How to listen to Spotify’s huge library of audiobooks

Spotify's audiobook offerings are relatively new, so you may not be as familiar with how to use them.
A person'a hand holding an iPhone with a Spotify audiobook playing on the screen, with a houseplant behind the phone.
Maybe your plants want to listen too. Freguesia de Estrela / Unsplash

You probably know Spotify as a music streaming service, but you may not know exactly how robust its audiobook offerings are. At the time of writing, you can listen to more than 350,000 titles, and you can access them through the Spotify app in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Audiobooks have been integrated pretty neatly into the Spotify user interface, so you can search for titles, add them to your library, and play audiobooks just as you would with podcasts and songs. You don’t have to dig deep to find audiobooks on Spotify, and getting started is straightforward.

How to find and buy audiobooks on Spotify

The Spotify audiobooks interface, showing free audiobooks and other options for finding what you might want to listen to.
Like music and podcasts, Spotify groups audiobooks into different categories. David Nield for Popular Science

Depending on the whims of the Spotify algorithm, you may see audiobooks recommended to you as soon as you open up the app. You should also see an Audiobooks link, alongside Music and Podcasts & Shows, up at the top of the Home tab in the mobile app.

Follow any of these audiobook-related links to find titles, or open up the Search tab. Before you type anything into the search box, you should see an Audiobooks thumbnail underneath that will take you to the audiobook catalog. As with music, you’ll get a variety of recommendations, split into categories.

These categories change all the time, but you might see free or new audiobooks highlighted, or books that have been developed into movies, for example. Tap or click on any title to see information about it, including how much it costs, what its running time is, the average star rating left by other users, and who narrates it. In some cases, there will be a sample audio clip you can listen to.

[Related: 7 nifty Audible tips for your audiobook needs]

From the browsing we’ve done, Spotify’s audiobook pricing seems to range from completely free to up to $50 or so. Tap or click Get on a free audiobook to add it to your library, or Buy on a paid-for audiobook. Note that payments are all managed through the web, so if you’re using the mobile or desktop app, you’ll be redirected to a website.

By default, Spotify will suggest that you pay for audiobooks using a payment method you’ve used before, or one associated with your subscription, but you can change this if required. Audiobooks work independently from Spotify Premium subscriptions, too—you don’t need to be a subscriber to buy audiobooks, and if you are a subscriber you won’t get any titles bundled in with your monthly fee.

How to listen to audiobooks in Spotify

The Spotify audiobooks interface when you're listening to an audiobook in the desktop app.
You’ll see individual chapters shown separately in your listening queue. David Nield for Popular Science

After you’ve purchased an audiobook on Spotify, you’ll find it in your library. On the desktop and the web, click the Audiobooks link at the top of the left-hand navigation pane, and on mobile tap Your Library, then Audiobooks. Click or tap Recents at the top to sort the audiobooks by the date they were added, the date they were published, author, or in alphabetical order.

You can actually add audiobooks to this list before buying them, too. On audiobook listing pages, you’ll see a plus symbol—click this to add the title to your library. You won’t be able to listen to it until you’ve purchased it, but it’s a handy way to shortlist audiobooks that you’re interested in.

Once you’ve selected an audiobook from your library, tap or click the play button to get it started. On the playback interface, you’ll see the same play/pause and skip buttons as you do with music—though the skip buttons let you jump between audiobook chapters, rather than between tracks on a playlist. The other controls match the controls for podcasts: You can skip forward or backward 15 seconds, and change the playback speed (from 0.5x to 3.5x).

[Related: Where to find new Spotify playlists when you don’t want to make your own]

It’s impossible to add audiobooks to playlists, but you can add them to the current queue, albeit in a rather clumsy way: You have to click the three dots next to an individual audiobook chapter (desktop and web) or tap and hold on a chapter (mobile) to find the Add to queue option. There’s no way to add entire audiobooks to the queue, which seems a bit of an oversight on Spotify’s part.

You can download audiobooks for offline listening whether you pay for Spotify or not—just tap or click on the downward arrow on the audiobook page. On mobile, you can also pin audiobooks to the top of the list in the Your Library tab. To do this, tap and hold on the audiobook you want to pin, then choose Pin audiobook from the menu that pops up.