To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Audible review: The last word in audiobooks

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £7.99
per month, inc. VAT

A huge library and reasonable pricing puts Audible ahead of its rivals


  • Huge library of titles
  • Compatible with everything
  • Discounts if you own Kindle copies


  • Books pricey if bought outside of credits

For many, Audible is another word for audiobooks in the same way that ‘Hoover’ is interchangeable with vacuum cleaner. The Amazon-owned audiobook company offers a balance between price, accessibility and library size that has enticed millions of regular subscribers to the service.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial

Audible review: Price and competition

Audible costs £7.99 per month, though that comes down to £5.84 if you buy a whole year’s subscription for £69.99. Each month, you get a single credit that can be exchanged for any recording on the system – whether it’s a ten-minute speech or over 81 hours’ worth of Jane Austen novels. It’s up to you to make sure you get your money’s worth.

You can buy extra books once you’ve spent your monthly credit, of course, but it’s often not cheap – some volumes cost well over £50 when bought outside of the credit system. The complete Sherlock Holmes, for example, comes in at £69.99.

There’s a free one-month trial available for new members, and you can cancel at any time.

There are alternatives, but none of them is as well known as Amazon’s offering and they don’t offer anywhere near the same breadth of content. Kobo Audiobooks comes in at £6.99 per month and if you don’t fancy a subscription, then Google Audiobooks just lets you buy titles in an ad-hoc manner, though it’s often cheaper just to sign up to a subscription service temporarily.

Audible review: What you need to know

Before I became an Audible member a year ago, I was a little dubious about the membership system, assuming that the need to pay a monthly membership fee on top of books was a bit of a ripoff. I was wrong on that point: as long as you spend your monthly credit sensibly (and the length of each audiobook is very clearly labelled) then one book a month should be plenty. In fact, it’ll likely prove too much and you’ll end up with an intimidating backlog. If that happens, and you need to cancel, your books remain yours to keep. You can cancel and then come back when you need more.

But what about the books themselves? Well, there’s a lot of them for a start. A quick search of the UK store shows 409,315 titles available to download today. And yes, roughly a quarter of these (106,301) are under an hour in length, but the rest are better value.

As well as 33-hour-long readings of “Game of Thrones” novels, you’ll find shorter radio series and dramas. It’s a very good selection, and seems to compare favourably with Kobo’s audiobook selection. While Kobo unhelpfully doesn’t let you see the full number of books in its library, a couple of key searches always brought up more results on Audible: the word “dog”, for example, appears in 1,552 titles on Audible, and just 357 on Kobo.

Does that matter? Possibly not: it’s very likely that only the top 10 dog-related titles are worth listening to, and if both have all of them then it’s actually a draw. But even if you’re a casual listener not worried about the lack of niche titles you are blissfully unaware of, there are other reasons to favour Audible over its rivals.

First off, there’s compatibility. While Kobo Audiobooks requires an Android or iOS app to play, Audible works pretty much anywhere you can think of, from your Kindle Paperwhite to your laptop. It syncs between devices and you can continue your story wherever you have a compatible device. Crucially, this also includes the Amazon Echo which is incredibly handy if you have one: just say “Alexa, continue my audiobook” and it’ll pick up where you left off.

I mentioned the Kindle in the previous paragraph, and if you have one Audible becomes particularly appealing, as you can swap from reading to listening on the same device. In practical terms, this means you can be listening to your book on a walk to the station, and then switch to reading it when you board the train. Sadly, buying a book on Kindle doesn’t automatically gift you the matching audiobook or vice versa, but Amazon does let you buy Audiobooks for cheaper if you happen to already own the Kindle version. As an example, Audible is offering me the audiobook of Donna Tartt’s excellent ‘The Secret History’ for £6.49, rather than its list price of £22.75.

And as for the books themselves? Well, they’re as mixed a bag as you get on any platform, and you’ll quickly learn that a bad narrator can ruin even the best titles. Be especially wary of authors who insist on reading their own books, if they’re not also an actor or TV/radio personality. Still, all the titles have previews you can play to get a taste for their style, and Audible has a fairly robust exchange policy if you don’t like a book which can be activated up to a year after spending a credit on it.

There is one issue I have with the credit system, and that’s the bizarre disparity in value you can get when everything costs one credit. This is fine when you’re talking about two novels of different lengths, but you’re at the mercy of publishers for other things. I’m rather partial to radio comedies, and was delighted to find that every episode of ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ had been bundled into a single credit download. The same wasn’t true for ‘Ed Reardon’s Week’, where each of the 13 seasons cost a credit each. So that’s £7.99 for over 18 hours of ‘Yes Minister’, or 39 hours of ‘Ed Reardon’s Week’ for over £100.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial

Audible review: Verdict

It’s easy to forgive Audible for anomalies like this, however. If you tot up all the plus points I’ve mentioned here then also factor in the sheer breadth of Audible’s original content, including plays and free exclusive podcasts, the fact is you’ve got a very, very compelling package. The library, device compatibility and ease of use are simply second to none.

It’s not quite the cheapest way of getting into audiobooks, but Audible remains by far the best way of seeing what the fuss is about for yourself.

Read more

Reviews | Books