Five ways to save money on audiobooks

Why buy when you can rent, borrow, or stream books for a lot less cash?

Audiobooks.com charges a flat monthly rate for unlimited streaming from its audiobook library.
Audiobooks.com charges a flat monthly rate for unlimited streaming from its audiobook library. Audiobooks.com

Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on long drives. Audiobook prices, on the other hand, are a great way to drain your wallet.

For example, want to listen to the Steve Jobs bio? It'll cost you $29.95 at iTunes. And Stephen King's latest, the wholly engrossing "11/22/63," runs $44.95.

Fortunately, good listening material doesn't have to break the bank. Thanks to various resources and services, you can slash your monthly audiobook bill while actually increasing your consumption. Here are my five favorite options:

1. Audible
If you like audiobooks, it's hard to go wrong with an Audible subscription. It starts with a free book as part of a 14-day trial. After that, you can sign up for a Listener Gold plan at $14.95 per month (or $149.95 annually, which is like getting two months for free).

That gets you one credit per month, which is good for one audiobook--and big discounts on others. Audible apps are now available for Android and iOS, which makes for easy listening on the go.

2. Audiobooks.com
Kind of like Netflix Instant Watch for audiobooks, this service now offers an all-you-can-hear subscription option. Pay $24.95 per month for unlimited access to its 10,000-strong audio library, which includes the aforementioned Jobs bio and popular new releases like "Bond Girl."

The books are streamed--not downloaded--to your PC, tablet, or smartphone browser, so if you're planning to listen in the car, Internet-deprived rural areas could be a problem.

Also, automatic billing kicks in after the free seven-day trial, and you need to call the company if you decide to cancel. Even so, Audiobooks.com could be the answer to a prayer for heavy listeners.

Simply Audiobooks

3. Simply Audiobooks
When it comes to audiobooks, renting is often a much smarter option than buying. Simply Audiobooks works on the old-school Netflix model: the service mails you CDs, which you listen to and then mail back. Upon receipt, the next book in your queue is automatically sent.

That's a great option for folks who like the simplicity of CDs or don't want to deal with an app- or browser-based solution. The service boasts a library of more than 22,000 titles.

Plans start at $17.98 per month, which lets you have one book checked out at a time. If you're able to turn around, say, one each week, that works out to roughly $4.50 per book--a deal that's darn near unbeatable.

Tales2Go

4. Tales2Go
This one's just for kids, but what a great deal for parents. For $9.99 monthly, you get unlimited access to Tales2Go's library of more than 1,700 children's books--which includes titles for tweens and toddlers alike. The Tales2Go app, currently available for iOS devices only, will download the currently playing book into memory, so you needn't worry about Internet access on the road.

5. Your public library
An undervalued and often overlooked resource, your local library probably stocks a decent selection of audiobook CDs. Sure, you have to drive there twice, worry about late fees, and maybe sit on a waiting list for the title you want. But you can't beat the price.

What's more, many libraries now let you check out audiobooks online, and download them to your PC, MP3 player, or smartphone for listening on the go. You may even have the option of burning a book to CDs, which effectively gives you a permanent copy after the loan period has expired.

There's some software- and DRM-oriented hoop-jumping involved in downloading and playing these audiobooks, and the selection might be less than what the library stocks on its shelves. But, again, you can't beat the price.

Have you found another good source of cheap or free audiobooks? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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