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Audible Books Are Sometimes Better Gifts Than Physical Books

Setting aside the saved space, some audiobooks are just better than their paper counterparts.

Russell Holly
Russell Holly is a Managing Editor on the Commerce team at CNET. He works with all of CNET to assemble top recommendations as well as helping everyone find the best way to buy anything at the best price. When not writing for CNET you can find him riding a bike, running around in Jedi robes, or contributing to WOSU public radio's Tech Tuesday segment.
Expertise 7 years experience as a smartphone reviewer and analyst, 5 years experience as a competitive cyclist Credentials
  • Author of Taking your Android Tablets to the Max
Russell Holly
2 min read

If I'd read that headline three years ago, I'd have laughed and moved on without a second thought. I have tried to move to digital books on many occasions, and just never found the e-paper slabs to be as good as a physical book. Also, there are a lot of extremely pretty hardcover books that look great on a shelf after they've been read and I love collecting them. But it's really difficult to read a book while riding a bike, which is something I started doing a lot more of when the world went on COVID-19 lockdowns. When I got tired of running out of podcasts to listen to on my rides, I finally gave in and tried Audible

I had no idea what an amazing experience I'd been missing out on. Ever since, I've made a habit of gifting Audible subscriptions to fellow book fiends whenever I can. 

Why it's a great gift: Audible books take up no room, and you can bring them with you anywhere you have your phone or smartwatch. You get one book every month as part of your subscription and can easily add more when you need to, usually for less than a paperback book would cost. And if you're the kind of person who has an Alexa speaker or two in your house, you can easily switch from phone to home and not lose your place. Personally, I enjoy listening to a book when I'm cooking. 

But the real feature here, the reason many Audible books are so great, is the production quality. When I'm listening to one of the Star Wars: The High Republic books via Audible, I don't just get someone reading the book to me. There's a soundtrack to match the tone of the scene, quickly ramping from soft calming tones to the intense combat sounds you're used to from the movies and TV shows. And in many cases, the books are read with multiple voices and sound effects to match the scenes. 

Audible also has a collection of "Originals" which are included with your subscription and don't count against your monthly book allotment. I recently listened to Space: 1969, a wild alt-history science fiction story fashioned like a radio drama where Kennedy survives his assassination and goes on to build an American empire in space, starring Natasha Lyonne, among others. I usually also recommend FantasticLand, a documentary-style story about employees of a big theme park in Florida getting stuck inside the park for weeks following a devastating hurricane. Neither of these stories would be the same on paper; you really do need to experience them via Audible. 

What you'll pay: Audible's standard subscription is $15 per month for that one-book-per-month plan, and when you first sign up, you're given two book credits to start you off. 

Read more: Graza's Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is the Trendiest Affordable Gift for Home Cooks