E-Book Throwdown: Which Digital Library Service is Right for You?


E-book subscription service Scribd (you know, the Netflix for e-books) just beefed up its audiobook library. Today, they announced a partnership Penguin Random House Audio, which will expand their audiobook collection by 9,000 titles (bringing the service’s grand audiobook total to more than 45,000). The new audiobooks include Gone Girl, Game of Thrones, Runaway Jury, The Help, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and Fifty Shades of Grey—which, thankfully, is not narrated by Gilbert Gottfried, although several celebrities have lent their voices to many of the new offerings. With this expansion, how does Scribd stack up against its competitors? Here’s a look at the top e-book and audiobook services, what they cost, and what you get with each—plus our winning pick.

Oyster Unlimited • $9.95 per month
Oyster Unlimited grants subscribers access to over one million e-books and gives the option to buy titles that aren’t yet included in its free library. The user interface is streamlined and simple, and the content includes books from three of the big five publishers (Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster). The downside is that the service does not provide audiobooks and, as of yet, has no plans to add them.

Kindle Unlimited • $9.99 per month
The redheaded stepchild of the Kindle store, Kindle Unlimited boasts access to more than 800,000 e-book titles (though you won’t find e-books from any of the big five publishers on this relatively new, user-unfriendly service). Many of the books do have an audiobook option, and sure, you get Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but the free-with-subscription offerings are otherwise disappointing. If it’s a counterintuitive interface and limited options that you’re looking for, then this service is for you—otherwise, steer clear until Amazon gets their act together. Which, speaking of Amazon…

Audible • $14.95 per month
When it comes to audiobooks, Audible is by far the frontrunner, with over 180,000 titles at subscribers’ fingertips. The downside: you only get one audiobook per month (two if you’re willing to dish out a monthly fee of $22.95). The upside: the books are yours to keep, and you get 30 percent off of additional books if you want to buy more. The price is little steep and it’s irksome to be limited to one book per month, but readers with deep pockets will appreciate having such a listener-friendly selection on their various commutes.

Scribd • $8.99 per month
Scribd is a lot like Oyster. It too gives you unlimited access to over one million titles, including books from Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. On top of that, you get 10,000 comics and graphic novels from the likes of Marvel, IDW/Top Shelf, and Valiant (sorry Batman fans, no DC). Audiobooks are the icing on the cake—especially now, with the inclusion of titles from Penguin Random House. Yes, their audiobook library is a quarter the size of Audible’s, but you aren’t limited to one book a month (plus, it’s cheaper). Subscribing to Scribd is sort of like shopping at Trader Joes: you may not find every product you want, but it sure as hell is convenient, inexpensive, and downright delectable. And with a 30-day trial, you can even have samples.

So, who wins the e-book throwdown? Our pick is Scribd. Happy reading (or listening).