Is Audible Worth It? A Brutally Honest Review [2021 Update]

audible free audiobooks

Are you looking for an honest Amazon Audible review?

You have come to the right place.

By the end of this article, you will know whether you should invest in that Amazon Audible membership or not.

About The Reviewer

lucio reviewer of audible

My name is Lucio, and I am one of the most voracious readers and knowledge-seekers you will ever meet.

With this website, I host the largest repository of editorial book summaries and review on the web.
Most of these books, I listened to rather than reading them.

And I like being efficient about it.
I love reading, but I am not your casual novel dabbler: I only read information which helps me make sense of the world or which has practical utility. 

And I like being ruthlessly efficient about it.

So my Audible review is the review of someone who’s looking to increase knowledge in the most efficient way possible.

Let’s start. 

What Is Audible?

Amazon Audible is a monthly subscription service.

An Audible membership gives you access to a huge selection of audiobooks at a preferential and discounted rate.

To keep it simple: 

  • If you fit the bill, Audible can save you money on your knowledge acquisition 

Amazon also tries to give you more perks and bonuses on top of “just” saving money.
For example:

  • You can sync book listening and ebook reading to resume audio or ebook from where you left off the other (awesome)
  • You can keep the audiobook forever
  • You can listen to the audiobook on whichever medium you prefer

However, if Audible is worth it or not for you also depends on how much you read and how seriously you take knowledge.

Read on for more.

How Does Audible Work?

You start an Audible membership with a comfortable 30-day free trial which comes with 2 free audiobooks (or 1 free audiobook or even 3 free audiobooks depending on the promotion Amazon is running).

audible free trial

Albeit it’s called “free trial”, that’s how actually all Audible memberships start.

When your 30-day trial ends, you will begin paying the subscription fee on a monthly basis and, at that point, you can call yourself a true, proud Amazon Audible subscriber :).

How much is the subscription depends on the plan you choose, where you are located and when you sign up.
However, consider an average of $15 per month.

With the monhtly fee, you get one or two free credits per month depending on the subscription you choose.

You can use each credit to purchase one audiobook at a 1 credit : 1 audiobook exchange rate.
That means that an audiobook will cost you 1 credit no matter which audiobook you choose and no matter the tag price of the audiobook you pick.

Audible Trial

In my opinion, trying out the trial is a no-brainer.

You can cancel!
Let’s be honest here, even if you don’t want the membership, that’s the equivalent of getting 2 audiobooks for free!

All you gotta do is to remember to cancel the membership, which you can do right after you get the audiobooks.

Why wouldn’t you want to get 2 audiobooks for free? 
I highly recommend you give it a try because there is no downside.

Go to build your reading list, pick your two favorite books and get on with them.

audible free audiobooksPro Tip:

  • Start now because Audible will give you a chance to another free trial in the future even if you cancel (I know because I’ve had 2 free trials so far)

What If You Don’t Like A Book? Audible Returns

As I mentioned earlier, Amazon built a whole membership service around audiobooks, which includes returns and exchanges.

If you don’t like an audiobook you got, even if you listened to it until the end, you can exchange it for another book.
It’s an awesome service, but it comes with limitations of course to protect the system against abuse.

The limitations are not written in stone or, I suppose, some people would just abuse the system right before they hit the limit.
Instead, you will realize if you have gone past the limit because you won’t be able to return your audiobook anymore. 

You can still ask for a return at that point, but you must contact the customer service.
They will likely go through a script designed to make you feel guilty about it but not so bad as to make you feel enstranged (and leave a bad Audible review 🙂 ).
At that point, they will likely tell you, in a PR and PC way, that for this time they’ll do it for you, but that you should take it a bit easier going forward (and you probably should: people work hard to write books).

In short:

  • When you return an audiobook, you get your credit back
  • There is no maximum amounts of audiobooks you can return
  • You can’t return books if you ended your trial membership (I tried 🙂 )

Audible returns are limited

What If You Want More Than 1 Book Per Month?

If you want more than 1 audiobook per month than you can buy the higher subscription plan for 2 audiobooks per month.

