Audiobook Services for Sci-Fi (or general book) Fans
Life has been keeping me quite busy lately (thus, the lack of posts here in a while). But one thing I do try to keep up with is my audiobook habit. Purely as a fan of audiobooks, I thought I'd discuss my experiences a little. I'm not getting paid by anyone to share these opinions, just starting a conversation.
I've been using Scribd most recently for audiobooks. I've tried out of few services out there like Hibooks and Audible. I also, periodically use Hoopla and Libby through my library. The awesome thing about those last two services is that they are free. The struggle I have is being able to consistently find the titles I'm seeking. For an avid audiobook listener like me, I need something that's more like "Netflix for audiobooks."
Side note, Libby has to coolest user interface and functions of any audiobook smartphone app I've used. Everyone else should take note of that. I like swiping left to rewind a few seconds and dialing in a custom reading speed that is between 1.25x and 1.5x.
I don't need to own every every audiobook I listen to and often I can burn through an audiobook in a week or less between long drives, doing dishes, and mowing the lawn. So, sorry Audible, but your two credits a month is both expensive and often leaves me hanging for a couple of weeks or more. And the bonus Audible Exclusive free books are kind of a joke since only a handful of titles are picked by Audible each month. Where Audible remains relevant for me is that every now and then I just really need to get my hands on a specific audiobook no one else has. On those rare occasions, I'm willing to consider shelling out to grab that book, comforted by Audible's generous return policy should I end up hating the book and not wanting to own it (it's happened to me only once).
Hibooks had been a relatively great service for a while with it's subscription model, though there were limits to how much one could listen within a month and those limits were not explicit, so it felt like a bait-and-switch when that become clear to me. What killed Hibooks for me was that they dropped their subscription model and switched to a confusing system where customers could buy Hibooks credits and then use those credits to buy audiobooks. It was ultimately a useless middle step to hide the fact that they'd just become a place to buy audiobooks. The two thing I will still give to Hibooks is that their selection is pretty good and the prices for their audiobooks are quite competitive. But they are no longer operating as a "Netflix for audiobooks" as they had once branded themselves. And that means they're just not what I'm looking for. Even with their cheaper audiobook prices, an avid audiobook listener like me could be spending a lot fo money each month and rack up a library of audiobooks I'm not interested in owning.
With Hibooks out for me, I did a little reading online and figured I'd check out Scribd. I've had a subscription now for several months and must say I'm quite pleased so far. The subscription price is reasonable and actually includes access not only to a large audiobook catalogue, but also to many ebooks, magazines, and other content. I'll admit that I pretty much stick to audiobook. Occasionally Scribd doesn't have a title I'm looking for, but their selection is still quite impressive. For a guy who has a ceaseless thirst for all kinds of audiobooks, and sci-fi books in particular, Scribd has proven to be well worth the subscription price of $8.99/month.
Some Audiobook Suggestions
I recently got to listen to Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, a classic sci-fi novel from the 70's. I learned about from one of the sci-fi groups I've joined on Facebook. I'm always eager to learn from fellow sci-fi fans about books (old and new) I should be checking out. So when I saw a post about The Forever War I made that my very next listen. The Forever War involves some of the most intriguing use of time dilation as a crucial story element. So if you thought that was the coolest part of Interstellar, then you should check out this book.
One of the coolest hard sci-fi books I've ever read is Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. I haven't listened to the audiobook yet, but it is available on Scribd and I can't wait to revisit it. Sandford and Ctein weave together a Crichton-esk tale of first contact filled with more three-dimensional characters than Crichton tended to write.
Probably my all time favorite sci-fi audiobook is The Martian by Andy Weir. Both the story and the audio performance R. C. Bray are so compelling. Of course, The Martian is one of those titled that sadly is not available on Scribd. And that's why, while I do most of my listening through Scribd, I recommend fellow avid audiobook listeners investigate what's out there and plan on not relying exclusively on one audiobook service.