Kindle Unlimited vs. Audible: Which Is Best For Me?
Whether you’re an avid reader, a dedicated podcast listener, or are interested in improving your “well-read” status, you’ve certainly heard of -- and maybe even tried -- a number of subscription audio services. Today, we look at two of the prominent players: Audible and Kindle Unlimited. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each, pitfalls to be aware of, and comb through the tangled bits of confusion to help you decide which may fit best into your reading and listening lifestyle.
Are Kindle Unlimited And Audible the same?
To start, let’s make one thing clear: both of these services are owned by Amazon. Whichever you choose, you’re going to be sending some cash to Amazon; even though they may seem like competitors, they are disparate services that support the same goal and end in the same place.
Having said that, each service offers different options. Depending upon your expected volume of reading, whether you’re more into print or audio titles, how much you love podcasting, if you’re interested in exclusive or original content, and ultimately, how much you’re willing to spend, there are plenty of choices available. Let’s talk about them.
What is Audible?
Audible (again, owned by Amazon) is the United States’ largest audiobook producer and retailer, according to data collected by Wikipedia. The company was founded in 1998 and acquired by Amazon in 2008, and has seen success as a standalone service, and, between 2003 and 2017, the exclusive provider of audiobooks to iTunes. This service focuses primarily on audiobooks and podcasts, though there are other media available.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Also owned by Amazon, Kindle Unlimited launched in 2014 as a means to get more titles to Amazon devices like Kindle and Fire but has expanded to be available on many devices. While Kindle Unlimited offers audiobook reads, it is more focused on users that desire to read a book or magazine, rather than listen to one.
What kind of plans are available?
Let’s start with the simple one: Kindle Unlimited offers one subscription tier, and that’s going to cost you $9.99 per month. They do offer a couple of introductory offers, either 30 days free to try, or a 50 percent discount (to $4.99 per month) for the first two months. We’ll talk about what that gets you in a bit.
Audible, on the other hand, offers two options: Audible Plus at $7.95 per month, and Audible Premium Plus at $14.95.
What you get with Audible
While you can get PDF versions of many of the audiobooks in Audible’s collection, these services are designed for those folks that prefer to listen to audiobooks rather than read e-copies of them. The difference between the two Audible options hinges on the ability to download and keep copies of the audiobooks forever, rather than just streaming them.
The lower-level package is Audible Plus, which will get you connected to a limited supply of Audible’s collection and will run you $7.95 per month. “Limited” access equates to about 11,000 titles, as compared with roughly 500,000 in the full suite. This plan will allow you to stream titles that have the “Included” tag in the app; anything else in the library that’s not part of the 11,000 title set will cost you additional cash to purchase.
The higher tier is Audible Premium Plus, which grants you access to the Premium catalog, which, again, contains nearly half a million titles. Additionally, you’ll earn one free credit per month (with options to purchase more) to own an audiobook, which will be yours forever, even if you decide to unsubscribe later. Finally, you’ll also receive discounts (30 percent, generally, with periodic discounts of even greater value) on any additional items you’d like to purchase. The Premium Plus subscription is nearly double the price, though, coming in at $14.95 per month.
Before we move on, a couple of notes about credits. First, you can roll them over from month to month up to a year, so if you earn a credit in February and don’t use it to purchase a book during that month, you’ll have two credits come March. That way, there’s no pressure to use your credits immediately if there’s not a title that intrigues you. Secondly, the base price of $14.95 for Premium Plus gives you one credit per month, but there are plans that do nothing but add additional credits for a higher fee. For example, you can have two credits per month for $22.95 or you purchase a yearly plan with either 1 or 2 credits for a slight discount.
What you get with Kindle Unlimited
Kindle Unlimited is a single-tier subscription that checks in at $9.99 per month. For that price, you’re getting access to over one million titles, but be careful with that number (more on that in a bit). In addition to streaming audiobooks and podcasts, you also get access to three magazine subscriptions per month, allowing you to check out the current issues in their entirety.
This price point sits comfortably between the two Audible options, and with good reason. Kindle Unlimited is comparable in features to Audible Plus but provides many more titles, as well as the addition of magazine subscriptions. When compared with Audible Premium Plus, however, you’re losing the ability to earn credits to own audiobooks; you don’t own any of the content you listen to on Kindle Unlimited, and you lose access to everything if you elect to end your subscription.
Back to those titles, now. You may be thinking, Hey, a million titles! Awesome! Amazon likes to promote it that way for Kindle Unlimited, but a large majority of those titles are what they market as “exclusive” titles. To translate: “exclusive” means “independent or self-published works.” I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these selections or that you won’t find some gems in there, but if you’re looking for bestsellers and other popular titles, you won’t see much more here than you will on Audible, if any.
Can I have them both?
You may be wondering if there’s a way to have both since each product is under the Amazon umbrella. Is there a bundle package, for example? Does having one give you bonus access to the other?
The short answer is no, but it’s not quite that easy.
Firstly, of course, there’s nothing to keep you from subscribing to both services simultaneously. Of course, that’s not why you asked the question (or why I asked it on your behalf). There’s probably too much redundancy to justify paying two monthly fees.
