How to Listen To Audiobooks On iPhone and iPad

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I’m at a point in my life where I no longer listen to music on my phone. I still listen to soft/classical music while writing but when I’m out of the house exercising, cycling or even doing chores I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I know audiobooks aren’t as immersive as actually reading a book with real or electronic pages but I cycle/workout almost every day for an hour at night. I can complete a book in a week or two while I’m burning calories. Which means I’m stealing extra time from the universe, and I love that.

But as you’d imagine, the process of acquiring and playing audiobooks on your phone isn’t easy. You can use a service like Audible but it doesn’t have everything and I’d rather not pay $15 for an audiobook.

So I usually listen to free out-of-copyright books narrated by the awesome volunteers at LibriVox. They have a collection of over 15,000 books, and I have a lot of classics to catch up on (I’m half way through Crime and Punishment, but that was two years ago).

Why Do You Even Need An AudioBook App?

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In short:
– To easily navigate between hundreds of chapter files and multiple books
– To have all of your books arranged logically
– To resume a book from where you left off

Let’s talk about the actual process of listening to an audiobook. If you’re planning to use the default music player on iPhone, let me stop you right there. The experience is abysmal. Audiobooks are usually split in 30–50 chapters of about 30 minutes each and navigating/seeking is a nightmare. Resuming a 10 hour book half way through a chapter in a normal music player is quite literally impossible.

Just like you use a dedicated app for podcasts, you’ll need a dedicated app for Audiobooks. I’ve got two apps for your iPhone and iPad. A free app for downloading/streaming free books and a paid app with a free trail for people who want to do some serious reading listening.

Cool Tip: Listen to audiobooks when on the road or at the gym as an informative, relaxing way to multi-task.

Downloading Audiobooks

If you want to download/collect audiobooks to your PC first and then transfer them to your phone as and when you need, check out the links below.

Transferring them to iPhone/iPad

So you’ve downloaded the audiobooks. How do you get them on your iPhone or iPad? It’s not as tricky as it seems. You’ll first need to download an app to play the audiobooks; the best one is Bookmobile (more on that below). After installing the app, connect your device to your PC and launch iTunes.

From your device panel, go to Apps.

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Scroll down to the Installed Apps section and click on Bookmobile. From the right panel select Add.

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From the file select menu, select all the chapters of the book you want and import them. You can do the same for multiple books, don’t worry about jumbling them up just yet.

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Once they’re copied, sync and you’re done. Check out the Bookmobile section below to view, organize, and use audiobooks with this app.

Audiobooks App For Free Download And Streaming

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I’ve been a fan of the Audiobooks app by David Smith (or underscore David Smith as he’s known to some) for about 6 months now but its recent iOS 7 update made it much better. It’s easier to navigate and stupidly simple to use.

Just browse for a book, tap it and it starts playing right away. And as you’re listening, the book is being downloaded in the background. This is important because audiobooks are heavy – ranging from 200 MB to close to 1 GB.

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The app is free to boot but you can pay to remove ads and there’s also a premium upgrade. I found the free app to be more than enough for my LibriVox needs. The app also lists classic/awesome audiobooks that are not in the Librevox library but can be bought for a relatively cheap price – under $5.

The app also has a sleep timer and voice speed support. And yeah, the app starts playing the queued up audiobook as soon as you launch the app (stupidly simple, as I said).

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From the settings you can toggle options to always resume playback and downloads on launch, to download only over Wi-Fi or to always stream (useful if you’re running out of space on the iPhone).

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Bookmobile for iPhone and iPad

Bookmobile is the big daddy of audiobook apps for iOS. Not only will it play the free LibriVox books but you can also throw any DRM free or DRM protected Audible/iTunes audiobook file at it without worrying about playback. The free app lets you listen to 3 audiobooks for 60 days and the unlimited upgrade costs only $2.99, well worth the price if you ask me.

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If you have an audiobook already downloaded on your PC, just copy it into the app using iTunes as shown above. If you don’t want to do all that, you can also import audiobooks stored in Dropbox and it will take care of organization and playback by itself.

The UI, with its big buttons, hidden sidebar and double tap for sleep timer gesture looks cheeky. But that’s something you’ll have to get used to (as I did).

How To Use Bookmobile

Once you’ve copied the audiobook files over, it’s time to launch the app and tap the + button in the bottom options bar to create an audiobook (yes, you actually need to create an audiobook from the downloaded files).

This will tell you all the ways you can import the audiobook files into the app.

Under the Add from iTunes Library heading you’ll find support for official iTunes audiobooks and ones downloaded as podcasts. In the exercise above, we manually pasted in the audio files so we’ll choose Add iTunes Shared Files from the list.

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Now, here you’ll see each file from every audiobook. If you’ve added a couple of different audiobooks at a time, just select the files from one audiobook right now and tap Create New Audiobook.

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Give the book a title, add the author’s name and you’re done.

If you imported more than one book, follow the same steps, selecting the relevant audio files.

Video Walkthrough

Here’s a video walkthrough of the process.

Go on, listen

Ok, I admit the process of importing downloaded books to your iPhone could be easier, but it is what it is.

If you’re looking for a more plug-and-play approach, try the Audiobooks app.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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