If even that is not enough, you can purchase whatever audiobook you like with a 30% discount.
The 30% discount does not apply to all audiobooks, but to a large percentage of them. If your title is not in the discount list, you can still wait for the month to end and get it with your new credit (or just fork out the few extra bucks, you cheapo 🙂 ).

In short:

  • Choose higher plans for more audiobooks
  • You can save one month’s credit for next month up to a certain limit (ie.: you can roll over credits up to a certain limit depending on the plan you choose)
  • If you cancel, you lose your credits (so make sure you exchange all credits before canceling)
  • If your monthly credits are over, you sitll get a 30% discount

Seamless Switch Between Audible & Kindle

If you also read ebooks on Kindle… This could be a huge game changer for you.

waterproof kindle

Whispersync for Voice allows you to seamlessly switch reading and listening to the same book as you move from Amazon App to Kindle.

The audiobook automatically resumes from where you left off with the ebook and vice versa. 

This is what it could look like to you:

  1. You wake on Sunday and start reading The 48 Laws of Power and stop at the 20th Law of Power
  2. You get off of the bed, tell your Alexa-enabled speaker to start playing and the speaker starts from you left off in your ebook (the 20th Law of Power).
  3. You listen until the 30th Law of Power and then enjoy some lighter music as you eat
  4. You grab your cellphone and take your bike. You plug in your noise-cancelling earphone and resume listening from the 30th Law of Power
  5. You meet your girlfriend and you pause the audiobook that you’re at the 36th Law of power
  6. You go back home in the evening after the perfect day with your girlfriend. You go to bed and grab your Kindle, which automatically start from the 36th Law of Power

Basically, if you enjoy both audiobooks and e-books, this will take your efficiency to the next level.

Of course, you do pay something more for efficiency as you will have to buy both versions of your book of choice (the audiobook version and the Kindle one).

Audible Library

Amazon has long been the largest bookstore in the world.

If you can’t find a book here, you really are looking at some collectible item :).
The Audible library is not as large as Amazon books as not all books have a matching audiobook, but you can still count on more than 425.000 audiobooks. 

It might sound impossible not to find your audiook, yet if you are in a specific field or are looking for some old classics, it’s not as unlikely that you will not find your audiook.

For example, as a sociologist and researcher on power dynamics and “power moves”, I want to soon read “Games Criminals Play“. But there is no audiobook version for this old niche goldie.

What you can do at that point is to get your next favorite book in audio format while you get your ebook on Kindle (or Kobo).

In short:

  • Audible has the largest audiobook library in the world
  • Most new and popular books have an audiobook version
  • Still, not all books have an audiobook file

Audible App: Poor

Now we get to the weakest link in the Amazon Audible plan.

If you read around, you will read raving reviews for the Audible app, but these are obviously people who don’t treat books like studying material.

I do, and the Audible App doesn’t help.

Look at the Audible App:

audible app

Looks sleek with its hip minimalist design, right?

Yeah, it does.
But… Is it also functional?

Let’s look at how the bookmarks look like:

Amazon audible bookmarks

Still looks nice, but it doesn’t work for sh*t.

When you click on “Play Clip”, it only plays for 10 seconds or so. To listen longer, you need to click “Go to Bookmark”. 
But the functionality sucks: it doesn’t take you back to the original track. It just starts playing the track from the bookmark tab, and there are no cursors to control the audio. Such as, from the bookmarks, you can’t rewind, stop, or fast forward.

This might not be an issue for more casual listeners.
But it’s an issue for me as a review. And it might be an issue for people who want to analyze and dissect their books.

Compare it to Audipo, my favorite audiobook app:

audiobook app audipo

Audipo’s bookmarks register straight on the audio track. 
You keep the whole overview and quickly switch from one bookmark to the other to listen, rewind, slow down or fast-forward as you please.

This is the good stuff for those who listen to analyze.

Update: Still Crappy App
In the meanwhile, I have become a power user of Audible. But as of June 2020, it hasn’t improved. For the use I make of it, with lots of notes I need to go back to, the app is disappointing.  

Update 2: Terrible

The more I use it, the more I realize it’s very poorly designed for those who are looking to take notes and learn, rather than just listen and move on.

Free Audible With Amazon Prime

Do you buy on Amazon a lot?

