Audible has a great selection of audiobook downloads, and reasonable prices—especially if you buy during one of their frequent sales, using the discount offer for buying them together with certain Kindle e-books, or using one of their monthly credits. But since Audible’s books contain DRM, in some respect they are only as good as their player—which, sadly, is not all that great.

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately. It’s something I can do during the parts of my day job that don’t require a lot of brainpower, and it’s fun to hear a good book reading. At first I was listening to some DRM-free titles from my library, using the very same Smart Audiobook Player that Juli likes so much.

But lately I got started rereading the Liaden Universe series, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and given that I’d already bought some of the audiobooks to the series from Audible, I downloaded them to have a listen this time through. The audiobooks have been great so far—narrator Andy Caploe does such a fine job with the books of the main “Agents of Change” sequence that I’m going to be disappointed when it’s time to switch over to a different narrator for other Liaden books—but I’m finding that the players leave something to be desired.

Android Player

Screenshot_2015-02-14-10-32-34Between Android and Windows desktop, the Android Audible Player is the better of the two. It has some of the features I like in the Smart Audiobook Player—particularly being able to speed up or slow down the books. It’s kind of necessary for the Liaden books, because my one problem with Andy Caploe is that he reads at a really slow pace. I like cranking him up to 1.5x so that it sounds more normal to my ears. And that’s fine, so far as it goes.

However, unlike the Smart Player, Audible’s player doesn’t know enough to jump back a few seconds when you pause it—or when you get a notification sound. The Smart Player takes notifications in stride and jumps back a few seconds after each one. But Audible’s player…just stops. I end up having to set my GPS navigation to mute when I’m bicycling, otherwise I would only hear the book up until I was told to turn my first corner.

It also doesn’t have the wide variety of jump-back and jump-forward options the Smart Player does; there’s just a 30-seconds jump back and a 30-seconds jump-forward, which can be customized to whatever time you want. I set mine to 10 seconds back. But if you set it to 10 seconds, then that replaces the 30 and you don’t get that one too.

Screenshot_2015-02-14-10-33-46What does it have that Smart doesn’t? Well…gamification, for one thing. You get badges for listening to certain numbers of audiobooks in one day, or during specific times, or whenever. It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me at any rate; gamification is best used as a reward for doing something you don’t want to do. But listening to audiobooks is its own reward, so what the heck?

It also has the ability to download audiobooks directly from Audible instead of having to sync them into a directory on your device, so I suppose that’s something. If you’re in a low-bandwidth situation, you can set it to split the audiobooks up for download, so you can just download half of it at a time. It’s not really a great exchange for the features the Smart Audiobook Player has that it doesn’t, in my opinion.

AudibleManager for Windows

imageI haven’t used this much, to be honest; it’s missing the biggest feature I wanted in an audiobook player, and without it there isn’t much point. Remember how I said I needed to speed up the audiobooks for them to sound right to me? You can’t do it with AudibleManager. What’s more, you can’t even do it if you play the Audible file via Windows Media Player, which has an option with a slider to change playback speed of audio files under normal circumstances. With an Audible audiobook, the slider simply isn’t there.

Why Audible should think people might want to play their audiobooks faster on a mobile device but not on a PC is a mystery to me. Instead of being able to play them through my PC at work, I end up having to use my smartphone, with earphones at work or plugged into a radio or speaker at home, in order to listen at the speed to which I am accustomed.

And here’s another thing AudibleManager is missing that the mobile app has: a table of contents. The Android app will let you pick what chapter number you want to skip to (though they’re only numbered per individual book file; if you’re listening to the second half of a split book, the chapter numbers won’t match). The Windows version just has an overall progress bar and chapter skip buttons. And you can’t even change your position by clicking on the progress bar—the chapter skip buttons are all there is.

I have a sneaking suspicion that AudibleManager really something of an afterthought, meant mainly for syncing the books across to portable devices rather than actual personal listening via the computer. After all, audiobooks are seen as something you want to do while you’re out and about, exercising, driving, or whatever. So, naturally, they’d be most concerned about making sure you had access to more features that way.

Don’t Read Me

Since Audible puts DRM on all its audiobooks (to Cory Doctorow’s chagrin), these are the only players you can use to listen to them. It’s not such a big deal for e-books, given that most e-readers have generally the same sets of features, but with audiobooks you’re pretty much stuck. It also means I can’t play them through the Axess MP3 CD/flash drive boom box I bought recently, unless I hook my phone to the Aux input jack as if they were simply another set of speakers.

