The iPhone and iPad are perfect devices for listening to audiobooks. Apple sells audiobooks via the iBooks Store, accessed via the iBooks app, and you can also listen to any audiobooks on Audible, if you pay a subscription.
Getting audiobooks for your iPhone
It used to be that audiobooks were available from the iTunes Store alongside Music, Films, and TV Programmes.
Since iOS 8.4 audiobooks have been available from the iBooks Store, accessed via the iBooks app on your iPad, or iPhone. Once you download an audiobook it will be available to listen to in the iBooks app.
Complicating matters somewhat is that audiobooks still live in iTunes Store on the Mac (and play in iTunes). So if you want to download an audiobook on your Mac, you do that through the iTunes Store. No wonder people are confused!
Here is how to get audiobooks onto your iPhone:
- Open iBooks
- Tap on Featured or Top Charts
- Tap on Audiobooks
Tap any book to see more information about it, and tap the Preview icon to listen to an audio extract. If you like the book, you tap the price and click Buy Audiobook. Unfortunately, unlike digital books there are no free audiobooks (or at least none that we can see), however we did spot a few for less than a pound - including Alice in Wonderland and 1984.
If you'd like to hone in on a particular category of audiobooks you can. Having selected the Audiobooks tab at the top of the iBookStore, click on Categories. You can browse audiobooks in Arts & Entertainment, Biographies, Business, Classics, Comedy, all the way to Sports, Technology and Travel. Once you have selected your category choose See All to see more options.
If you know the book or the name of the author you are searching for, you can just click on the magnifying glass icon to search for it, you'll see Books and Audiobooks that match the name you searched for.
When you have found the audiobook you want to listen to and bought it, iTunes will open up on your phone - signifying that the book is downloading to that app.
However, despite the fact that it appears to download in iTunes, the downloaded audiobook will be available in the iBooks app. Open the app, click My Books, then click on the word at the top of the screen (probably All or Books) and change it to Audiobooks. It will play in iBooks.
As we mentioned above, Apple audiobooks aren't the only place you can pick up audiobooks (nor is it the only way to listen to them on your iPhone). There are a few other options, but the big one is Audible.
Audible has a deal where you sign up for a monthly £7.99 subscription and get one credit for a book per month (any book you want). It's a good way to build up a collection, and audiobooks can often cost upwards of £15, so it works out cheaper in the long run (assuming you listen to a book a month).
Books you get from Audible can be downloaded from the Audible website and added to your iTunes Library on a Mac. And from there you need to sync them with iTunes to the iBooks app. It's a bit of a faff, to be honest, so you're better off just getting the Audible app and listening to them via that.
Finding existing audiobooks on your iPhone
If you've bought audiobooks before and are looking for them on your iPhone you may be wondering where they are, being used to finding them in iTunes. If your audiobooks appear to have gone missing, you need to download and open the iBooks app.
Open the iBooks app, click My Books, then click on All or Books at the top of the screen, and change it to Audiobooks.
Tap an Audiobook to listen to it and a new window will open, similar to the Music app but with a few key differences:
- Skip back and forward 15 seconds using the 15 icons
- Tap to change the playback speed between 0.75x and 2x
- Sleep Timer: Tap to set the audio to finish after a period (or when the current track ends)
- A small icon in the top-right of the preview image brings up the chapter listing
If you bought books from Apple and still can't find them in iBooks, tap on Purchased to view all of the books and audiobooks you picked up in iTunes on your iPhone.
If the older books you are looking for are from Audible - which is feasible, given that Apple used to offer audiobooks inside iTunes via Audible. These books could only be downloaded once through iTunes, and do not live in your regular iTunes Download account. In this instance, you should find the book you bought inside your Audible account, rather than your iTunes Store account. Try logging into Audible or contact them to recover your account.