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Friday, March 1st
BookLender, founded in 2000, is an innovative service that allows bibliophiles to rent books and audiobooks, like how a library operates. BookLender offers a subscription-based model that grants its members access to a vast selection of titles without the commitment of purchase, or having to wait for a title to be available like you would with a library. BookLender's approach mirrors the DVD rental methods popularized in the early 2000s, adapting it aptly for literature enthusiasts.
Audiobooks available only on CD
BookLender rents audiobooks in physical formats, not digital. This might be a good option for those who don't use smartphones, people who have older models of cars with CD players but not Bluetooth, or those who simply prefer tangible media. One obvious drawback to listening to audiobooks on CD versus on a digital app is that it's easy to lose your place. Even if the CD is broken up into many tracks, if you can't listen to the end of the track every time, you'll have to skip around within it to find your place. And you'll always have to remember which track you were on when starting up the CD again.
Plans based on how many books you can rent at once
BookLender has several membership plans available for both paperbacks and audiobooks, and the plans are based on the number of books that can be checked out at a time. This means that there are no limits on the number of books that can be rented, but only a limit on the number of books that can be checked out simultaneously. Note that if you're interested in using their paperback rental service in addition to audiobooks, you'll need to create a separate account from the one used to activate your audiobook subscription.
Limited vs Unlimited plans
BookLender categorizes its plans into Limited and Unlimited. The Unlimited plan gives you access to current bestsellers as well as past popular titles. You'll also be allowed to order an unlimited number of audiobooks each month. A Limited plan will only let you check out titles from their catalog of current bestsellers, and you'll only be allowed to have a certain number checked out each month. Both the Unlimited and Limited plans include 50% off your first month, cancellations anytime, and no late fees or due dates.
Two versions of Limited Plan for audiobooks
Here's where it gets a little confusing. BookLender has two types of Limited Plans for audiobooks. The first includes CDs and MP3-CDs, while the other includes only MP3-CDs. But what's the difference between CDs and MP3-CDs? We'll break it down for you.
Not all CD players are compatible with MP3-CDs
CDs and MP3-CDs are both disc formats, but they have some important differences. Standard CDs use uncompressed audio and can hold up to 80 minutes of high-quality sound. They work with most CD players. MP3-CDs store compressed audio files, which means they can hold around 10 times more music than a standard CD, depending on the compression quality. However, not all CD players can read MP3-CDs, and the audio quality may not be as good as that of a standard CD. MP3-CDs also allow you to store other types of files, unlike audio CDs, which can only store audio data.
Limited plans are cheaper
BookLender offers limited plans for audiobooks that are quite affordable. The Limited CD and MP3-CD Audio Plan starts at $15.59 a month ($7.75 for your first month with the 50% discount we mentioned earlier), and you can rent one audiobook. Get two books at a time for $22.99, or three for $32.79 (before discount). The Limited MP3-CD Audio Plan ranges from $9.99 for one audiobook to $28.49 for three (before discount). Renewals are only allowed monthly, as opposed to Unlimited plans, which can also be renewed Semi-Annually and Annually.
Build a personal library of rented titles with Unlimited plans
BookLender isn't very clear in explaining this, but our understanding is that with the Unlimited plans, you can only order a certain number of books per month based on the plan you choose. However, you can keep them after ordering for as long as you like, and you don't have to return one before your next order can be placed or delivered. Here's a practical example: if you subscribe to BookLender's "1-at-a-time" Unlimited Plan for $26.49 (before any discounts), you can place an order for one audiobook this month and keep it for as long as you wish. Then, when the next month rolls around, you can order another audiobook without needing to return the first one, allowing you to accumulate a growing selection of titles over time.
6 at a time
On the other hand, if you opt for the "6-at-a-time" plan at $107.49 (before discounts), you can order up to six audiobooks in a single transaction. When the next month comes, you're eligible to place another order for six more titles while still holding onto the original set. This option is especially convenient for households where multiple people enjoy different genres or for avid readers who like to have a variety of titles on hand, as you can build a sizable, personalized library without worrying about return deadlines.
