Libro.fm is an audiobook service that makes it possible to support your local bookstore while listening to audiobooks. I’ve heard great things about Libro.fm so I recently signed up for the service to see for myself. How does Libro.fm work? Why choose Libro.fm? Is Libro.fm better than Audible? In this Libro.fm review, I’ll address these questions and more to answer the all-important question: is Libro.fm worth it?
The Libro.fm Story
Back in 2013, Libro.fm CEO Mark Pearson observed independent booksellers were struggling to compete with industry juggernaut Amazon (owner of Audible) in the lucrative audiobook market. Thus Libro.fm was founded with the vision to enable independent stores to sell digital audiobooks through a co-branded experience.
Libro.fm is a Social Purpose Corporation (SPC) and this unique business model means that whether you are paying for a monthly membership, giving an audiobook gift to a friend, or buying audiobooks for your organization, Libro.fm splits the profit from your purchases with a local bookstore of your choice.
You can watch the following video to learn more about the Libro.fm story:
What a great story! I love that with Libro.fm I can keep money within my local economy, create local jobs, and make a difference in my community. With this in mind, I’m eager to dive into how Libro.fm works and see what other ways it differs from its competitors, most notably Audible which has been my primary audiobook service since 2008.
How Libro.fm Works
How does Libro.fm work?
Here are the steps I follow to sign up and get started with Libro.fm:
Step 1: Create a free Libro.fm account. Go to the Libro.fm website and click either the “Sign up” button.
Step 2: Choose your bookstore. Choose the bookstore you’d like to support (there are more than 1,700 to choose from), and they will get a portion of every purchase you make.
Step 3: Sign up for a monthly membership or buy audiobooks à la carte. If you are an avid audiobook listener, you can sign up for a monthly subscription with either the code CHOOSEINDIE or SWITCH and Libro.fm will give you a bonus audiobook. That means you’ll have 2 audiobook credits to redeem from the start. Libro.fm also offers à la carte purchases for the occasional listener.
Step 4: Listen anytime, anywhere. Listen with the free Libro.fm app and enjoy features that make listening easier and more enjoyable, including a sleep timer, bookmarks, and more.
Overall, the sign-up process is straightforward and I’m soon ready to start exploring the Libro.fm catalog of over 250,000 audiobooks with my 2 audiobook credits.
Bookseller Picks and Featured Playlists
What are Libro.fm bookseller picks?
One of the main reasons people love local bookstores is for their community, curation, and culture. Libro.fm strives to provide that same experience, so it seems to make sense to start with the Bookseller Picks page.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci catches my eye. I’m only vaguely familiar with Stanley Tucci but the book has two ingredients I enjoy: being read by the author and being about food. Also, at the time of writing this, it is a Bookseller Pick, #8 Bestselling Audiobook, and #1 in Bestselling Biography & Memoir Audiobooks in the Libro.fm catalog:
Interestingly, Libro.fm doesn’t seem to feature customer reviews. What it does have, however, is bookseller recommendations. For this title, there are eight such recommendations, including this one:
So I purchase Taste using my first credit, if it’s no good I’m blaming you Julie from Honest Dog Books (or I’ll just email Libro.fm to return the book, more on this later).
What are Libro.fm bookseller picks?
Now for my second credit… I notice Taste is featured in multiple playlists:
Libro.fm Playlists are booklists curated by expert booksellers, the Libro.fm team, and influencers. You can click here to check out the Libro.fm Playlists – there really is a fantastic and diverse selection of topics.
Anyway, I go down the rabbit hole of Libro.fm playlists; what I find is there are a number of titles that look pretty interesting based on their inclusion in a playlist and/ or recommendation by a bookseller that otherwise I probably wouldn’t consider.
Ultimately, I end up at the playlist Top 20 Bookseller-Recommended Audiobooks of All Time which is actually a quite unexpected mix of titles. I’ve heard good things about Daisy Jones & The Six and this is reinforced by the bookseller recommendations, so I decided to give it a shot.
The Libro.fm App
Is the Libro.fm app any good?