There is potential for some shared content if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, which you most likely are (that’s not just opinion; in 2020, the company boasted 142.5 million subscribers according to statista.com, roughly two-thirds of the United States’ 210 million adults). Included in your Prime membership is a service called Prime Reading, which gives you free access to around 1,000 books and magazines. “Dozens” of these titles are available with Audible narration according to Amazon, but that percentage isn’t entirely clear. You also must use the Kindle app to view these titles; it’s essentially a very, very lite version of Kindle Unlimited, and its goal is to whet your appetite in hopes you’ll subscribe to the main service.
Audible, on the other hand, has no Prime connection. The two services are separate, and that is noted pretty clearly on Audible’s site. However, they do periodically run limited-time offers that will grant additional purchase credits (from 1 to 2 per month) if you also have a Prime membership.
Can I get Kindle Unlimited And Audible for free?
You know the old saying: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But we’re not talking about lunch here, folks; while there’s no way (at least that we could find) to enjoy these services completely free of charge, there are some options available to try them out and even get some free content to keep afterward.
Let’s start with Audible because that’s the one with the most free possibilities. To start, they pretty much always after a free 30-day trial period, during which time you’re getting access to their entire library (that is, if you choose the Premium Plus service as your free trial, which, of course you are, duh). The free trial also includes one free purchase credit, which means even if you end your subscription before the trial ends, you’ll get to keep that title forever, as long as you’ve used the credit before canceling.
Not that we’d endorse it, but you could, in theory, load up on free trials with a bunch of different email addresses and continue the run of free content. Keep in mind, though, titles, even downloaded and owned ones, can’t be transferred between accounts or devices.
Kindle Unlimited similarly offers a 30-day free trial, though, again, none of the content is yours to keep. That’s the main difference between the two services in this regard, but hey, 30 days free is 30 days free, right?
The technology needed to make this work
These services are both Amazon products but don’t share a common app or platform. However, no matter what device you have, you likely can enjoy either (or both).
This first point won’t be earth-shattering: Audible uses the Audible app, and Kindle Unlimited uses the Kindle app. Easy, peasy. Each of these apps is available across most platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and on Kindle devices.
Additionally, Alexa can read your titles from either service, generally speaking. All of Audible’s titles sync easily with Alexa, and most of Kindle Unlimited’s do as well. Even if they don’t have an Audible accompaniment, Alexa can simply “read” the text of the book. The only places you’ll find difficulty, as Amazon points out, are with titles like comics and graphic novels.
One more note, the Kindle app allows your device to read e-books aloud to you, using the text-to-speech function.
The wildcard: Whispersync
Amazon has also developed a feature called Whispersync, which allows you to switch seamlessly between reading an e-book and listening to Audible narration without ever losing your place. The idea is, you read a couple of chapters of a book, then get in the car and hit play, and Audible begins narrating right where you left off. You reach your destination and switch back to Kindle, and you’re right on the page that was being read when you parked the car.
I’ve not used Whispersync myself, but the reviews around the web consistently point to two caveats. First, not all titles are available for this service, and that makes sense: the title must have both a Kindle and an Audible component to work. This severely limits the number of titles available.
Second, the pricing can be tricky (or “outrageous,” as others have described it). The way to obtain these titles is to first purchase the Kindle e-book, ensuring you’re selecting one with the “Whispersync” label, then purchase the accompanying Audible component. However, the price for adding the Audible component via Whispersync is often more expensive than if you have purchased the two pieces separately.
So why not just purchase the two pieces separately if it’s going to be less expensive? Well, the Whispersync service won’t work if you choose that method.
When it works, it’s quite an impressive feature. Just beware of the pitfalls that others before you have experienced.
Wrapping it up: Kindle Or Audible Which one should I choose?
Taking all these factors into consideration, which of these services is best for you? If you’re looking for a straight suggestion, I won’t give it to you. That’s not a cop-out; it truly is dependent upon your unique needs and scenario.
The easy part: if you’re into reading, Kindle Unlimited is 100 percent your choice. You get access to a lot of titles, and you can read them on virtually any device. This works great as long as you’re subscribed; remember that none of the titles you’re reading are yours to keep unless you pay for them. It’s like a very cool, electronic library card.
If you’re just into audiobooks and podcasts, it gets a little trickier. Audible has a better catalog but may also cost you more (if you go for the Premium Plus option). Here’s how the price and features break down, one more time:
● Audible Plus: $7.95. You can listen to a decent amount of titles (about 11,000), and check out up to 10 at a time to download and listen to offline. You don’t get to keep any of the titles.
● Kindle Unlimited: $9.99. You get to read a vast amount of titles, get subscriptions to 3 magazines (digitally, of course), and can listen to some audio titles, including podcasts. You don’t get to keep any of the titles. For the extra two bucks, you get access to lots of e-books but lose some of the audio access.
● Audible Premium Plus: $14.95. Nearly double the price of Plus, but you open up the library to include 50 times as many titles. Plus, you get a credit per month (2 if you’re a Prime member and sign up at the right time) to download and keep titles forever. Some titles have PDF accompaniments, but it’s not something to depend upon if you’re more into reading.
Each of these services provide good features and excellent accessibility; what you choose depends on what type of media you prefer, and how much of your cash you’re willing to give Amazon to enjoy them. Good luck, my friends.