How to Listen to Audiobooks on Android

Woman wearing over-ear headphones connected to an Android phone while holding a coffee

Audiobooks are a road trip's best friend. It gives your mind something to do while your eyeballs focus on keeping the car on the road, and a downloaded file will not fritz out in the middle of nowhere, unlike radio stations. You can get audiobooks on tape or CD, but they're bulky and a bit of a pain to manage. Why not listen to them on your phone? If your car doesn't have an axillary audio jack or Bluetooth for plugging into your phone, you can get a mini FM adapter or a cassette tape adapter. If your radio is on the fritz, you can also use a portable mini speaker. 

Audiobooks are also great for joggers or bikers. 

Ok, so we love audiobooks. How do you get those audiobooks into your Android phone? A number of ways, depending on the quality you desire and the amount you're willing to spend.

All of the apps below should be equally available no matter which company makes your Android phone, including Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Audible.com and Other Audio Book Clubs

Audible app on Android

Amazon-owned Audible.com is probably the most popular commercial option. With 100,000 professionally voiced audiobooks, they've got a great selection, and you can transfer your books from device to device, including non-Android devices. It's convenience that costs you in other ways. The books are protected by DRM, and you're restricted from using non-Audible apps or downloading the file to too many devices at once.

Still, if you're an audiobook buff, the quality is good, and the selection is fantastic. You can give the 30-day trial a whirl (your first book is free) and then pay after that. The pricing is similar for other audio book clubs, but Audible.com has by far the biggest selection. 

Amazon Whispersync

Whispersync books in Kindle app for Android

Amazon has a program that allows you to buy the audiobook version of an e-book for a discount and then syncs your bookmark between the two formats. So if you're in chapter 2 of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe e-book, you're in chapter 2 in audiobook. This is fantastic if you like to listen to books in the car and then read them over lunch. Both Whispersync and Audible-purchased audiobooks will play in the Audible app

Buy Individually

Other bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble, offer direct sales of audiobooks. If you want to read popular titles, you're probably better off going with the book club pricing. However, you can shop around and find books cheaper than the monthly fee you'd be paying for Audible.com. On top of that, most of these are sold as MP3 files. That's a standard audio file format that you could play back in just about any MP3 playing app, including Google Play Music or Amazon Cloud Player.

Plenty of other independent book publishers and stores have started selling audio books in this format.

Use the Library

Libby by Overdrive app on Android

Many libraries around the country use some system like Overdrive or Hoopla to loan books out to card holders. There's an easy-to-use companion app called Libby that lets you search for audiobooks (and text books, too!) at your local library. While your local library may not have this service, many do, so it's worth a look. Limited numbers of audiobooks are available to check out through this fantastic app.

Get Them for Free

LibriVox website

This is not a suggestion to pirate anything, of course. You can get legitimate, free audio books for public domain works. Yes, that means the books are usually pretty old, but who doesn't need to bone up on some Dickens or learn that the shoes should actually have been silver in the Wizard of Oz? It's a great chance to review the classics.

There are plenty of legitimate sources for free audiobooks, mostly read by volunteers in order to make the books more accessible to everyone, including the visually impaired. You can also get many players for audio books, but my current favorite is the LibriVox Audio Book Player because browsing for and downloading titles is already integrated into the app. You don't have to download your MP3 file from some other source and then side-load it into your device.