Spotify takes the fight to Audible with 200,000 'free' audiobooks, but there's a catch

 A Spotify promotional image for "Books on Spotify" that says "Listen to stories that speak for themselves.".
A Spotify promotional image for "Books on Spotify" that says "Listen to stories that speak for themselves.".

What you need to know

  • Spotify Premium subscribers in the U.S., U.K., and Australia get 15 hours per month to listen to audiobooks for "free."

  • After that, you'll need to pay $12.99 to get an additional 10 hours or buy them a la carte.

  • There are over 200,000 audiobooks "Included with Premium" that you can choose.

  • Only Spotify Premium Duo or Family "plan managers" will get this allotment; other users don't have access.


Spotify now offers U.S. subscribers access to hundreds of thousands of audiobooks as part of their membership, claiming that "over 70% of bestselling titles" are available. So the obvious question becomes, can you use this free perk in place of an Audible subscription, or is it too limited for audiobook lovers?

Using this new feature is seamless: you search for a title or go to the audiobooks hub, add a book to your library, and start listening. Out of the 375,000 audiobooks on Spotify, more than half (200,000+) are included in Premium, Spotify announced on Wednesday. Otherwise, you'll have to purchase excluded titles.

Once you start listening, Spotify will time how long you listen and cut you off once you hit 15 hours. Then, you'll have to wait until the following month or pay $12.99 to extend your listening time by 10 hours. Your Account page will list how much time you have left.

Spotify suggests that 15 hours is enough for two books, but that really depends on the genre; your typical fantasy audiobook like A Game of Thrones (33 hours) would take three months to finish or an extra $26 to keep the experience going.

You can't relisten to past audiobooks without using up your allotment, changing the playback speed to trick the system, or carrying over unused hours to the following month. Any hours you purchase do remain in your account, however.

Frustratingly, according to an earlier Spotify press release, only the primary members of Spotify Duo and Family plans get this 15-hour allotment, leaving other included members with only paid options. Spotify claims that it'll "be working on more ways to unlock access to Premium audiobooks in the future," but that sounds like the solution they'll come up with involves families and partners paying more money for the privilege.

A mockup showing Spotify's audiobooks page
A mockup showing Spotify's audiobooks page

For comparison, Audible Plus ($8/month) gives you access to thousands of titles with unrestricted listening, but they're mostly Audible originals or books that aren't necessarily as well known. To get your typical bestsellers, you'd need to pay for Audible Premium Plus ($15/month) to get Plus access and 12 book credits per year.

Audible book credits are permanent, so you could get Game of Thrones for that $15 credit instead of paying the $26 as a one-time Spotify listen or $40 for a permanent purchase. You can also share listens with other Amazon Household members.

Of course, you're only accessing that one book a month (unless you pay for more credits), so if you do listen to shorter books, the $15 credit is less of a deal than just streaming it for free on Spotify with some hours left over. It really depends on how active of an audiobook listener you are.

Ultimately, it's fair to say that Spotify audiobooks with Premium are a fantastic albeit limited perk for light readers to access a book or two a month, with limited returns once you have to start paying for longer listening. At that point, it probably makes more sense to switch to a permanent, discounted credit system like Audible's so you can keep your purchases for relistens down the line.

This perk could make us reevaluate how Spotify ranks among the best music streaming services. We're still holding off until the leaked "Spotify Supremium" tier with lossless audio launches, however.