If you spend a lot of time in the car, you know what an awesome companion audiobooks can be.
A pricey one, too. A single "book on tape" (OK, CD) might run you $20, $30, even as much as $50.
That's why I'm a big fan of Audiobooks.com, which offers unlimited listening for a flat monthly rate. Just one problem: it's a hassle to use on your smartphone. Although you can access the service via your phone's mobile browser, you need a decent Internet connection to stream the audio -- and the browser interface isn't exactly ideal.
Update: Audiobooks.com recently canceled it's all-you-can-hear plan, and now offers more traditional subscription options.
Thankfully, there's now an app for that. The new Audiobooks.com app (Android|iOS) not only provides a better interface for navigating the book library and controlling playback, but also lets you download up to two books at a time for offline listening.
In case you're unfamiliar with it, Audiobooks.com is kind of like Netflix Instant Watch for audiobooks, offering all the books you can
eat hear for $24.95 monthly.
The service has some 10,000 titles, including popular stuff like "The Hunger Games" and Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio. However, I do find it a bit lacking in new releases. If you're looking for, say, Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" or Deborah Harkness' "Shadow of Night," you won't find them here.
Still, there's more than enough worthwhile listening here for even the most hard-core commuter. And thanks to the app, you can download two books in advance so you needn't worry about Internet availability -- or streaming your way past your data limit.
The app makes it easy to browse the Audiobooks.com catalog, which is divided into Featured and Genre sections. You can save any book to your My Books collection, essentially building a playlist for later listening.
However, I found the iOS version a bit confusing in places. For starters, you apparently have to listen to a 3-minute sample of a book before it actually begins downloading. And I could find no indication of a book's overall download progress (although there is a Download History area that does show completed downloads).
Update: There is indeed a download indicator (in the form of a bar across the bottom of the now-playing screen) that for some reason didn't appear when I first started using the app. But now it's there, and it solves my one key complaint with the app. Nice!
But those are minor gripes. Audiobooks.com is an almost unbeatable deal for folks who listen to a lot of books, and the apps greatly improve the experience of listening to them on the run.