trial that’s a great opportunity to test out the player first. While the audio player is functional, it’s essentially the same as the Audiobooks.com interface, and not very driver-friendly.
LibriVox is a free access service where all audiobooks are free to download and listen to, no strings attached. The library is a little small at 25,000, but you’ll find most of the classics here, along with plenty of biographies, histories, and other public domain publications (the rating system helps when looking for high quality options). The audio player doesn’t have a ton of features, but it is well designed and gets the job done, with variable speed options plus a sleep timer. When possible, listen to a sample of the audio before you make a download, since all voice work is done by volunteers. We also have more info on free audiobooks and free book downloads including downloads for the iPad if this is your jam.
Listen is one of the universal audiobook apps, a.k.a. an audio player without its own library of audiobooks to choose from, but it is designed to work with DRM-free audiobook files from any source. This is an advantage for listeners who like to review all available sources for their free book fix, but want one central location to hold them all. Listen’s interface is also very good, with options to adjust speed, remove silences, add bookmarks, switch to Bluetooth, set sleep timers, and even create your own skip times.
Bookmobile is designed to work with all audio files from iTunes, Audible, public library downloads, and other popular sources. It’s also incredibly useful for drivers, with a simple interface that features large buttons and intuitive controls for skipping backward or forward with minimal effort. You can adjust play order priorities, combine multiple files into one archive file for easier management, customize skip settings, and more. That said, Bookmobile works best with iTunes, and it may take a bit more work if all your audio files are elsewhere.
Free Books is a hybrid app that combines free domain books in both eBook and audiobook form. This is particularly beneficial for those who want to read some books on their own time but listen to others without switching between apps. However, there are some tradeoffs for the hybrid model: Free Books has a simplistic player without all of the customization features more advanced apps provide, and the audiobook selection is a little limited at around 5,200.
Voice is an independent, open-source audio player designed to pick up any Android audiobook folder and let you play the books it finds there: The interface lacks some of the customization options of other players, opting instead for a more visually pleasant and minimalist approach. Lots of screen space is given to cover art and controls are focused on basic play, pause, and fast-forward. However, you can still add book markets, use a sleep timer, switch between day and night modes, and adjust playback speed as you prefer.
Audiobooks Now is another subscription service. It’s somewhat smaller than Audible or Audiobooks.com with an 80,000 strong library, but also significantly less expensive at only $5 per month with the Club Pricing plan. Plus, it has a strong stock of free and discounted books, with options available to stream or download as you choose. The player itself is, like other subscription players, easy to understand but tricky to use when driving. There are sleep timer controls, playback speed options, bookmarking, and other standard features. The search function, however, is worth calling out for its easy browsing and the ability to play samples of the books you are viewing.
What makes this player “smart”? There are a few features not usually found on audiobook players, features that make the experience…well, more fun. Sure, the standbys like playback speed control and sleep timers are present. But the app also offers interesting tools like the ability to manually create your own list of characters while reading, or easy ways to divide books into “started” and “haven’t started yet” categories. Note that in this particular case, you will have to pay $2 to unlock the full version of the app, but it’s well worth it.