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My Favorite Audiobook App: Libro.fm

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I’m more into podcasts than I am into audiobooks these days, but sometimes you want something that has a longer format. Something that helps you power through a long run, or a bunch of knitting, or — in my case this weekend — an eight-hour drive. Lots of people use Audible for this, but I’m not a fan. For one thing, Audible credits expire after a few months, and I go for long periods without listening to audiobooks. For another, Audible really is more of a rental service — the books have DRM so they can, theoretically, be pulled from your account at any time. Also, Audible is an Amazon company, and, well, I wrote the book on buying local. Literally.

Last year, I heard about a service called Libro.fm. It’s the same price as Audible (they’re both $15 a month for one free book; you get discounts on books purchased after that). Their books are DRM free. They can be played on the Libro.fm app (which is free for both Apple and Android), but they can also be played in some other apps. And their credits don’t expire, so you can let them stack up for a year without using them (which I accidentally did), and you’ll have 12 credits waiting for you when you check back in. (You can listen to these or gift them to other people.) You can also connect your account with a locally owned bookstore so the money from your purchases goes to the shop you want to support. The only downside? Libro.fm has fewer titles than Audible (Amazon insists on exclusivity deals). But they do have most popular books, including everything I’ve looked for (and most everything on the bestseller list as well).

I love that Libro.fm lets me buy local — but what really won me over is the performance of their app. I’ve listened to lots of audiobooks on my phone, and the experience is usually irritating (especially through iTunes and Apple Books). But this app performed perfectly for me. It’s incredibly easy to see where you are in the book and to pause, play, rewind of fast forward. I love the timer (you can set it for 5 min, 10 min, etc., or have it stop at the end of the track) so I can listen as I fall asleep and not worry about losing my place. It’s really simple to drop a bookmark or add a note, so you can find a quote later or play a section for a friend. It also has a function that allows you to speed up the book so you can listen to it faster (I don’t like this, but I have friends who love to listen to podcasts this way). The app never crashed for me, and I put it through its paces, using Siri, navigation and made phone calls while listening (it also pauses the audio when navigation is talking or when you get a phone call, which I love).

If you’d like to try out Libro.fm, here’s a referral code that should get you a free month trial. I’m not being paid to promote them or anything like that — I just actually liked the experience of using the app. Of course, I’m partial to anything that allows me to support independent bookstores — and in this case, I don’t have to sacrifice anything to do it. (One note — you have to sign up and pick your books on the website, not in the app. You just use the app to listen. I don’t mind this, but it’s worth noting, especially if you’re new to the service.)

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. She’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.

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