Then you should take into account Amazon Prime which will likely save you quite some money on shipping cost.
And if you get Amazon Prime, an Aubile subscription is included in the price.

Consider also that you might use Amazon for groceries home delivery, which is a huge time saver and efficiency booster.

I was really interested in that.
Unluckily Amazon groceries is not yet very well developed in Europe, so I am still sticking with a local grocery chain (which is still an awesome time-saver).

Where to Listen to Audible Books

Anywhere you want, really.

The great advantage of audiobooks is that they allow you to maximize your time and multi-task, for example listening to an audiobook as you do house chores (just make sure to pick easier books for multitasking or listen to them twice).

And one of the advantages of an Audible Subscription is that you can download the file, which allows you to move it as you prefer.

Here are some options:

For example, my favorite combo at home is to switch on my EU MegaBoom (linked is the latest version which is Alexa-enabled). 
And then, bang!
Ready to maximize my time and listen to an audiobook as I exercise, clean, cook or eat (as long as I’m note eating something crunchy or drinking wine, in which case I play music 🙂 ).

megaboom to listen to audiobook

You can also listen to an audiobook while masturbating or making love, my friends. 
Freedom… Ain’t that beautiful :).

Turn Your Commute Into an MBA!

Dear readers, life it too short to waste valuable time waiting for late buses and staying stuck in traffic!

How to start turning time-waste into learning opportunities?

The combo I recommend is audiobooks with noise-canceling headphones so that you can listen to audiobooks on the go, no matter the noise around you (and while preserving your hearing).

This way an Audible Subscriptions helps you to transform your wasted waiting time into value-adding learning time.
To me, that’s tantamount to magic.

As Brian Tracy said:

You can now transform your commute into your university

I personally use Bose noise-canceling headphones because when I researched it a few months ago they were the best on the market.

A great investment, if you ask me.

bose quietcomfort

Audible CONS

Of course, not all is great about Audible:

  • UPDATE: you don’t get to keep the books if you cancel!

I just realized this when I went to cancel. 

See here the message:

amazon audible drawback

You don’t get to keep your accumulated credits after your plan ends and, equally important, you don’t get to keep the audiobooks!
Amazon audible is not for purchasing books, it’s for RENTING books.
And at the end of your tour, you must give everything back :S.

Unless… Unless you keep paying.
And that’s where it feels a bit scammy. 

  • Can Still Be Costly for Voracious Readers

You are limited to the 2 credits/month of the upper membership tier. After that, you rely on the 30% discount to buy additional books.

And since audiobooks on Amazon are often not the cheapest, it can become costly for voracious readers.

  • Not for Binge-Readers

If you are looking to get the top 10 books on a certain topic to cram the best information you can get, as quickly as possible, then Audible is not for you.

For example, a fellow reviewer notes that Never Split The Difference comes in at $19.0 with the membership discount. But you can get the Kindle version for $16.7
And you can get it even cheaper shopping around for other audiobook providers.

So if you’re looking to binge on the best negotiation books in the shortest possible time, the Audible membership is not for you.

  • Bad App For Serious Learners

Most “normal” readers will be happy with the Audible app.

But not serious learners who are listening to dissect, analyze, store and review information (read “Audible App” for more information).
However, as we have mentioned, you can download the audio file and use whichever app you prefer.

  • Reviews Based on Amazon Reviews

The reviews you get on each title are, as you might guess, from Amazon’s reviews.

Unluckily the Amazon reviews are far from optimal. 

There literally are businesses who work to game the rating system and seem to quite successful at it (read “Published“).
And that’s even without accounting for fake reviews from friends, customers who review the service instead of the product and the usual “I like / I don’t like the author” reviews (you can read more in best book reviews websites).

  • Gamification Approach to Learning

I won a few badges in my Audible trial. 

Even as a sociologist and a psychology buff who’s read it all about businesses hoooking people to products, I couldn’t help but get a dopamine rush with it.

For a second, at least… The second after I immediately got back to my senses and thought “how lame.. “.

Dear reader… Please don’t let me ever catch you sharing your Audible badges on social media please :D.

Audible Pros

Of course, there are a lot of advantages to Audible:

  • Speed it up, save time!

