Audible has had its own way in the audiobooks market for a long time. The Amazon-owned company pushes customers towards an £8-per-month subscription for which you get to listen to only one book – a price that deters many potential customers, including myself. You can buy individual books, but with prices for new titles often starting north of £20, the cost remains prohibitive.
Now Google has entered the market with a subscription-free offering that may finally give Audible a run for its money. Google Play Audiobooks has launched with aggressive pricing on many titles. I’m currently dog-walking my way through Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, which cost a mere £4 with a 50% discount on your first purchase. The same book on Audible costs £18.
So is it a home run for Google Play Audiobooks? I’ve taken a closer look at both services to help you decide.
There’s no denying Audible offers a high-quality service – at a price.
That said, if you do a bit of digging around in the Audible catalogue, there are bargains to be had. The Audible app’s Store offers a Daily Deal where you can often pick up cheap listens: today’s deal is Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, which costs only £2.99. Likewise, the Listens for Less section contains many titles for under a fiver. Philip Pullman’s The Collectors is only £1.74 at the time of writing, while David Hewson’s Dead Men’s Socks is £4.39. Audible will constantly try and shove you towards a subscription, but if you’re not particularly bothered about the latest releases, then it’s often cheaper to buy off the shelf, as it were.
One other nice touch with Audible is that it offers deals on books you’ve already bought on Amazon. So, because I’ve nabbed Danny Baker’s Going Off Alarmingly on my Kindle, I can add the audiobook version for £2.99, instead of the regular £19.99. That includes Whispersync, so you can read a chapter or two on the Kindle and then pick up where you left off in the audiobook when you’re walking the dog around the park, which is a great feature.
The Audible app on my Android phone is smartly designed. There are big buttons to pause, rewind 30 seconds or fast forward 30 seconds, and clear indications of how long’s left in a chapter. There’s a new Car Mode, which makes the rewind and play/pause buttons much larger, although you really shouldn’t be fiddling with audiobook controls while you’re on the move. There’s also a sleep timer if you want to drop off while listening to a book, although I’ve never understood that – surely books are meant to engage the mind, not put one to sleep?
Finally, it’s worth noting that Audible is well integrated with Amazon Alexa, so you can listen to your audiobooks on the growing range of Amazon Echo speakers, of course picking up where you left off on other devices.
Google Play Audiobooks
Google is definitely taking the fight to Audible when it comes to price. It’s offering a decent range of titles on “limited time offers”, so we’ll have to wait and see whether this is the beginning of a long-term price war or merely a short skirmish.
Among the titles on offer are Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (£7.99), Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library (£2.99) and Stephen J Dubner’s Super Freakonomics (£3.99).
Among the new releases are Michael Wolf’s Trump takedown, Fire and Fury, which is £14.99 on Google, £5 cheaper than it is on Audible. Jojo Moyes’ Still Me is only £7.99, while Audible has it at £23.99! So it’s not only older titles that Google is discounting heavily.
The Google Play Books app on Android handles audiobooks well, with a very similar feature set to Audible – although without the car mode. One intelligent touch that both Google Play and Audible’s app deploy is that they rewind the audiobook a few seconds if you get a mobile phone notification, ensuring you don’t miss any detail when someone sends you a tweet.
Google’s audiobooks can also be played through the company’s Home speakers. Naturally, Amazon doesn’t let you play your Google books through its speakers, although you can establish a Bluetooth connection from your phone and play them that way.
Audible vs Google Play Audiobooks: verdict
With little difference between the features on offer between Audible and Google Play Audiobooks, the buying decision largely boils down to price. Discover which of the stores is offering the best deal on the book you want to read and make a purchase. Only those who enjoy swapping between ebook and audiobook have a firm reason to stick with Amazon/Audible.
Competition: wonderful, isn’t it?
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