Libro.fm offers multiple ways to listen to their audiobooks but the recommended is with the Libro.fm app available through the App Store or Google Play Store.
As an iOS user, I head to the App Store and download the Libro.fm app. It has an impressive rating of 4.9/5.0 based on 10,000 ratings at the time of writing this review so people seem to like it:
Once downloaded, I log in to the app with my email and password, and am happy to find my audiobooks waiting for me in my library:
Awesome! I’m all ready to start listening to one of my audiobook selections.
Libro.fm vs. Audible
How does Libro.fm differ from Audible?
As mentioned earlier, Audible has been my primary audiobook service since 2008, so I’m keen to see how the two services match up. As I explore Libro.fm these are the main differences I find:
Selection. In terms of catalog size, Audible has the advantage with its current 400,000+ available titles vs. a still very respectable 250,000+ for Libro.fm.
Exclusives. One reason Audible has a bigger catalog is Audible exclusives. What are Audible exclusives? Basically, these are audiobooks produced and distributed by Audible that can only be accessed by Audible subscribers. And this growing selection of exclusives is not just obscure titles but big, popular releases like Project Hail May and Born a Crime. Libro.fm has actually given their view on this topic here: The Harmful Impact of Audible Exclusive Audiobooks.
Price. Libro.fm is $14.99 USD per month. Audible Premium Plus is $14.95 USD per month. So they basically cost the same except with Audible you also get access to its Plus Catalog.
Free trial. Audible offers a 30-day free trial whereas Libro.fm offers a bonus audiobook when you sign up for a monthly membership. So for some listeners, Audible may have the better offer as there is no upfront cost. But this isn’t an issue for me and I appreciate the bonus audiobook I get with signing up for Libro.fm!
Bookseller recommendations. Libro.fm ditches customer reviews in favor of bookseller recommendations. I found these recommendations to be really useful while browsing the Libro.fm catalog. In fact, I’d say I have better experience browsing for my next listen on Libro.fm vs. Audible. When I think about it, this makes perfect sense: a recommendation from a trusted source is usually how I pick my next title. Audible customer reviews can be helpful, though, particularly when it comes to narration. Maybe there could be room for both on Libro.fm?
Reviews. Libro.fm does supplement bookseller recommendations with reviews from media outlets (e.g. Washington Post). These are helpful, however, they’re not necessarily audiobook-focused. Take, for example, French Braid by Anne Tyler which at the time of this review is a new release. On Libro.fm there are currently no bookseller recommendations for the title and the reviews included – while excellent – are not necessarily related to the audiobook version:
Returns. Both Audible and Libro.fm allow returns. Audible is easier as you can do it either via Desktop or Mobile. That being said, I reached out to Libro.fm via firstname.lastname@example.org to test their return policy and found myself being helped by CEO Mark Pearson. How cool is that? It led to some emails back and forth. I asked Mark why he was answering such emails and he told me “support is a team effort here.” And he vouched for my pick, Taste, describing it as “amazing”.
Apps. The Audible app is currently rated 4.8/5.0 on the App Store vs. 4.9/5.0 for the Libro.fm app, so pretty much the same. However, with Libro.fm you are not restricted to the Libro.fm app as you can also download the MP3 audiobook files of your audiobooks directly to your computer and import these files into your media player of choice. This leads to my next point…
DRM. The reason you can download the audio files is that Libro.fm is one of the few places where every audiobook is DRM-free. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. Different companies use different methods to execute this but what it boils down to is an attempt to restrict the transfer of digital media to a party that has not paid for said media.
Unlike Libro.fm, Audible books do come with DRM. Admittedly this has never been an issue for me but I can appreciate why some people don’t like it. In my research for this Libro.fm review, I came across an interesting article We Need to Talk About Audible by Cory Doctorow. He writes, “Using technology to lock in your customers is great if you’re the dominant player—it’s terrible for everyone else.”
Libro.fm have themselves written about DRM-free audiobooks here: Cage-Free Audiobooks.
If you do want to download the MP3 audiobook files of your Libro.fm audiobooks, you can follow the Libro.fm Download Guide.