It’s irritating enough that I am seriously considering looking into some way to crack the DRM on these audiobooks, or else seek pre-cracked versions elsewhere of the audiobooks I’ve already bought. I want the authors, producers, and performers of the audiobooks to get their money, but I’m starting to tire of the frustration of dealing with these stupid players that don’t do what I want them to.


  1. You could convert them to mp3, which is what I do. Since I’m retired and have the time, I burn them to CD’s and then convert them. It does take some editing to remove the repeats at the beginning and end of each CD.

  2. I use the Audible Android app and I have it set to pause upon notifications. When it does, it goes back a second or two before continuing. You may want to check your notification settings.

    That works well, but some notifications seem to stop the playback. I suspect that is a result of those apps having bad code, but who knows.

  3. I don’t buy that many Audible audiobooks since I’ve kept busy enough listening to free classics from:

    I actually liked the Audible app for iOS enough that I’ve looked for a way to import public domain books into it. Of course, that’s because I like listening at 1.25 speed, which it has, and many players only have 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5. Having 1.25 X lets me listen to 25% more without any loss in understanding. Unfortunately, the bean counters Audible have limited it so it won’t play 1.25x with audiobooks from someone else. Just their own. Penny wise, pound foolish. A smarter move would be to make the app so powerful people use it for all their audiobooks. That’d keep them away from competitor’s apps.

    I’m also looking for a player with a properly done sleep timer.

    Apple’s Music app, which is the one we’re supposed to use with iTunes for audiobooks, is an disaster. Yes, it will let me set some fixed time, after which it will shut off. But how can I know in advance when I’m going to sleep? It doesn’t reset, which means that, if I’m still awake when it sleeps and I restart it with the play button, it no longer sleeps. It just plays and plays. I want to set it to some brief time, like 5 minutes, and reset it easily every time stops when I’m awake. That way, when I got to listen again, I know that where I left off is under five minutes back.

    Sleep once is bad because typically I wake up an hour or so later and realize that I’ve slept through some unknown portion of the book. To discover where I fell asleep, I have to scrub and listen, scrub and listen, over and over again. That’s made still worse by the fact that the scrub bar in Apple’s Music app is designed for songs 2-3 minutes long. It’s worthless when a that little 3″ line is scrubbing through 8 hours of audiobook.

    Alas, I just checked an, as best I can tell, Audible’s sleep timer is even worse that Apple’s. When my iPhone went to sleep, it played on rather than sleeping at the allotted time. Bizarre! Only when I woke my iPhone up (something I would not do if sleeping), did it stop. That won’t even work as a sleep timer. And it too seems to turn itself off at the end of that first time interval. No repeat again and again function.

    Sigh! Over and over I seem to discover the same thing—that whoever sets the specs for this apps either doesn’t use them at all or only uses them for some narrow purpose. Lousy players seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

  4. The Audible app for Android is not as bad as you make out. At least some of your requirements are ‘unusual’. ‘GPS navigation while riding a bicycle and listening to an audiobook’? Sure, everyone does that. I believe it does jump back a a second or two after taking a call, and I think it is similar with GPS instructions. But I could be wrong.

    My biggest complaint about it is that it sometimes loses its place if you pause and then unlock the screen. The lock screen controls sometimes stop working, but that is something that happens with all of the audio players I use, so it is probably an Android/KitKat issue.

    You can use iTunes application to make audiobooks playable with other audio players on iOS, and just about any MP3 player. As others mention you can burn CDs and rip those to a DRM-free audio format of your choice. At least on the Mac, this can be a virtual CD, so no need to use plastic (you could also use rewritable CDs).

  5. I export Audible books and convert them straight over to my MP3 player (which has all the functions I want, plus the bonus of longer battery life). No CDs required.

    For the record, it’s not good to listen to *anything* while cycling. Wearing headphones prevents you hearing traffic, pedestrians, and warning noises.

  6. Anyone have any clues on how to listen to Audible books stored on a iPod in the car. I am in the middle of Voyager by Gabaldon that is 43 hrs long. At chapter 47 the lightening connector stopped working in the car. I thought it was the cord, so I bought a new one. Still don’t work, so I bought an auxilliary cord. That woks, except it doesn’t carry on from where I stop when the car is turned off & doesn’t charge the ipod. So I did an update for the ipod. Big mistake. Now, audiobooks are no longer stored in the music section but in ibooks. I can no longer tell what chapter I am up to in the book, and can’t ever get back to where I was up to when I stopped the car, and the lightening cord still doesn’t work.
    Anyone have any idea of an easier device to use than an ipod to listen to Audible books in the car? I want something that work!
    I did a restore on the ipod, put it back to where it was last week, but the lightning cord still doesn’t work. Its an ipod 5

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail