Best Ebook Subscription and Audiobook Services (2023)
While an ebook subscription might sound ideal, you should take some time to consider the pros and cons of each one. These digital reading services are often billed as the equivalent of Netflix or Spotify for books, and there are similarities, but ebook subscriptions also have some unexpected restrictions.
Content: All ebook subscription services offer limited libraries of ebooks. (This is where the Netflix comparison is useful.) They may boast more than a million titles, but that total doesn’t necessarily include any works by your favorite authors; none of the services we tested had a single title by Cormac McCarthy, for example, though some had audiobooks of his works.
The big five publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) dominate the bestseller charts in the US but have had limited dealings with ebook subscription services so far. Current best-seller lists are not well represented, and the modest list of mainstream hits that appears mostly comprises older titles. Whatever service you are considering, we advise browsing the available library of ebooks and audiobooks before you commit.
Reading Habits: If you only read one or two books a month, you might be better off buying popular titles, recommendations from trusted friends, or works by your favorite authors. That way, you get to choose the best ebooks and keep them. With ebook subscriptions, you lose access the moment you stop subscribing, and the library of available books can change at any time without notice.
Voracious readers who are happy to try new and unfamiliar authors will likely get the most value from ebook subscriptions. But while these services are typically described as unlimited, they often do have hidden limits. This is where they differ from services like Spotify and Netflix. With Scribd, for example, the available library is reduced when you hit opaque limits.
Support: Make sure the devices you like to read on are supported. Most ebook subscription services offer apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, at a minimum. Languages, accessibility, and extra features like search vary, so do your research to make sure the app supports your needs. Sadly, many ebook readers, like Kindles, are not compatible with ebook subscription services other than their manufacturer’s offering.
Audiobooks: Unlike ebook subscription services, some audiobook services offer a monthly credit system that allows you to buy audiobooks you can keep, even if you stop subscribing. Others offer apparently unlimited access to a streaming library, but there are often hidden limits that narrow your choice for that month after you’ve listened to an audiobook or two. Consider also the maximum bitrate for audio streams, as this differs from service to service and can impact the quality of your audiobook.