Entertainment iPhone and iPad

Top 3 Apps for Listening to DRM-Free Audiobooks on iPhone

Khamosh Pathak 13-02-2017

I love audiobooks because they’re such a great life hack. You can read, learn, consume knowledge, without actually reading anything at all. You can also do it anywhere: walking the dog, washing the dishes, working out, or when you’re commuting to work.


When many of us think about audiobooks, the first thing that springs to mind is Audible. It’s a great service but at around $15 a book, it can be a bit expensive. Instead try downloading DRM-free and out-of-copyright audiobooks, then transfer them to the apps listed below and you’re good to go.

Why an Audiobook App?

Your first instinct might be to just play an audiobook using the default Music app or something like VLC. It’s just an MP3 file, how bad can it be right? Pretty bad. Audiobooks are usually hours long and are sometimes split into 30-minute tracks. If you play them using a Music app, it will play just fine, but the app won’t bookmark your progress. Every time you come back to resume an audiobook, you’ll need to scrub manually.

Dedicated audiobook apps solve this problem and add some extra useful features. You can explore audiobooks based on chapters, set a sleep timer, add bookmarks and take notes. The best apps make it really easy to import an audiobook from a PC, Mac, Dropbox or the internet in general.

Fantastic Audiobooks and Where to Find Them

There are a lot of places to find DRM-free and public domain audiobooks that don’t cost a thing. LibriVox is the best source for out-of-copyright books. OpenCulture has a big list of freely available audiobooks. We’ve highlighted more sources in our article here This Site Has Thousands of Free Public Domain Audiobooks Audiobooks can be expensive. Why not relieve some of the pressure on your wallet by listening to these free public domain audiobooks instead? Read More .

Of course, as we’re talking about free audiobooks, you’ll have to do make do with the classics and the not the very latest releases or bestsellers. Books you’ll find online, for free, won’t have the level of storyline and polish you’re used to with mainstream books. But then again, you’re here trying to find the best way to listen to DRM-free books, so we’ll assume you’ve already assembled a good collection.


1. iBooks (Free)

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out if iBooks supported DRM-free audiobooks. DRM-free EPUBs worked just fine so audiobooks would too right? A Google search confirmed my suspicions. It’s possible if you use iTunes to sync them.

audiobook apps drm free iphone 3

Here’s how it works:

  1. Drag the audiobook files into iTunes, in the Library section.
  2. Select these files, right-click and select Get Info.
  3. Go to the Options tab and change the Media kind to Audiobook.
  4. Connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC, go to the sync view and from the sidebar, select Audiobooks.
  5. Check Sync Audiobooks, sync your iPhone and they’ll make it to your iPhone.
  6. Now on your iPhone, open the iBooks app. Change to the Audiobooks view by tapping the drop-down at the top of the screen, and there they are.

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From now, it’s smooth sailing. Tap on an audiobook to start playback. You can tap on the 1x button to speed it up or tap on the list icon in the top-right to see all chapters. Swipe left/right and hold on the audiobook art to skip in increments of 15 seconds. There’s sleep timer feature as well.

And thanks to the 3D Touch action in the app icon Everything You Can Do With 3D Touch on Your iPhone 3D touch is really just a fancy name for a pressure-sensitive screen, but adds a whole array of extra input options to iOS. Read More , you can resume your most recently played audiobook from the Home screen with one tap.

2. Bound ($3.99)

Bound is a big step up from iBooks. It retains the simple UI but adds features like bookmarks and easy wireless sync. Currently, Bound syncs with Dropbox and Google Drive and plays all major file formats including M4B. You can also use its Web Uploader to wirelessly sync audiobook files from your PC. After connecting your Dropbox account, you can explore folders and select audiobook files to download.

Top 3 Apps for Listening to DRM-Free Audiobooks on iPhone audiobook apps drm free iphone 6


Once files are downloaded or copied over, Bound is intelligent enough to take care of the rest. The app will create the audiobook entries and will update them as you download more chapters.

The app itself is a minimal affair, taking design cues from the iBooks player and Overcast podcast app (which I’m a fan of). But it’s filled with useful features as well. You’ll find bookmarks, chapter markers, playback speed and sleep timer controls. I’ve been using the app for a couple of months now, without any major issues.

audiobook apps drm free iphone 5

3. Bookmobile (Free, $3.99)

Bookmobile is the most versatile third party option for playing audiobooks. The app is free to start with and comes with a 60-day, five audiobooks trial. Bookmobile’s UI can be a bit confusing to start with, and it’s nowhere near as polished as iBooks.


