What is the best audiobook app for Android and iPhone right now? We’ve tested three of the biggest mobile services right now - Audible, Kobo Books and Playster - to see which has the best selection of books, the most satisfying app and the best subscription offers.
When you think of audiobooks, chances are you think of Amazon’s Audible service. Audible has been around for yonks and allows you to buy and download a massive selection of titles which can be streamed direct to your ear holes; handy if you drive a lot, or simply can’t find the time to sit down with a ‘proper’ book.
However, Audible now has some rivals in the form of Kobo Books and Playster. These competitors are run by different companies and so offer a very different catalogue of books - and in the case of Playster, a completely different subscription model too.
Here’s how these three audiobook apps stack up and which might be better suited to your reading habits.
Playster v Audible v Kobo: Compatibility
Good news, everybody. The Playster, Kobo and Audible apps can be downloaded for Google Android devices as well as Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), so chances are you’ll have something that can play these audiobooks.
Playster v Audible v Kobo: Subscription model
With Audible, you pay £7.99 a month and that gives you a single credit to exchange for any audiobook in the catalogue. This can then be downloaded onto any of your devices, to enjoy offline. Only Audible subscribers can download books and you’ll need to pay full price once your credits are gone, although the app does offers a fresh deal each day, with one audiobook heavily discounted.
With Kobo, the model is a little trickier. If you fancy a subscription, you can pay £6.99 per month here in the UK, which nets you one credit each month just like with Audible. This can be redeemed for any title you like. If you pay for a subscription, you also have the option to purchase three additional credits for twenty quid each month. Again, these can be swapped for any book. If you get through a lot of books each month, this will prove a more affordable solution than Audible, as full-priced books tend to be at least a tenner and often more like twenty quid.
Alternatively, you can simply buy books on demand, at full price, with no subscription. This method tends to work out more expensive, however, even if you rarely buy a new book.
By comparison, Playster costs a lot more per month, yet offers the entire catalogue for streaming once you sign up. If you just want to listen to audiobooks, the charge is £18.49 a month, while all available media (including music and movies) costs £25 per month. You can download and enjoy as many as you like while your subscription is active, which is good if you like to listen to a few books at the same time or find yourself getting through at least two or three books a week.
If you’re going to pay for audiobooks and you’re interested in the music too, we’d say go for it. For just £6.50 extra per month, you get access to a massive selection of tracks. Even quite obscure EDM and Metalcore bands were in there, with the ability to download at will. The movies selection is utterly dire however, unless you love old kids flicks.
Note that all three audiobook apps offer a free month, to try out the service for yourself.
Playster v Audible v Kobo: Audiobook catalogue
Audible is the clear winner when it comes to the available selection. If a book has been converted into audio form, chances are it’ll be on Amazon’s service. Every mainstream author and quite a lot of indie writers are on offer, so you’re bound to find something new and exciting to listen to.
Kobo Books also has quite a decent range already, despite being a new service. While we didn’t get as many hits as we did with Audible when searching across different genres, most mainstream authors can now be found. New titles are being added at a pleasing rate as well, so you shouldn’t run out of books to download with a constant subscription.
Bringing up the rear is Playster. While you get a pretty big selection and can choose as many as you like at one time for no extra cost, we struggled to find many interesting titles to download.
Big names such as Stephen King, Philip K Dick and Jo Nesbo are represented, although it’s almost always their lesser-known or weakest titles that are available. We also found that many of the books were in German rather than English, which could be quite maddening. Of course you do get plenty of classic audiobooks to pick from too, including titles from Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Mary Shelley and so on. Yet the modern selection is certainly lacking.
Playster v Audible v Kobo: Apps
All three of these services offer the ability to download audiobooks via their apps, to enjoy offline. Good news if you do a lot of travelling, especially by plane or through signal black holes.
Kobo’s app is dead easy to use, with the ability to slide backwards or forwards through your books when needed, as well as skip ten seconds in either direction with a quick tap. You can also head to a specific chapter, change the playback speed and even set a sleep timer in case you’re heading to bed and want something to ease you off.
Audible also has a sleep timer, table of contents and playback speed feature. However, the slider for skipping back and forth isn’t as easy to use on a dinky smartphone screen as Kobo’s version. That said, you can quickly cast your book to a nearby speaker or device, while the ability to set bookmarks on demand is occasionally handy. These apps can also sync your books between different devices.
Playster’s app isn’t quite as intuitively laid out, although still packs plenty of features. You can skip 30 seconds in either direction or call up the contents, while diving into the settings gives you bookmarks, sleep timers, speed controls and the ability to cast.