International listeners. Libro.fm’s monthly, recurring membership option is currently available only to customers in the U.S. and Canada. I’m in Canada so this is fine, although billing is in USD vs. my preferred currency CAD. Anyone (i.e. international listeners) can buy audiobooks à la carte and purchase gift memberships, which can be bought for yourself or for others. Libro.fm does say though: “The Libro.fm community includes listeners from all over the world, and in the future we plan to offer membership in more countries.”
Audible, on the other hand, already has many established marketplaces for international listeners. For example, Audible.ca serves listeners such as myself who live in Canada.
Bookseller Recommendations and Playlists. I love the sense of community that Libro.fm has developed through its curated playlists and bookseller recommendations. The whole experience feels very personal.
Corporate structure. Libro.fm is a Social Purpose Corporation making it a great option if you are seeking an ethical alternative to Audible, an Amazon company. I’ve included more information on what a Social Purpose Corporate is in my FAQ section at the end of this review.
Support your local bookstore. Libro.fm splits the profit from your purchases with a local bookstore of your choice. My closest independent bookstore (I’ve intentionally not said local as it’s over 100 km away) is Three Hills Books (if you know where Three Hills is without using Google, congratulations you win a prize). I selected Three Hills Books during the signup process and, as you can see in these screenshots, the Libro.fm website and emails I receive are co-branded with Three Hills Books which I think is really cool:
Is Libro.fm better than Audible?
Before I answer this, let me tell you about my recent Audible experience.
While writing this Libro.fm review I wanted to pause my Audible membership so I could save a few dollars during my Libro.fm trial. Audible members with monthly plans can pause their account one time every 12 months.
I’ve already paused my Audible membership in the past 12 months (something I like to do while trying different audiobook services) so the self-service option was not available. When I reached out to Audible Customer Service for this request I was told “no”. I understand this answer is in line with their policy but it was still a surprise for three reasons:
- Every interaction I’ve had with Audible from 2008 until this one has been positive.
- Audible has previously allowed me to pause my membership in the exact same situation.
- Amazon is famous for its “customer obsession” (I didn’t feel the love with this interaction).
Anyway, instead of pausing, I decided to cancel my Audible membership:
Honestly, I’m not too fussed about this as I know I can keep my Audible library and restart my membership at any time. And full disclosure: given I publish this audiobook site, consume a lot of audiobooks, and enjoy some Audible exclusives, I expect I’ll restart my Audible membership at some point. But I guess we’ll see… for now I’m really enjoying what Libro.fm offers and am happy to have made the switch. Heck, Libro.fm will even let me pause my membership whenever I want.
Sidenote: if you are wondering how to pause or cancel Audible you can read this guide I’ve written: How to Cancel Audible (or Simply Pause Your Membership).
Anyway, back to the actual question: is Libro.fm better than Audible? Really, it depends. Both services have their pros and cons so which one is better for you will depend on what you value most in an audiobook service. If you perceive Amazon as having ethical issues, want DRM-free audiobooks, and would like to support your local independent bookstore, then Libro.fm is a great alternative to Audible. If you don’t have any issues with how Amazon does business, want to choose from the largest selection of titles, and enjoy the Audible Plus catalog, then Audible is probably a better option. For me, as mentioned, Libro.fm is my pick at the current time.
Verdict: Is Libro.fm Worth It?
It should be obvious from this review I’m a big fan of Libro.fm! It does have room to improve in some areas but overall Libro.fm manages to deliver a unique, personal, and high-quality offering that makes it stand out against industry juggernaut Audible and other audiobook services.
So is Libro.fm worth it? Yes! Libro.fm has a lot more to offer than just “feeling good” about being a customer (although I do love that!). My favorite thing about Libro.fm is the fantastic community. This is evident in the many playlists curated by expert booksellers, the Libro.fm team, influencers, and others. I also enjoy following their Twitter and Instagram accounts.