Option to keep titles you like
If you rented a book and enjoyed it so much that you want to keep it, you can do so by going to your Orders page and clicking on the Keep Book button located under each title. However, some titles may not have the Keep Book option available due to limited availability.
Always have a book on deck
BookLender's subscription system operates through a "Queue" feature. When a member finds a title they want, they can add it to the end of their queue by clicking the red "Add" button. The number of books shipped is determined by the member's subscription plan, and once a book is returned, the next available selection is automatically shipped. Members can add up to 500 books to their queue, remove titles, and modify the queue's order at any time.
Reviews are scant, but we trust their reputation
We had difficulty finding customer reviews and testimonials of BookLender outside of their own website, and they're not listed with the Better Business Bureau. However, they have been in business for over 20 years, so if there were any major issues, they likely would have come to light by now. Testimonials from customers on BookLender's own website say that orders are shipped in a few days, customer service is top-notch, and that they have no trouble finding the books they want to read.
Smaller, but solid, catalog
At the time of this review, BookLender had 40,000 audiobook titles available, which is fewer than other services we've reviewed, but understandably so - it's expensive to manufacture audiobooks in physical formats, so naturally some audiobooks, particularly those that aren't likely to sell well, will not be available on CD.
Just right for their niche
We think BookLender is a really interesting service: for nostalgia's sake, we're glad to learn that physical format audiobooks are alive and well. They're not going to be the right service for people who have adapted to a largely digital lifestyle (those who use their smartphones for everything and like it that way), but they'll certainly serve the needs of those outside that demographic.
The world of audiobooks has seen huge growth over the past decade, with industry surveys showing a double-digit increase for ten years in a row with no signs of slowing down. Various platforms for listening to audiobooks have popped up, each one catering to different user needs, budgets, and preferences.
The recent boom in the popularity of audiobooks can be attributed to a few different factors, but one of the biggest reasons is how well they fit into our busy, multitasking lives. You can listen while you're commuting, working out, or even doing household chores like folding the laundry. It's a great way to access intellectually engaging entertainment while getting some drudgery done.
And, thanks to technological advancements, it's easier than ever to access audiobooks. It used to be that you had to confine yourself to a room with a CD player to listen to an audiobook, but now, anyone with a smartphone has thousands of audiobooks available at their fingertips. Plus, as audiobooks have grown in popularity, so has their production quality.
Audiobook narrators aren't merely reciting the words on the e-reader in front of them in the recording booth; they are acting out the story. Accomplished actors and seasoned voice artists can bring stories to life, adding an auditory dimension to characters and settings that can sometimes rival or surpass the imagination. Narrators are often chosen because the story resonates with them personally, adding an extra layer of emotion to the performance and making it feel more human.
For those apprehensive about putting on their headphones instead of picking up a book, it's worth addressing some common misconceptions about audiobooks. Contrary to the belief that listening to a book is "cheating" or less intellectually engaging than reading, many studies show that the comprehension levels between reading and listening are strikingly similar. What's more, audiobooks can be particularly beneficial for those with reading difficulties, allowing them to enjoy literature they might otherwise struggle with. They are not a replacement for traditional reading but rather a complementary medium, broadening the horizons of literary engagement.
When it comes to audiobook services, there are several types to choose from. First, there are library-based services which partner with local libraries to allow users to digitally borrow audiobooks. Much like a traditional library, you can "check out" titles for a specific time frame using your library card. However, be mindful that sought-after titles might have waiting lists. Another option is subscription-based services. With a recurring fee, usually monthly, users can access a broad range of audiobooks. Depending on the service, you might get a set number of credits to pick audiobooks each month or even enjoy unlimited listening. Lastly, there are pay-per-title services where, rather than a subscription, you buy each audiobook separately. While there's no monthly commitment, the upfront cost for each audiobook can be higher. The upside is that you typically get to keep the audiobook forever once you've bought it.
When deciding on the right audiobook service, several considerations can help guide your decision:
If you want a detailed overview of the best audiobook services out there, Top Consumer Reviews has your back. We trust our ranked evaluations will guide you to the audiobook platform that best matches your listening habits and lifestyle!
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