How Can You Listen to Audiobooks?

Audiences of all ages are nowadays enjoying audiobooks more than ever, mainly in situations where they need to do something else (commuting by car or on public transport, walking or working out). Some people set aside a specific place and time of the day to read and listen to a title from a comfortable space at home.

To listen to an audiobook, first, you need to choose the device that suits your needs.  Then you download or listen online to the title you want on an audiobook website or from a folder of previously downloaded content. You can get a great experience using devices that provide good sound quality and long battery life. 

In this article, I present the 10 most effective tips to listen to audiobooks and get the best experience:

  • How does an audiobook work
  • How to listen to an audiobook 
  • Audiobook apps and features
  • How to export an audiobook file
  • How to download a PDF version of an audiobook
  • How to find digital booklets (PDF version of an audiobook)
  • Top Five Audiobook Websites
  • Best Digitally Borrowed Audiobooks
  • Devices you need to listen to an audiobook
  • How to get the best of your audiobook

How Does an Audiobook Work

An audiobook is a compilation of voice recordings that correspond to the chapters of a book. The narration can be made by a voice narrator/actor, who can sometimes be the author of the book. The audio files are recorded in a lossless format such as WAV (as good or better than CD quality) or MP3 at 320 kbps. They are edited and finally rendered as MP3 (for Windows or Apple players), M4B (for Apple players), or AAX for the Audible app.

To know much more, go to How Does An Audiobook Work?

Audiobooks are available from the author’s own website or from larger platforms such as Audible, Audiobooks, Librivox, Kobo Audiobooks, and Downpour.

How to Listen to an Audiobook 

Audiobooks can be accessed online on 4G/5G connections, as well as Wi-Fi. A steady connection will provide a good quality sound. Audiobooks can also be downloaded from the app provided by the website (Audible, Audiobooks, the author’s website). 

Most audiobook websites allow the user access to all their titles through a subscription method, initially offering a 30-day free trial period, and then from one to three subscription types on average. 

If the user wants to cancel the subscription, all the downloaded titles will continue being available for an unlimited period. Keep in mind that those titles will be available only on the device they were downloaded onto.

Each type of subscription will grant specific benefits. The higher the price the more the benefits. For more details on which audiobook website offers the best prices, read Can you buy a single book on Audible?  

The following image shows a quick overview of what the main audiobook websites charge, and what type of subscriptions offer the lowest price per title:

Once the user has decided to download audiobooks, the app stores the titles on specific folders on the device, usually called Library or Catalogue. The user can listen to all of them from different devices but always from the same user account. There can be multiple users accessing the same account with no restrictions.

Audiobook apps and features

The functions offered by audiobook apps are very complete. Most of them allow the following features:

  • Amount of remaining listening time
  • Go back to the previous chapter
  • Go forward to the next chapter
  • Go back 30 seconds
  • Go forward 30 seconds
  • Choose the speech speed: the standard is 1.0x and it can be slowed or made faster by 0.05. The minimum speed is 0.50x and the maximum 3.50x
  • Sleep timer
  • Bookmarking as many times as desired

How to Export an Audiobook File

To be able to export an audiobook file, first, it’s necessary to know if the file allows it. This is an option offered by some publishers. Some audiobook files are disabled to be exported as a way to avoid copyright infringement for non-authorized distribution.

Steps to export an audiobook file in Google Play Books:

Bear in mind that the audiobook file must be stored on a computer

  • Go to My Books
  • Go to Audiobooks
  • Click on the three dots icon on the right side of the cover of the book and select “Download Accompanying PDF”
  • Choose the destination folder or location where you want to export the file

Steps to export an audiobook file in Apple Audiobooks:

Bear in mind that the audiobook file must be stored on an Apple device.

Audiobooks purchased on Apple Audiobooks or iTunes can be accessed on multiple Apple devices from the same user account. Therefore there is no need to export files from one Apple device to another.

If you want to export an audiobook from Apple Audiobooks on iTunes, first you need to convert the file with an Apple Books / iTunes converter app.

  • Open the Apple Books / iTunes app
  • Open the converter app
  • Choose the title you want to convert and download it to the iTunes Library
  • Drag and drop the file in the converter app
  • Choose the options you want in the converted file: MP3, M4A, M4B, AAC, FLAC, and WAV are the most common types of formats to get the best sound quality
  • From the converter app library you can export the audiobook file to any destination 

Steps to export an audiobook file in Audible

Bear in mind that the audiobook file must be stored on a device. Any kind of Apple or Windows device can play Audible audiobooks in the Audible app. 

Thus the user can have access to the personal library on multiple devices just by logging into the Audible user’s account. There is technically no need to export files.

To export an audiobook from the Audible app on any device to an MP3 player, it needs to be an Audible Ready device:

  • From Windows 10 to an MP3 player: First, open the Audible app and then connect the MP3 player to a USB port in the computer. 
  • Then, drag and drop the audiobook to the MP3 player icon. 
  • You can also export the file by tapping on the overflow menu and clicking the option Add To [name of the device]. 
  • You will get a prompt indicating that the MP3 player must be activated for your Audible account. 
  • Just click OK, and then ACTIVATE.  The activation process will happen only one time. After that, you only have to drag and drop the audiobook on the MP3 player icon.

