Scribd and Audible are two platforms that offer audiobook subscriptions. Each is very different: Scribd gives you access to millions of PDF documents, books, and audiobooks for just $8.99 per month. Not all of it is material you’d want to read for leisure, though. Audible, in contrast, focuses exclusively on audiobooks. Its library has 100,000-plus titles, many of which are on bestseller lists, but cost almost twice price at $14.99 per month.
So which one’s it going to be, Audible or Scribd? Let’s find out.
Audible vs Scribd
1. Content Formats.
There’s really no contest here, folks. Scribd trumps Audible in terms of the sheer diversity of media types on offer. Audible (as the name suggests) is an audiobook service. You get access to audiobooks, and that’s about it.
When it comes to non-audio content, though, Scribd has a clear edge. Scribd hosts…wait for it…60 million documents. Not all of these are books–many are PDFs, research papers, and other material you might not be inclined to read. However, considering that Scribd has 600 times the quantity of items that Audible has, we’re fairly certain it has the edge in terms of regular eBooks.
In short, Scribd gives you access to a huge catalog of eBooks, audio-books, magazines, and other media. But does this mean that Scribd gives you more bang for the buck all the time? Not necessarily.
Winner – Scribd
2. Content Availability
Audible has a very deep catalog of audio-books. We’re talking about in excess of 100,000 audiobooks that you can get your hands on. Scribd doesn’t exactly reveal the number of books they have.
That said, to get a rough estimate of books availability, I searched 30 books I owned on Audible on Scribd and turns out, Scribd was short on 15 audiobooks and 13 ebooks. While this is not a conclusive study, there are good chances that Scribd simply does not have that kind of depth, at least with regards to audiobooks.
This means that as a Scribd user, you might find that there are titles not available as audio-books that you could have gotten access to on Audible. To add to this, Audible has a program called Audible Originals. These are audio-books created exclusively for Audible by authors and not available elsewhere.
Also, Scribd follows more of the Netflix approach, i.e. they license the books for a specific time. Audible on the other hand, gives you ownership of the book. If you buy a book, you can listen to it even after you cancel your subscription. That’s not the case with Scribd.
Overall, Scribd has millions of title…but Audible’s more likely to have the ones you want. So, if you are a selective reader (listener), go for Audible. However, if you prefer more Netflix kind of approach i.e. read what you get, then Scribd is a better option.
Winner – Audible
3. Sound Quality
This is an area where the comparison is a lot less subjective than the previous case. There’re no two ways around this: Audible has noticeably better audio quality than Scribd. Scribd audiobooks are limited to 32kbps, an appallingly low bitrate. In comparison, Audible offers 32 kbps as the “standard” option but lets users opt for higher quality 64 kbps sound, too.
Scribd’s 32 kbps output just doesn’t sound that great.
Coming from the audiophile space, these numbers might not seem like much: A 32 kbps MP3 is pretty much baseline for good music quality. But it’s important to remember that audiobooks are a completely different proposition. They don’t have to carry complex sound. It’s usually just a single narrator, occasionally accompanied by sound effects.
Moreover, audiobooks are much, much longer than songs, with larger audiobooks running in excess of 10 hours. A very high bitrate would simply waste space. However, 32kbps is inadequate even for audiobook recordings. Scribd audiobooks have a noticeable degree of distortion. They just don’t sound that great. Audible’s higher quality 64 kbps files are eminently (pun) audible.
Winner – Audible
4. Pricing model
In the Netflix era, we have certain expectations for subscription services. Netflix (and Google/YouTube Music and the like) have spoiled us because they give us free access to so much premium content for a flat monthly rate. Now Scribd used to work that way with the Scribd unlimited plan. This would give you unlimited access to Scribd content for a flat monthly rate. Things recently changed for the worse, though.
Scribd’s limited “Unlimited” plan, still offers more value than Audible
At present, Scribd offers what it called an “unlimited*” plan (yes there’s an asterisk). This offers you unlimited access to Scribd’s back catalog of non-premium titles and access to up to 3 premium books and 1 audiobook per month. All this will cost you $8.99.
While it isn’t unlimited the way Netflix is, you’re still getting access to a lot of content. Remember, books take a lot longer to finish than TV. Three full-size books a month is a very healthy pace. This is especially true if we’re talking about bigger books like the Malazan series.
Compared to this, Audible’s pricing model is, well, frankly terrible. Audible’s base subscription costs $14.95 a month. Considering this is nearly double Scribd, you’d assume this would get you at least as much content, right? Sadly, no. You get a single (we repeat), a single book credit per month for your $14.95 subscription. Audible lets you select a further 2 Audible Originals per month, too, out of a list of 6, which takes the sting out a little.
That said, it’s worth praising the Audible customer support. If you have ever been an Audible customer, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Audible customer care is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Not to forget, you can return any book on Audible (even if you have read it) you have purchased in past one year and replaced it with any other book. No question asked. In fact, you can do so by going to the ‘Purchase History’ on the website, without having to talk to anyone.
But as far as books of your own preference are concerned, you are still stuck with a single title. You can opt for the $22.95 Platinum subscription to get two credits per month, but that’s about it. If you want more, you’ll need to pay $14 for another credit.
There’s no questioning the fact that all the latest and greatest titles are available on Audible, and to a greater extent than Scribd. But you’re essentially paying a monthly subscription in order to then buy audiobooks. Audible’s selection is better, but it’s just terribly monetized. If you’re desperate for the best books and premium audio quality, there are a couple of tricks to make Audible somewhat more economical.
Audible lets you own the titles you buy, even if you cancel your subscription
There is alone, saving grace: You get to keep all the books you buy, even if you cancel your Audible subscription. One of the biggest concerns about subscription services is how the nature of content ownership has shifted: you don’t actually own any of the movies or shows you stream on Netflix, for example.
You just get to stream them when you’re a customer and Netflix can (and will) remove them from the platform at will. Likewise, Scribd doesn’t let you download all its content. This means you’ll be locked out from it if you cancel your Scribd subscription.
5. Geo restriction
Both Audible and Scribd have geo-restrictions on availability of content. For instance, I search for the book ‘Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type‘ and it turns out not available in India, but was available when I switch to the U.S VPN server. Audible has similar restrictions as well.
However, Audible has a slight advantage as it’s officially available in many other countries outside the U.S including – UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and recently released in India. The advantage here is local books and cheaper pricing, for instance, in India, the subscription starts at around 199 INR (or $2.7). So, if the same book is available in the Audible US and Audible India, it’s much more cost-effective for me to buy it here, compared to $15 in the U.S. The downside is the catalog is minuscule compared to the U.S.
Winner – Audible
When I set out to write this article, I was very confident that Audible, a dedicated audiobook service would win out against Scribd. A closer review of the two showed me that, while both have their advantages and drawbacks, Scribd, surprisingly, is the better overall option.
A rather unfortunate finding was that the audiobook market overall isn’t quite as extensive as it could be, especially for voracious readers like me. AAA bestsellers are available on both platforms, but I struggled to find content from lesser-known authors like David Grossman. Audible had just one of Grossman’s novels. Scribd can claim another victory here: Even in cases where an audiobook isn’t available, Scribd often has the book in eBook form.
Audible has the edge when it comes to newer, hotter titles, but neither app has what I’d describe as a limited library. Audible has the edge in terms of quality, with higher bitrate audio streams and (as mentioned) a larger stable of big-name titles. But it features a terrible monetization strategy, which boils down to force you to pay a subscription just so you can pay more for books. Scribd is no Netflix, but it at least gives you enough content (books and audiobooks) to last a month.