Great Experience, Unfortunate Pricing: My Apple Books Trial
Apple Books is the best Apple service and store that I will not be using again anytime soon. It pains me to say it because I really do enjoy it, but I’ve listened to two audiobooks in it this year and there is one reason I won’t be using it for my next book.
The Books app on iOS is surprisingly good. It has a generally nice UI with some really excellent use of serif fonts to make this app feel decidedly more “bookish” than their other content stores and apps.
I like how the store is laid out and the curated collections on offer. I like how the chapter times and “time remaining” times change based on the speed that you’re reading (i.e. if it’s a 10 minute chapter and you’re listening at 2x, it will show as a 5 minute chapter…brilliant!). I like the cool animations when you launch the app. I like the support for basic iOS features like dark mode.
The list goes on, but the ultimate point is that I enjoy reading books in this app. It feels good from top to bottom and it’s a very pleasurable experience.
By comparison, the Audible app feels like an app that was updated for iOS 7 and then never changed after that. Yes, that’s selling it a little short as they have made some nice upgrades over the year, but their iconography and material work is all custom and looks like it’s several years out of fashion.
That’s it, but it’s a big one. My wife and I read a lot (maybe 50-75 books per year) and at that scale, pricing matters. Without getting too in the weeds, we pay for the 2 credit-per-month plan ($23/month) which essentially means two books per month. If we run over, we can buy 3 extra credits for $36.
Let’s say we have a big month and read 5 books this month because we’re amped up for the new year.
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
- Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
- Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Those 5 books would cost $89 on Apple Books and $59 on Audible. At 50% more per book, the math simply doesn’t work out. That’s $30 per month we could be losing simply by using this service, and for me that makes it a non-starter.
Before anyone asks, you own each Audible book you buy even if you cancel your subscription. It’s not like you lose everything if you want to take a break or go somewhere else.
Best of Both Worlds?
Audible lets you download your books and import them into Apple Books, which is nice, and for a second I thought this would give me the Audible pricing with the Apple Books experience. It sort of does, but there are two major downsides.
One, Apple Books will only open these files in the Mac app, not the iOS or iPadOS ones, because uuuugggghhhhhh. To add insult to injury, these books do not sync over the cloud like Apple Music imports, they instead sync using the good old fashioned “plug you iPhone into your Mac” method, which I had not done in like 5 years or more. If I want to listen on my iPad too…go on and plug it in too.
Two, and I think this one is on Audible, there are no chapter markers so you just get one 20 hour file to listen to with no indicators on good places to stop or use the “sleep at the end of this chapter” feature in Apple Books.
What I’ll Be Doing
I’m back to Audible with my tail between my legs. I’m not totally happy to be back, and if the difference was less significant, then I’d be more inclined to say “it’s worth it,” or if I didn’t read many books the absolute price difference would be too slight to matter. But with the quantity of books we churn though, it’s just not economically viable for us.
Maybe Apple will have some sort of Apple Books+ service I can subscribe to and get more books for less, but until that happens, Audible gets me so much more bang for my buck that I can’t use the app I prefer right now.