How to Download a PDF Version of an Audiobook

Publishers can sometimes provide a PDF version of an audiobook. If the title you are interested in does offer one, it can be accessed on the Library of your audiobook website, in the same area where you can see the Listen and Download buttons. It’s called Accompanying PDF.

Steps to turn an audiobook into text

There are a few tools to convert speech into text. I like to recommend VEED, as I use it frequently to produce subtitled videos in several languages.

  • Create an account in VEED
  • Go to New Project and upload the audio file
  • Go to the left side vertical menu and choose Auto Subtitles
  • Choose the language to detect and click Start and wait a couple of minutes
  • It’s possible that the text generated contains occasional mistakes. That can be fixed manually by going to the exact location and retyping the correct spelling, on the left side vertical menu and Subtitles
  • Then go to Options, Download Subtitles, and choose the text format you prefer: RST / VTT / TXT
  • You can then open the generated TXT file in Microsoft Word, Google Sheets, or Apple Pages. Edit the font type, size and then save the file to PDF or any other format you want
  • The file is ready to be opened in your preferred Ebook reader

How to Find Digital Booklets (PDF Version of an Audiobook)

As this version of audiobooks is not very common, go to the search bar of your favorite audiobook website and type “audiobooks with pdf”. You can find very few titles related to dieting, health, marketing, learning languages, or test preparation, and on very few audiobook websites.

As publishers offer the ebook and audiobook versions of a title, many frequent readers enjoy purchasing both of them. Whispersync is an Audible feature that enables the user to switch from the audiobook to the ebook paired edition on Kindle. It means that both versions must be purchased to activate the sync.

  • If you want to know if an audiobook that you have already purchased includes a PDF file, check it in the same area to listen and download the audiobook on a computer, or in the three dots icon on the apps. It will be called Accompanying PDF
  • If you don’t find that information there, the description of the audiobook will mention if there is a PDF. 

Top Five Audiobook Websites

These are the five principal audiobook websites and the number of titles available:

Audible200,000 + bestseller titles, classics, fiction, non-fiction, podcasts, and radio drama
Audiobooks.com250,000 + books, 10,000 + free audiobooks, 100 + million podcast episodes
Google AudiobooksThey say they have millions of magazines, ebooks, audiobooks, songs, games, and videos
Kobo100,000 + audiobooks and 4 + million ebooks 
Scribd1 million + ebooks, audiobooks, and podcasts

Best Digitally Borrowed Audiobooks

Any person in the US with a library card can sign up for these websites. They work the same way as a public library: you search the titles available and then “Borrow” them. It’s very common to activate the bell notification icon to know when the desired title is available for you.

Best Digitally Borrowed Audiobooks
  • Once you click the Borrow button, choose how long you want to have the audiobook (7, 14, or 21 days). 
  • You will see three options: Listen in Browser or Download MP3
  • Make sure your return the audiobook before the time expires
  • If that happens, the audiobook will automatically be removed from your account 

See how OverDrive works in the following video (Ana Cortes Public Library)

Devices you need to listen to an audiobook

“What makes a device perfect for listening to audiobooks in any situation is the one that provides excellent portability, storage, battery life, a user-friendly app, and great sound quality.” From What Device is Best to Listen to Audiobooks.

To choose the device that best suits your needs, consider the following factors: your location and the amount of time you spend there:

Your locationAmount of time on locationMost appropriate deviceHow to listen
Smart Speaker
*Always set safe volume levels when listening on headphones or In-Ear
1-4 hours on averageCar Infotainment System:
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
Generic brands that include Apple Carplay and Android Auto
Car stereo speakers in your vehicle
(Public transport)
1-4 hours on averageSmartphone
MP3 player
*Always set safe volume levels when listening on headphones or In-Ear
Working out, walking, running1-4 hours on averageSmartphone
MP3 player
*Always set safe volume levels when listening on headphones or In-Ear

To see the best combinations to have a great experience listening to an audiobook, read The Perfect Device Combos for Listening to Audiobooks: What device is best for listening to audiobooks?

How to Get the Best of Your Audiobook

One of the main issues when listening to an audiobook is to keep a sustained level of concentration. The key to getting the best out of your audiobook is to be hooked by the story, listen to a great quality narration and avoid doing other cognitive demanding activities that can distract you from enjoying an audiobook plentifully.

These are some strategies to help maintain concentration when listening to an audiobook: 

  • Jump backward or forward to a part you remember, as soon as you notice you are not following the story 
  • Try increasing the speech speed when the narration is rather slow. This will make you focus on following the story
  • Use Amazon Whispersync with paired edition titles. Sometimes switching from the audiobook to the ebook can help you get back to the story
  • Listen to the sample before buying the title. In this way, you will immediately know if the narration is appealing and presents the story in an interesting way
  • Return audiobooks that do not satisfy your interest. You will know with ease when a title is not engaging and when it makes you feel that you are wasting your time

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