The feature I love the most about audiobooks is that they go quicker than ebooks and, thus, are more efficient.

I trained myself to listen to faster speeds, and if you’re serious about learning I recommend you do the same.

The Audible app, contrary to some other audiobook apps on the market, also allows you to go beyond 2x.
Trust me, as you get better you will really want an app that lets you go faster than 2x.

audible app speed selection

P.S.: drop your excuses, I’m a non-native who’s started learning English in earnest at 20 years old.
If I can do it, so can you.

P.P.S.: It’s not a race. Only listen as quickly as you can manage without losing comprehension.

  • You Can Buy Summaries!

If you are into summaries, there are plenty of audiobook summaries for the biggest titles out there.

I’m not a huge fan of this option though as I need to trust the reviewer to trust a summary.

  • You Can Keep the Files

Even if you can cancel your membership, including if you cancel your trial membership, you can still keep the audiobooks.
That’s why I can highly recommend you claim your 2 free audiobooks.

  • You Can Place Your Membership on Hold

This is a very nice feature.
If you’re not using your Audible membership, you can pause it (and stop the membership payments as well of course).
At the time of writing, you can put it on hold once a year for up to 3 months.

Audible Alternatives

A proper Audible review should also look at the competition.

And of course, luckily, Audible isn’t alone in the market of efficient learning.

So what about the alternatives?

  • Audiobook Bay, Pirated Torrents

Let’s be real here: there are plenty of pirated torrents out there for both ebooks and audiobooks.

How you feel about these options depends on your personal views.
I am ambivalent about it. I believe authors should receive fair pay for their hard work.
On the other hand, some poor people might use some initial help to get off the gutters.

The downside (or upside) is that the selection of audiobooks is very limited (there are more ebooks than audiobooks). 

audiobook bay
In this exampleCan’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  • Free Public Libraries

There are plenty of public libraries in almost every country and you can rent books for free there.
Some of the most advanced countries also offer audiobooks. 

  • Free online audiobook website

There are also many websites which offer free audiobooks. 
The issue there is that you won’t find most of the books you want :).

  • YouTube

You’d be surprised how many full (copyrighted) audiobooks are being uploaded on YouTube.

At the moment of writing for example both The Power of Now and Rich Dad Poor Dad are available (here one example).

  • Blinkist

Blinkist is an app and service for book summaries, and they also offer audiobook summaries.

It’s becoming hugely popular as they epitomize the self-development mantra that you must read every day as much as possible (with which I disagree).

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Blinkist (you can read my Blinkist Review here).
But the trial period is free, so give it a shot and let me know what you think.

blinkist review

You can start a Blinkist free trial here.

  • MentorBox

I don’t like Tai Lopez and there are many questions about MentorBox values and business practices, but the product is good. 

Take a look at the MentorBox review here.

  • The Power Moves

ThePowerMoves.com has “only” hundreds of books, and they are not in audio format.

But the available reivews are the most critical reviews you will ever read (very few other sources, if any, will check the references and call BS without being afraid of pissing off authors and fans).

And the selection is also highly focused.
If you are into self-development, psychology and people’s skills, match those summaries with the highly targeted articles, and you have all the information you need to become the person you want to become (and the rest is in applying that information).

You can sign up here.

Is Audible Worth It?

It’s actually easy answering this question.
As long as you have an idea of how many audiobooks you’re going to consume and what’s the average price.

  • If you read less than 5-6 books a year, Audible is not worth it
  • If you’re buying Indie books at $3-$4, then Audible isn’t worth it

Audible Review – Summary

Overall, Audible is a wonderful service.

and I can highly recommend it if: 

  • You read consistently (or want to read consistently)
  • You prefer audiobooks (or want to start with audiobooks)
  • You are already a Kindle customer
  • You like the idea of seamless switching between Kindle and audiobooks

And frankly, between us, I recommend the Audible membership if:

  • You don’t plan on paying a monthly fee but will gladly get 2 audiobooks for free 🙂

Personally, I am not a member yet as I am into “bootstrapping mode” and “binge reading mode”.
But I plan into easing into a calmer reading routine going forward and I look forward to joining the Audible Membership.

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