How do I audiobooks?
August 8, 2014 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I want to start listening to audiobooks on long hikes and drives. Specifically I'd like to start with an unabridged "Lord of the Rings," but eventually others. How do I obtain them as plain mp3s?

For some reason I thought I'd be able to buy mp3s on Amazon, just like I do with music. I don't want iTunes files, since I don't use Apple products for my mp3 player or in my car, though I guess I could convert those to mp3 as a last-ditch. seems to be a monthly subscription service, which, no.

Am I missing something, or I am stuck with "finding" mp3s on my own, or buying and ripping CDs? Thanks!
posted by drjimmy11 to Shopping (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try your your public library.
posted by Atelerix at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm just throwing this out there-- I've been an Audible subscriber for a few months now, and at the $14.99/mo level, I essentially get one free audiobook per month. I believe the credit would roll over to the next month, up to a point. Many audiobooks cost way more than $14.99, so it's been a great deal for me so far. I've used my subscription to purchase Pimsleur language audiobooks. This month they had a 2-for-1 special on language books, which meant I got two books for $14.99; I believe the normal price for each would have been between $20 and $30.

Perhaps others with a longer experience could weigh in with more specifics.

Edited to clarify: I get one audiobook per month "free" because I pay the $14.99/month subscription fee.
posted by Schielisque at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yep. Especially with something like LOTR, public libraries are your best bet. It's a pain to rip them, but...they're free.

(I listened to an unabridged recording of LOTR a few years ago. Be warned: they sing ALL the songs.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't know why I never thought of the library- DUH!

It's a pain to rip them, but...they're free.

Based on Atelerix's link, the L.A. library offers mp3s, so no ripping required.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:24 PM on August 8, 2014

For what it's worth, Audible also has non-subscription pay-per-book downloads.

You'll find that unencrypted MP3s are still a lot harder to find than with music, but Audible and its ilk don't lock you into Apple products (there's an Android app too.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2014

Best answer: There are several different regional library cards you can acquire, and between the three online collections you should have a pretty good selection. LAPL as linked above, COLA (the county library, of which the WeHo PL is a branch), and BHPL. If you live in the City of Santa Monica, you can get their card for free too. LA Metropolitan residents who don't live in Santa Monica can still get a card, but it's $25 annually. Other smaller cities within the metropolis may have their own libraries (like Culver City) but some of them are just latched onto the larger library networks (like West Hollywood, above).

All three of those above use Overdrive. You can also browse through other libraries on Overdrive, and some of those even let you take out a card if you don't live in the area.
posted by carsonb at 3:03 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Audible has non-subscription downloads, but their prices per book are quite steep, in my opinion. It's worth it to subscribe.

I've been an annual subscriber for two years, and I get what amounts to one book per month (12 credits given to me all at my renewal date -- 1 credit == 1 book regardless of price, so get the expensive books...)

You CAN get a one month free trial subscription which will give you exactly one book -- but be sure to cancel it before your renewal date or else they'll charge your credit card automatically.

Try your local public library. They'll either have an electronic copy through Overdrive (I despise Overdrive, for the record), or actual CDs.

You can also try Librivox, but I highly and sincerely doubt that LotR is in the public domain at this point.

In practice, I try my library first. They usually don't have the book I'm looking for, so I go to audible. On rare occasions I'm actually pleasantly surprised that my local public library actually HAS an audiobook I want to read.
posted by tckma at 3:04 PM on August 8, 2014

Oh, and for Audible: Once you "buy" the book with a credit or with cash, it's yours to keep. So, even if you stop subscribing to Audible, you can still listen to your books you already have in the app.
posted by tckma at 3:06 PM on August 8, 2014

IMHO Audible is the only way to do this if you want to listen to books on a regular basis. Library is free but not nearly as easy and you can't always get what you want. Monthly fee for audible also gets you a daily subscription to the audible versions of the wall street journal or ny times...

I thought the same way about the subscription before i joined...I tried the library route but found it to be too constraining. The audible app is much better than most library apps...

One other benefit if you buy the audible version, the kindle version in many cases is significantly discounted....
posted by NoDef at 3:08 PM on August 8, 2014

Nthing Audible... I treasure my subscription. I just picked up an hour-long driving commute (each way), and it's been invaluable. I use it more for listening to books I've already read and loved than new books, but I find that a good narrator can add a really cool new dimension to old favorites.

And I can listen to them anywhere - phone, iPad, computer, whatever. I had an Android phone for a while and it worked there too.
posted by kythuen at 3:38 PM on August 8, 2014

Some libraries also have audiobooks on CD that are already in MP3 format, so a book fits on one or two discs and rips more quickly.
posted by songs about trains at 4:58 PM on August 8, 2014

1) audiobooks already on CD, free from your local library
2) audiobooks via OverDrive, downloaded to your smartphone or player, free from your local library
3) audiobooks via Audible, downloaded to many many devices, from Audible
(depending on your use case, the best Audible plan is probably the $150 annual membership; for signing up, you get one year of discounted pricing, plus 12 'credits' that can be used to purchase any full audiobook regardless of sticker price. Since that comes out to $12.50 per book, that's often half off. If you think you're likely to listen to about a dozen books this year....
Also check Audible's Device Center - you may already have a non-Apple device that works with Audible. But any recent smartphone or tablet should have both Audible and OverDrive apps available.
4) public domain books, performed by volunteer readers, free via LibriVox
posted by bartleby at 6:06 PM on August 8, 2014

Even the most thrifty people I know have gotten to the point of paying Audible. (I think Audible must've paid off the Overdrive app people, because it is SO much less user friendly. But worse is the limited book availability.) Not only do you get the one book / subscription fee, you also can buy credits at what amounts to $12 apiece. Even better are to catch the books you want when they go on sale, often for $4.99.
posted by slidell at 6:30 PM on August 8, 2014

If you check on there are tons of free audiobooks available.

Here are some I like:

HP Lovecraft
The House of the Vampire
posted by spunweb at 7:31 PM on August 8, 2014

Also, Audible has incredibly good customer service; I've returned several books after a month of trying to get through them (for example, one was the Stephen King time travel one, which I thought was boring, and one was too depressing for life) and they've immediately given me back the credits.
posted by spunweb at 7:33 PM on August 8, 2014

Another big thumbs up for audible. I've subscribed from before IPods. I love owning my books and listening to them on any device, anywhere.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on August 9, 2014

Library. I use my mom's audible account since we both love the same stories, and it's great. I assure you I can get most of the same books at the library though. And the methods of downloading the borrowed files are numerous. My library has Overdrive, which has an app for both e-books and audio books. They also have options for which format you download your book in.

Man, with the library and audible combined, I think I've developed an audiobook addiction.
posted by lizbunny at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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