Online subscriptions for books are flooding the literary market. So which one do you choose? Here are 6 of the best (and relatively cheap) options.

Whether you grew up with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys or you were part of the Harry Potter generation, literature holds a special place in the hearts of many. And with an industry worth over $273 billion, publishing is only getting bigger.

However, as people continue to move forward with technology, the way we consume books also moves forward. Several years ago, the invention of the iPad, Kobo, Kindle, and other e-readers enabled readers to carry a library in their pocket.

With that technology came new apps and programs that further improved the e-reader or audiobook experience for users looking to devour the latest bestseller as soon as it hits the (digital) shelves.

Benefits of getting books online

In the past several years, e-readers have gained popularity with a variety of consumers.

From retirees who are downsizing their homes and looking to live a minimalist life to students who are tired of carrying around a backpack full of books, the benefits of an e-reader are far-reaching and inclusive.

Some other benefits of using an e-reader or getting your books online include:

You’ll be doing your part to conserve paper

By not purchasing paper books, you are not contributing to the wasted paper. With a single e-reader, you can easily download multiple titles and store them on the device.

In many cases, e-readers offer cheaper options

Many e-reader programs provide free titles when it comes to the classics. Plus, most of the time, the e-reader version of a book is less expensive than a hardcover or paperback.

They’re sturdy and hard to break

This means your e-reader is probably safe for the kids to use without worrying about pages getting crumpled or dog-eared.

You’ll save time and money

Getting books online also saves you time and money having to go out, wait in line, make a purchase, etc. You can complete all your book transactions from the comfort of your own home.

E-readers are light and compact

No one wants to carry around a giant copy of War and Peace, but a light e-reader enables you to bring your books anywhere, which is perfect for the bus, waiting rooms, school, and more.

They make learning easy

E-readers make learning easy because most online editions include dictionaries, appendices, character summaries, and more. By just clicking on a name or an unknown word, you can quickly find out more information that will make reading easier. This is also a great feature for kids who are learning to read.

Additionally, audiobooks are also gaining popularity in the world of reading because they are easy to consume and make for great company during long commutes and other periods where multitasking is possible. Celebrities are also getting in on the action, and some audiobooks are even narrated by major actors such as Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nick Offerman.

If you decide to switch to e-readers and online book services, you’ll find that you’re opening yourself up to a whole new world of excitement. However, the online book subscription services can seem overwhelming at first.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from some of the most popular online subscriptions for books.

1. Audible

Audible from Amazon is the gold standard in the field of audiobooks. As they like to say, listening is the new reading, and with Audible you’re buying choice. They have millions of members and titles. Audible offers a free app that you can continue using even if you switch devices and never lose your place. With your membership, you receive one credit a month that’s good for any book regardless of the price.

A basic membership will cost you $14.95 a month. There are ongoing offers like two-for-one and other discounts. Free books are offered at certain times of the year and membership buys you a 30 percent discount on the books you love.

An annual Audible membership costs more up front, but you receive 12 or 24 credits for books. This is the better deal for committed readers who know they’ll be using the service frequently. Even if you decide to cancel your Audible membership, the books are free to keep forever.

2. Overdrive

Overdrive is a library enthusiast’s dream come true. If you’re the sort of person who spends hours going back and forth to the library hauling books, Overdrive is about to make your life a lot easier. With over two million titles that include audio books, e-books, and videos, you have free access to quality materials and lots of choices just by using your library card.

The Libby app allows you to sign into multiple libraries and download books and audiobooks to read offline as well as streaming so that you’re not using all your storage space. If you prefer to read on your Kindle, Libby will send the books to your device. The activity tab allows you to keep track of what you’ve read so that you have a record and can monitor your titles and habits.

Overdrive is great for saving money if you have kids. Many of the videos are suitable for children. They offer a wide variety of children’s books as well as zoomable graphic novels and children’s picture books with read-along audio. This is a great way to encourage reluctant readers and make sure children can choose a book they are interested in without spending any money. You’re still supporting the library system, and that feels good.

3. Downpour

Downpour offers a wide variety of genres and over 70,000 titles to choose from. Membership buys you one credit per month for the low price of $12.99 per month. You receive at least 70 percent off the retail price, and your membership can be canceled at any time. Downpour offers 60 percent off rentals and book titles for as low as $5.

