This review is specifically how these players work with Android Auto (AA) in my Kia Sorento. I can’t speak as an authority that Android Auto is the same everywhere, so this is definitely MY opinion.
There are technically 5 different audiobook players I have used/do use during my commute. I’m really only going to review 4 however since Overdrive is pushing towards Libby – either way this is the library, so 100% free (well, paid for by our taxes). Both Audible by Amazon and Google Play Books require you purchase your books (Audible having a subscription, Google Play doesn’t). Lastly, the mostly-free option of Librivox.
I love getting books from my library. I do not love Libby. This app is awkward. It only recently (like maybe this summer) finally updated to even work on Android Auto. And it’s…. usable. The controls are all-but useless (the skip is worthless in the car – it skips too much – I made this mistake once).
The worst thing is the launch. Libby doesn’t remember I was just listening to the damn book. I have to push the icon for audio (because Libby was my last used app on AA). I then have to OPEN the menu, pick my book, and click “resume.” GOD FORBID I am running around doing errands jumping in and out of the car at various stops – I have to do this EVERY TIME.
It exists but it is NOT user friendly. If it wasn’t linked to the library books…. I’d probably skip it.
Ok, so disclaimer here, I haven’t used my Audible in about 2 months – I’ve got like 3 books stacked up on it, but I’ve had library books that were on hold that came available and I had to splurge through like 3 audiobooks in 6 weeks. So they could have updated, and this is definitely the most out-of-date app for me to say “I used this ‘recently,’ I swear.”
But it’s a good app. It works and registers I was reading a book. On the AA launch page I can just hit “play” and it resumes my book. I don’t think I ever had to skip around a book for anything, if I did it was so easy I don’t even remember it.
Their subscription prices are also (in my opinion) competitive. I think the average audiobook is about $20. There are a decent number that are $10-15, but there are also a bunch that at $30-40. So for $15 you get 1 and $21 you get 2 books per month. At $21 each of these books is $10.50 – which is well below any average for audiobooks.
Google Play Books
This might be my favorite interface. Not because of anything really unique, but very simply for one setting. The speed. You can set/change the speed of the reading on Android Auto. So if the reader is a bit slow (I’m looking at you Michael Kramer) you can reset to 125%, and then when it switches (*ahem* Kate Reading) comes on switch back to 100% speed. I don’t always remember, but if it’s bugging me that day – it’s easy.
Now, the downside is the 100% must-buy-the-book-at-list-price. Now, they also seem to run lower average prices and deals regularly/all-the-time. I also use Google Rewards to earn credit. Now, this credit might get me one audiobook every six months – but still! For telling Google where I really was (or more likely wasn’t…) I get ~$0.20 each week. Maybe.
I am going to give a lot of leeway for Librivox. If you don’t know Project Gutenberg and Librivox – you need to. These groups take books/writings that are in the public domain and put them out for free. Gutenberg in text, Librivox uses volunteers to make audiobooks. Their app can be free – and supported by ads, or for $1.99 you can get it ad-free.
Really, there are several “weaknesses” to Librivox, but the only one in the app itself is it’s memory. I know of once I was most of the way home and someone called me – interrupting the book. When I got off the phone I went to resume and…. it had reset to where I had been at the beginning of my commute. It took a few minutes to get back to my spot (or at least close).
The downside to volunteers is the quality. Some readers are really amazing. Some of them suck. Sometimes it’s their pronunciation (people shouldn’t fake accents), sometimes it’s clearly they are using less-than-professional equipment (echos and breathing). I try to be patient with these things, but there has been at least one book I had to either muscle through bad readers on certain chapters or give up because there was only reader and she was awful (that particular one she didn’t understand commas, periods or inflection).
The interface itself isn’t bad at all, again – nothing too special. All the interfaces for Android Auto tend to be very simplistic (I mean, the goal is to be driving, not paying attention to your book).