It’s true that in the ebook market, most publishers don’t want you to get ahold of the ebook files you buy through online retailers. But it’s a different story with audiobooks. OverDrive, Libro.FM, Downpour, and Google Play Books allow you to purchase audiobooks DRM-free. These are audiobooks not protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM), allowing access to raw audio files usually in MP3 format. Most audiobook downloading sites like LibriVox and Project Gutenberg also offer DRM-free public domain audiobooks in MP3.
If you purchased an audiobook on CD and you want to listen to it on your phone, you may rip the CD’s content and transfer the file to your device. But make sure to check your country’s laws regarding the ethics of CD ripping first.
Whether CD or digital, it feels liberating to have the files of the audiobooks you purchased. The money that you paid for that expensive subscription is not for naught. If Audible suddenly files for bankruptcy and shuts down, at least you can take your files with you.
While companies that offer DRM-free audiobooks have their own apps, their audio players might not look appealing to you or they might not have the features you want. The good news is, you can port the audio files to your favorite and independent audiobook players. Why not just use music players on your phone instead? The problem with music players is that they don’t have fancy features an audiobook title deserves. Simply put, they are not geared for audiobook listening.
Below are five of the best audiobook players that you can download on the Google Play Store (sorry iPhone users!) for when you need a player for your DRM-free audiobooks. I chose the apps based on their unique designs, basic functions, and awesome features.
I write audiobook reviews for a publication, and sometimes they send me MP3 files. This is the app I personally use on my phone to listen to them. It is the simplest and most efficient app I’ve tried so far.
Boasting a material design, the user interface looks stylish yet minimalistic. Under the hood, you can import a folder or audio files and even choose multiple locations on your phone. You can also add bookmarks so that you can return to the last position you listened to.
Aside from an equalizer, it has an option to increase the audiobook’s volume for up to nine decibels more. So if your file appears to be of low quality, you can easily pump up the volume without first editing it. And when you’re enjoying your audiobook but you accidentally closed the app, fret not as it remembers your last position.
To top it all off, it also has some basic functions like sleep timer, Android auto integration, playback speed, fast-forward, rewind and the ability to personalize covers using downloaded files or via online.
If you want a more minimalistic design, you can use Plaidy instead. It ditches the fancy audiobook covers in favor of text and colorful backgrounds.
It may not have the feature to display covers, but the design isn’t bad. Underneath the text are basic functions like rewind, fast-forward, sleep timer, and playback speed.
When you first open the app, it will scan for audio files on your device. From there, you have the option to check or uncheck each location.
Listen Audiobook Player ($1.99)
At first, this one may seem like it’s not much different than the apps aforementioned. But upon testing it, I discovered that it packs awesome features.
While it lacks a good design, it has some draws—sleep timer that can be reset by shaking, Android auto integration, sync support for multiple devices, and other custom features.
It also has an information tab where you can see the audio tags as well as Amazon and Goodreads links to the books. If you click on any of them, it prompts you to search the title of the audiobook on the respective sites so that you can buy its ebook or print version.
The app might not be easy on the eyes, but it has advantages over other audiobook players. Aside from the basic features, it can play a video (as audio only) on the app itself.
So if there’s an audiobook on YouTube (what publisher does that anyway?) and you downloaded it, you don’t need to convert it to audio format to play it on the app.
It also has the ability to search for covers via Google Images, which can be done in-app.
Despite not having a bookmark and a sleep timer feature, this one has a more modern and material look.
The skinny: it has the basic functions that you can find in any audiobook player. However, it doesn’t have the ability to choose multiple locations and a feature to change the cover.
While it lacks some essentials, it compensates with a surprising treat. If your audiobook has multiple audio files, it virtually “combines” them into one track. Thus, you can see your overall progress not by the chapters, but by the overall length of the audiobook itself.
One thing these audiobook players have in common is that they all support variety of audio files. So don’t worry if you have MP3 or M4A files, you can still play them without fiddling with audio converter apps.
Although I use Voice for my literary fix, I am aware that different readers/listeners have different needs. My preferred app might be too fancy or too buggy for some. That’s why it’s always important to have a lot of choices for every reader/listener there is.
If you love DRM-free audiobooks like me, what apps do you use to play them?