Downpour’s best feature is its flexibility. Unlike the competitors, Downpour allows you to buy more credits whenever you want them rather than waiting for the next month’s credit. This feature will suit readers who may either binge read or want to read intermittently. Because all of the books are roughly the same price, choosing a new book becomes easier because price does not dictate your choice. Popular and new titles are available, and browsing is easy with the large book covers displayed making your experience similar to browsing in a bookstore.

With different formats available like MP3-CD’s and CD’s you have more options. Their app features a sleep timer, adjustable jump time and variable playback speed so you’ll never miss a word. Customer support is responsive, and open 8 am to 5 pm.

4. Scribd

Scribd offers a 30-day free trial. This is a nice feature if you want to shop around a little before committing to a membership for an online subscription for books. With their low monthly rate of $8.99, Scribd comes in at the low end of subscriptions compared to competitors. Scribd is available anytime and on any device, giving you flexibility.

With unlimited access to news and magazines, Scribd is excellent for news junkies.

Scribd’s documents section is another unique offering. Featuring curated collections from experts, influencers and Scribd editors, you have access to a universe of ideas. This feature is particularly useful if you want to deep dive into a subject or just don’t want to commit to listening to a whole book and want something smart and short. Comics and sheet music cater to a niche market, rounding out a pretty significant catalog for a reasonable price. While you may not always have access to the latest novels and current bestsellers, Scribd is a reliable, easy to use online subscription that won’t cost you more than a few cups of coffee per month.

5. Audiobooks

Audiobooks offer an app that’s only available for iOS devices making it less flexible than some of the competitors. With about 10 000 books available, they have the smallest offering of the apps reviewed here. The Audiobooks angle is that they’re free. There’s no monthly subscription, and the app is free to download. They offer an Apple Watch app, which may or may not be practical for you.

For those on limited budgets who don’t need the latest titles, this app will appeal. Add-ons are available if you want to upgrade to new titles.

Audiobooks offers podcasts, which will be a real draw for many. Sometimes you don’t want to commit to a whole book. With the quality and diversity of podcasts increasing all the time, it’s easy to find a podcast that will appeal to your interests.

Audiobooks have recently upgraded to a new 7.2 version, adding more than content to their catalog and choices for you. This is an app that will undoubtedly continue to evolve and broaden both its offerings and download appeal.

6. Bookbub

Another free app, Bookbub can be used on any device, there’s no subscription fee, and you own the books. Bookbub will alert you to limited time free and discounted books. The editorial team at Bookbub chooses the titles to offer a curated catalog. So they are not providing the books, but rather alerting you to the best deals and author updates.

You select the authors you want to follow, and then Bookbub alerts you through email when they have book news to share. From top publishers to independent authors, Bookbub caters to your interests and authors who will appeal to your reading habits and hobbies. Their selection of free Kindle books in twenty genres is a bonus feature. There is also a recommendations section that includes reviews from authors, though you have to sign up for your email to access this. You can unsubscribe at any time, and your information won’t be shared with third parties. Overall, Bookbub is a good free app to investigate for book lovers.

A few others to check out

In addition to these apps for online books, there are several others out there that might be worth checking out. Kindle Unlimited and Playster are just a few that could help you get your hands on more books for lower prices. An Amazon Prime membership also allows customers to download and check out one title per month as part of Amazon’s Lending Library, but this feature is only available on Amazon products like the Kindle or Fire Tablet.

If you’re a real book lover, it’s also in your best interest to check out your local library’s online offerings. Many libraries are now offering e-books to check out. In most cases, you can download the titles without actually going to the library.


So there you have it. There’s no reason not to indulge your love of reading when there are so many easy ways to do it. The e-book and audiobook market has come a long way and continues to evolve.

As audiobooks reinvent our commutes and make reading possible for differently abled people, e-books will help the environment, make reading more accessible, and keep us moving forward. Whether you’re continually devouring books or you are a casual reader of novels, news, and current events, there is an online book and entertainment subscription service out there for you.

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About the author

Chris Muller picture
Total Articles: 281
Chris has an MBA with a focus in advanced investments and has been writing about all things personal finance since 2015. He’s also built and run a digital marketing agency, focusing on content marketing, copywriting, and SEO, since 2016. You can connect with Chris on Twitter.