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Why are audiobooks so expensive?

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Wondering why some audiobooks can be so expensive? Read on to learn how to avoid paying too much to listen to your favorite stories.

Why are audiobooks so expensive?

Audible,, Scribd, Librivox, Overdrive, and many other audiobook distributors, including Speechify, often have very different pricing from each other. Some platforms are more expensive than others, and it rarely has anything to do with their free audiobook offering.

Newer audiobook enthusiasts and some long-time audiobook service subscribers don’t always understand why an audiobook is more expensive than a paperback novel. Others don’t see why audiobooks are costly when subscription fees are generally low.

This all comes down to a single issue—Many people don’t realize the high cost of production for a finished hour for an audiobook.

What drives up the cost of audiobooks?

You should know a few things before downloading or streaming audiobooks on your iPhone or Android devices. Understanding their costs will help you pick a better streaming service or vendor. These costs include:

Production costs

Creating an audiobook is hard work, even if it’s a digital product. Producing high-quality digital files with engaging narrations is no small feat. Think of the process in terms of making a radio show, movie, or high-end podcast rather than making a print book you find at a local library.

Audiobook production requires a good studio with recording, editing, and production equipment and software. It also needs one or more voice actors, producers, audio engineers, sound editors, proofreaders, etc. It can cost hundreds of dollars per hour to record, which doesn’t guarantee you can get a finished recording.

For instance, for a five-hour audiobook, you may need at least 15 hours in the recording booth and post-production. Using celebrity voices is even more expensive as their flat upfront fees are massive. If that wasn’t enough, the more popular the narrator, the higher the likelihood they want royalties.


Royalties are another interesting aspect of audiobook production and publishing. Audiobooks are expensive because authors don’t always keep all of the profits.

As mentioned above, some voice actors may want a flat recording fee and royalties on sales. That’s one of the only ways to get Hollywood actors to spend hours in the recording booth and narrate Audible audiobooks.

Furthermore, audiobook production companies and distribution services may also want royalties on every sale. That doesn’t necessarily spare audiobook authors any production, advertising, and distribution costs.

In theory, a book author may split their audiobook sales profits between themselves, services like Spotify, Amazon Audible, iTunes, and the voice actors. That makes audiobook production even less profitable for someone who wants to license the audiobook rights to bestsellers from other authors.

Supply and demand

Despite the growth of the audiobook industry, audiobooks still have lower demand than e-books and print novels. The combined high production costs and low demand account for the often high prices.

However, it’s also worth noting that certain services that hold a monopoly over the industry are equally responsible for the costly audiobook prices. Suppliers like Amazon have dictated the average audiobook price for a very long time.

It takes serious competition and multiple similar services to disrupt the market for prices to drop considerably. Granted, similar to on-demand platforms like Netflix, the audiobook industry has its share of Amazon competitors and affordable monthly subscription services.

Get your first audiobook for $1 with Speechify

If you want to give audiobooks a try, you might as well start with an excellent service. Speechify is an audiobook service with some of the best prices in the industry. It even offers an audiobook for $1 as a sign-up bonus.

You can browse the Speechify collection to access over 60,000 titles, from public domain titles to new releases and popular best sellers. Explore a massive collection of high-quality productions, engaging stories, and genres for every taste.

Sign up and download the Speechify app on your favorite mobile or desktop device to start your audiobook experience.


How much does a typical audiobook cost?

Depending on its length, an audiobook may cost as little as $20. Some are cheaper and others more expensive. Typically, the cost exceeds that of hardcover books due to the higher production costs, different royalty distribution schemes, vendor or distributor exclusivity rights, and other factors. Popular titles are often even more expensive due to higher demand.

Is Audible cheaper than other audiobook vendors?

Audible is a popular audiobook subscription service due to its vast library and high production value, but it isn’t the cheapest by any means. For instance, Speechify offers better sign-up value and more affordable pricing on many popular audiobook titles. Besides, due to Amazon Audible’s membership plans and a business model revolving around subscription fees, audiobook prices are higher for existing and non-members.

Why do audiobooks cost more than e-books?

E-books based on finished physical books are cheaper to produce than audiobooks from the same source. The lengthy and complex recording process makes audiobooks more expensive to buy but not necessarily expensive to listen to when using a subscription service with a monthly plan.

Is the quality of an audiobook better than an e-book?

It depends on individual preferences. Some prefer reading or even turning pages as they consume thrilling stories, but you can argue that audiobooks take storytelling to a new level through sound effects and voice overs that evoke powerful emotions.

What is the average length of an audiobook?

The average audiobook length is around 10 hours, especially for bestsellers and novels, but there are plenty of short-format stories that don’t need more than a three-hour narration. The genre and author’s writing style often influence an audiobook’s length.

Are audiobooks worth the price?

Audiobooks offer an immersive listening experience similar to that of watching a movie. The right combination of voice artists, sound effects, editing, and post-production tweaks can make any fiction or non-fiction audiobook more engaging and easier to comprehend.

Do audiobooks have more content than e-books?

Usually, audiobooks don’t contain more content than e-books based on words alone. However, new releases may contain sound effects, multiple narrators, and other elements that make them feel richer. Naturally, audiobooks can have less content than eBooks if they aren’t unabridged versions of the original text.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.