I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, which has been great for my reading productivity. The only thing is, audiobooks can get expensive, especially if you’re not on a subscription.
So, this means that I need to actually look into what the best audiobook membership service is for me to stick with. In this post, I’ll be comparing the top three subscription services: Audible (from Amazon), Scribd Premium and Libro.fm.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links!)
To compare these subscription options, I’ll be looking at each of these services based on these specific criteria:
Number and Quality of Titles
Cost (Subscription Price)
Access, Limitations and DRM
App Interfaces and Functionality
Free Trial Details
Number and Quality of Titles
Number of Titles (Self-Reported)
In addition to other audiobooks, Audible also has Audible Originals in their library. Audible Originals have a lot of high quality and well-produced audiobooks, and it has a lot of celebrity-narrated audiobooks.
Note that these numbers are unverified and self-reported (meaning I’m just repeating the company claims) or reported by other people on the internet, so I wouldn’t take these numbers as fact. Instead, I also looked at the Top 20 books currently on the bestseller list (Top 10 in Hardcover Fiction, Top 10 in Hardcover Non-Fiction) to see how many of them were available on each service.
Number of Current Bestsellers in Catalog
The Scores? For the number and quality of titles, Audible gets a 10 (because of their Audible Originals), Libro.fm gets an 8 and Scribd gets a 6 (since they’re missing some big bestsellers).
As of August 2019, monthly pricing for the membership services are as follows:
Libro.fm probably has the most straightforward policy. It says you get one book and that’s what you get.
*For Audible, the Gold subscription comes with one audiobook a month as well as two Audible Originals, which seems like a nice deal. However, a big caveat is that the two Audible Originals are limited to a specific selection of 6 titles that you can choose from (see this month’s selection). You do not get to choose from the full catalog of Audible Original titles.
My experience so far is the ones they offer as part of the 2 extra Audible Originals are usually shorter and most of them are kind of lame. I’ve been using Audible for a few months now, and I’d say I derive very little value out of the two extra downloads.
That said, you can still purchase the other, better Audible Originals with credits. They also occasionally will have offers to let you purchase more credits (usually 3 at a time) for around $10-12 per credit, which is a pretty good deal.
**The Scribd policy is weird in that it says it’s Unlimited, but in the fine print it says that it can limit it. Based on what other users have experienced, in practice it sounds like they will throttle the downloads for most books. For many users, it won’t be an issue, but if you listen to a ton of audiobooks, it seems like it comes out to 2 audiobook downloads for most books (popular titles, anything from big publishers, romance novels, comics, etc.), and then it’s unlimited for the other random titles (mostly public domain stuff).
The Scores? For pricing, Audible gets a 8, Libro.fm gets an 5 and Scribd gets a 10. Scribd is cheaper, so it gets points for it (but as a warning, there is a lack of transparency which is annoying).
Limitations, Access, Convenience and DRM
DRM refers to “Digital Rights Management” but what it really means is that you can play the file on any media player. It means that it’s not “locked” to any format or platform. Instead, it’s just a standard audio file that you can save/move/play whereever, which is really nice.
The Scores? Libro.fm really pulls ahead in this category. Audible gets a 3, Libro.fm gets a 10, Scribd gets a 0.
App Interfaces and Capabilities
The Audible App
The Libro.fm App
The Scribd App
The apps for all three are good, I think, and will probably serve your needs just fine. The Audible app is more robust though with some above-and-beyond-type features such as being able to create audio clips, and the car mode (has really big basic buttons so it’s easier to tap) is nice.
The Scores? Audible gets 10 points, Libro.fm gets 7, and Scribd gets 7.
Free Trial Details
The Scores? The trials are basically the same, so it’s a wash.
There’s a few other things to consider:
Libro.fm states that each sale benefits the local bookstore you choose, but I scoured their website and Googled like crazy and could not figure out what percentage exactly goes to the local bookstore. So, while I like that they support indie bookstores, I wish they provided even a ballpark of to what extent it kicks back to the bookstore.
Scribd says they offer unlimited listening/reading, but if you look at the fine print, it’s actually throttled (somewhere around 1-3 audiobooks and ebooks per month). It’s not explicitly stated which books are throttled and what the exact limits are, and the policy seems to change from time to time. I have to give them points off for the lack of transparency and unpredictability. But the extra e-books are a nice value.
Audible is kind of a behemoth, which kind of sucks, but the service is pretty straightforward. I’ll leave their score as neutral, so they get no positive or negative points on this score.
The Scores? Audible gets 0 extra points, Libro.fm gets 6, and Scribd gets 5.
(Note that the points for selection and price are weighted double.)
What’s the Verdict?
Overall: Tie, between Audible and Libro.fm. Ultimately, the best subscription for you depends on how you plan on using it and what your preferences are.
For access to Audible Originals: Audible (of course). There’s a lot of really great Audible Originals content, the only problem is that you probably won’t get access to it as part of the “2 free Audible Originals per month” portion of your subscription (because you only get 6 titles to choose between each month). Instead, you’ll most likely have to use your 1 monthly credit to purchase the one you want. But still, if you want access to those titles, then going with Audible is going to be the best choice because they’re pretty expensive otherwise.
For DRM-free content and independent bookstore lovers: Libro.fm. Value-wise, Libro.fm and Audible are pretty similar, except with Libro.fm, you get DRM-free content and you get to support indie bookstores (their website lists all the bookstores they work with). The main things that are missing is 1) not being able to use your credits on Audible Originals, and 2) Audible occasionally lets you purchase extra credits that are slightly cheaper ($10-12).
For the Budget-conscious: Scribd. If you don’t mind occasionally hitting up against a limit where your usage is throttled and not having full access to a handful of titles (some bestsellers are just not available on their platform), Scribd is ultimately going to be notably cheaper than the other two. If you read ebooks as well, they will be included in your subscription as well. Similar to the situation with the audiobooks, for most non-public domain content, it gets throttled after 1-3 downloads. (One commenter also added that Scribd works well as a subscription to get along with another subscription if you listen to a ton of audiobooks.)
For me, I’m sticking with Audible for now while I explore their Audible Originals selection. If after a few months, I’m still not getting much out of the Audible Originals, I’m probably going to switch to Libro.fm just to have DRM-free files and to be able to support my local bookstore! If I find I’m listening to a ton of audiobooks, I’ll probably get the Scribd subscription to add to my other subscription.