To sum up, here are some reasons you might choose Libro.fm:
- Your audiobook purchases support local bookstores
- Catalog of over 250,000 audiobooks, including bestsellers
- Expert picks from booksellers
- Free and highly rated iOS and Android listening apps
- DRM-free downloads (own your audiobooks)
- Dedicated customer support at email@example.com
Well, that’s it for my Libro.fm review. Now, it’s time to listen to Stanley Tucci…
What? You’re still here? In this section, I did deeper into the service and answer some further questions you may have about Libro.fm.
How does Libro.fm membership work?
- Each month, you receive one audiobook credit in exchange for an automatic monthly charge of $14.99 USD plus tax to your credit card. Your membership provides ongoing support for local bookstores.
- Audiobook credits from your membership can be used on your choice of over 250,000 audiobooks, regardless of the list price. (Note: Certain audiobooks cannot be purchased with credits due to publisher restrictions).
- Audiobook credits never expire and can be used on gifts.
- As a member, you receive 30% off additional à la carte audiobook purchases, including gifts.
- You can place your membership on hold or cancel anytime and keep your audiobooks and unused credits.
- Monthly membership is currently available only in the United States and Canada, but gift memberships are available worldwide.
What are the benefits of Libro.fm Membership?
Libro.fm offers a number of membership benefits:
- Includes one audiobook per month. You’ll be charged $14.99 USD plus tax per month for one audiobook credit.
- 30% off additional audiobooks. Members receive 30% off à la carte audiobook purchases, including individual gifts.
- No strings attached. Hold or cancel your membership anytime. You’ll keep your audiobooks and unused credits.
- Easy returns. It’s free and easy for members to return audiobooks. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Libro.fm reserves the right to limit the number of returns in order to prevent abuse of this policy.
- Support local bookstores. Libro.fm makes it possible for you to buy audiobooks through bookstores, giving you the power to keep money within your local economy, create jobs, and make a difference in your community.
Does Libro.fm have a free trial?
No. Instead of a free trial, Libro.fm offers a free audiobook with membership. When you sign up for a new monthly membership with either the code CHOOSEINDIE or SWITCH, Libro.fm will give you a bonus audiobook. That means you’ll have 2 audiobook credits to redeem from the start.
Does Libro.fm have discounted and sale audiobooks?
Yes. Libro.fm also has a regularly updated selection of discounted and sale audiobooks, including bestsellers and featured picks:
What is Libro.fm for Business?
Libro.fm for Business is a social good alternative to Amazon’s now-defunct Audible for Business, allowing companies to invest in professional and personal development while financially supporting a local bookstore.
How Libro.fm for Business works:
- Companies offer employees a curated collection of audiobooks.
- Libro.fm works with companies to select audiobook options, including bookseller recommendations, from our catalog of 250,000+ audiobooks.
- Each company sets its own monthly download limits.
- Employees worldwide can browse audiobooks and listen on the free Libro.fm app (iOS and Android).
- Libro.fm provides dedicated customer support for companies and employees, as well as reporting, ongoing curation, and optimization recommendations.
- Libro.fm directs a percentage of the revenue to a local bookstore (or multiple bookstores) selected by the participating company.
What is a Social Purpose Corporation?
A Social Purpose Corporation (SPC) employs a hybrid approach to growth and profit, incorporating elements of traditional for-profit business and nonprofit organization. An SPC is able to pursue both social and financial goals in the for-profit context, even if those social goals may at times conflict with the corporation’s financial interest or shareholders’ financial interests.
- You keep money within your local economy. Proceeds from audiobooks purchased through Libro.fm are shared with your local bookstore. Your community sees 25% more money when you shop locally rather than at a national chain. More of your tax dollars are also reinvested into your community.
- You create local jobs. Local businesses—bookstores included—are better at creating higher-paying jobs within the community.
- You protect the environment. Digital audiobooks have a very small carbon footprint. In addition, buying print books locally requires less packaging and less transportation.
- You make a difference. Local businesses are directly involved in their community’s economy and donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
- You help shape your community. Local bookstores curate their selection based on what they know their community members are interested in. When you buy from local booksellers, you are participating in the conversation that shapes your local culture.
If you’d like to learn more on this, Libro.fm publishes a Social Purpose Annual Report each year which is worth checking out.
Have you tried Libro.fm? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments section below.