Stop the press, literally, because the written word is dead. Right now, it’s all about listening to your books, not reading them. That’s right, sales of audiobooks are increasing year on year and according to Statista, audiobook download revenue from 2021 was almost double the £69million recorded in 2018.
What’s the appeal of audiobooks? First of all, you can listen to your favourite reads anywhere – on your commute, doing admin at work, at the gym. In a society so gripped by social media, audiobooks satisfy our ever-dwindling attention spans by allowing us to do many things while getting that much-needed fiction fill. Not only are you actually consuming fulfilling entertainment – as opposed to, you know, bikini pictures and memes – but you can tick off those yearly reading goals easier than ever with an audiobook.
That’s perhaps why so many different audiobook apps have appeared in recent years, and why so many people are searching for the best one. Currently, ‘best audiobook app’ is a breakout search term on Google, following closely by ‘best free audiobook app’. So, what are the best audiobook apps? We did a deep dive for your reading pleasure (sorry, this one you can’t listen to!).
What are the best audiobook apps?
Topping most lists is Audible, which currently has over 450,000 titles to choose from. You can get an Audible free trial for 30-days, but after that it will cost you £7.99. For that you get unlimited listening across thousands of Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks alongside exclusive member-only deals. You also get one credit a month for a title you can download and keep (yes, free books!) and can cancel your membership at any time.
Owned by Amazon, Audible is integrated with a number of Amazon features – Amazon Prime members can get two free credits whey they start an Audible Premium Plus trial while Amazon's Whispersync feature allows users to switch between audiobook and text near-seamlessly. Got an Alexa? You can even have it pull up your audiobooks from Audible to be read through an Echo, Tap or Echo Dot!
Also £7.99 per month, with Audiobooks.com you can get a 30-day free trial plus you first three books free. As part of the £7.99 deal, you can choose one audiobook a month plus one bonus VP book – and they offer unlimited access to Audio news, Audio Magazines and their Sleep & Meditation section. Over 300,000 titles are available to read, often part of deals like their current 2 for 1 on ‘Summer Listens’.
What are the best free audiobook apps?
Now, it’s worth bearing in mind that just because the apps are free doesn’t mean what you’re listening to is free too – while Kobo does not charge a membership, you do have to pay for every e-book you download. They do offer discounts on occasion for new users, but books go for as little as 99p on the app anyway. With over 5 million titles to choose from, Kobo boasts an expertly curated collection of ‘yesterday’s classics and today’s bestsellers.’
Google Play Books
Available to Android users, the best thing about Google Play Books is the way it curates its free titles into easily accessible sections on the app. With both ‘free in fiction’ and ‘free in nonfiction’ collections, Google Play Books allows you to listen to classics like The Great Gatsby for no money at all. When it’s this easy to listen to audiobooks for free, it’s no wonder everyone is putting down the paperbacks.
Click through for the best Audible audiobooks...
Best Audible audiobooks
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
A beautiful book, read by Hollywood legend, Tom Hanks.
Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Read by Stephen Fry, a great, soothing way to spend the afternoon.
This Is This Country, Kerry Mucklowe and Kurtan Mucklowe
If you still suffer This Country withdrawal symptoms, this book, narrated by Kerry and Kurtan, The Vicar and various other village members is a TREAT.
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
One of 2020's best novels, brought to life in this great narration by Shayna Small.
Angels in America, Tony Kushner
The most wonderful and heartbreaking play about the American AIDS epidemic, which recently sold out at the National Theatre and on Broadway. This version features the cast, including stars Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Bobby Cannavale and Edie Falco.
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
A wonderful book, which won an Audie Award in 2018 for its fantastic audiobook version.
Heartburn, Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep. Yes please.
The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley
Narrated by different voices as each character takes a different chapter – like listening to an engrossing murder mystery that keeps you coming back.
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
Inspired by the son of Shakespeare, it is a story of the bond between twins and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. After winning all the prizes, this is a great one to enjoy by listening if you're short on time.
Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Delve into the atmospheric world of the North Carolina coast with this audio treat.
Grown Ups, Marian Keyes
What could be better than relaxing into the world of Marian Keyes, the world also being read to you by Marian herself. Lovely.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Tim Robbins reads this and he really brings it. It's also short, under six hours and really well done.
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson
Susan Jameson's reading captures the mixture of whimsy and darkness very well. She's done all of the Jackson Brodie ones I think.
Circe, Madeline Miller
The reading is by this British actress called Perdita Weeks and she captures the tone perfectly.
Best Audible audiobooks
Becoming, Michelle Obama
Start your day with some inspiration from the best. Winner of the Grammy's Best Spoken Word Album 2020 and the 2020 Audie Award for Autobiography/Memoir. This book is an intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.
A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough
What could be better than listening to David Attenborough for 6hrs and 20mins.
How To Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell
Bad girl beauty editor Cat Marnell narrates her memoir, How To Murder Your Life – chatty, funny and fascinating, it's like having your wildest friend read you her diary.
Open Book, Jessica Simpson
If you're obsessed with the 00s treatment of Britney Spears, you need to read this book by Jessica Simpson, which also features her music throughout. Jessica reveals for the first time her inner monologue and most intimate struggles. Guided by the journals she's kept since age 15, and brimming with her unique humour and down-to-earth humanity, Open Book is as inspiring as it is entertaining.
This Will Only Hurt A Little, Busy Phillips
Busy Philipps' autobiographical audiobook offers the same unfiltered and candid storytelling that her Instagram followers have come to know and love, from growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and her painful and painfully funny teen years to her life as a working actress, mother and famous best friend.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
Born a Crime is the deeply personal story of what has shaped Trevor Noah, South African comedian and host of the Daily Show.
A Life In Parts, Bryan Cranston
Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston narrates his own fascinating life story with the same wit and raw emotion that characterizes his acting repertoire.
My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen
We're always happy to listen to a celebrity autobiography read in the author's own voice, and Lily's is an important story as well as appealing to listen to.
Parsnips, Buttered, Joe Lycett
Funny and brilliant, listen as British comedian Joe Lycett narrates his own witty, tongue-in-cheek guide to modern life.
Ramble Book, Adam Buxton
A Ramble BOOK, yes, but surely meant to be heard by the King of podcasting himself.
Gotta Get Theroux This, Louis Theroux
From much-loved documentary maker Louis Theroux comes a funny, heartfelt and entertaining account of his life and weird times in TV. Like a great, extended podcast.
Force of Nature, Jane Harper
The narration took some getting used to, but actually is very atmospheric and eeks out the mystery of what happened to the women lost in the Australian outback wonderfully.