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Bookmobile has multiple ways of importing audiobooks. It supports the traditional iTunes File Sharing method. But it’s a long process. You have to add files to the app, sync your device, then import the selected files from within the app.

Alternatively, you can use Bookmobile’s Wi-Fi transfer feature. After both devices are on the same network, open the web browser on your PC and enter the link Bookmobile gives you. Add the audiobook files here and they’ll be copied to the app wirelessly.

Bookmobile also lets you import files from the Dropbox app using the Open in feature on the Share sheet. You can directly download an audiobook from sites like LibriVox using the built-in web browser as well.

audiobook apps drm free iphone 1

The options for playing and organizing audiobooks are just as varied. You can play MP3 files and M4B files (along with audiobook metadata like chapters, artwork and more). The app will even let you play DRM content from iTunes and Audible.

The entire audiobook experience is editable in the app. You can change the title, reorder chapters, switch artworks, and more. Using the bookmark feature, you can tag parts of the audiobook and take notes as well.

As mentioned previously, the UI a bit weird. Playback buttons are at the top (not the most convenient place, especially on Plus models). Seek option is designed as a wheel (a nice little throwback to the iPod) which is split into 4 buttons. You tap the middle button to switch between seconds and minutes. It is, as I said, weird. To change the volume or the speed, you need to go to the settings tab.

Other Kinds of Audiobook Apps

I would recommend you start with iBooks as it’s free and probably already on your iPhone. If you’re dead set on using a third party app for this, I would recommend you pay up and go for Bound, it’s a much nicer experience. But those are the not the only kind of audiobook apps out there. Here are some alternatives that still stay in the free audiobooks category.

Audiobooks: If you want to play free and out of copyright audiobooks and want to do it without any fuss, download the simply named Audiobooks app. Here you can browse a collection of free books, download them and start playing them without ever thinking about an iTunes sync (which is always a good thing).

LibriVox: LibriVox is a simple app for downloading and listening to public domain audiobooks from the LibriVox organization.

OverDrive: If you’re a member of a local library that allows you to check out digital audiobooks, you can use OverDrive to do so provided your library supports the service. It makes checking out eBooks and audiobooks much easier, it’s available worldwide, and it’s free.

You might also want to know how to free up your DRM-protected music and how to remove DRM for your eBooks.

Interested in more apps for iPhone? Take a look at our list of iPhone RSS readers The 5 Best RSS Reader Apps for iPhone Tired of news apps that don't show what you want? Then it's time to get back into RSS. Here are the best RSS readers for iPhone. Read More for getting your content.

Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Bioy
    February 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! Very helpful to know that is possible to use ibooks to listen to audiobooks! Anyway, a limitation I noticed with using ibooks for audibooks is that although automatically saves the latest place in the book I had listened, it inot possible using ibooks to save multiple bookmarks of the same book that one can save when is listening to one audiobook and likes to get back to specific places or segments of that book (for instance to listen it again or write a quote one likes). Basically, i'm looking for the feature that ibooks have for books, but I see is missing for audiobooks. Does Bound has this feature that enables to save several bookmarks of the same book one is listening to?

  2. Annette
    January 28, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Seriously!!??? Where has this info been all my life? I've been listening to audiobooks in iTunes and having to scrubber my way back to the place I left off for....YEARS!!!! I hated stopping a book and I would leave it open on my ipod so I wouldn't lose my place. I knew there must be a better way or an app of some kind and that's when I landed here.

  3. Listening
    September 13, 2018 at 5:54 am

    OMG, Thank YOU! I love Hay House audiobooks, but they only have a super basic player on their website. They do allow downloads of purchased material, but I couldn't get iTunes to work (I do almost all of my computing on my phone and don't sync it to my laptop so didn't want to have to start now). Bookmobile is working perfectly so far. Sure I have to use the laptop to get the book onto my phone, but I don't have to deal with all the hassle of iOS trying to sync everything just to be able to listen to a book.

    I've been listening to the book in Files and trying to remember where I left off each time... Ugh.
    Thank you!

  4. JB
    July 9, 2018 at 4:30 am

    I am looking for an alternative to ibooks.
    All the apps I've tried so far don't access the audiobooks (mp3) files that I load using 3rd party software. ibooks finds the files for playing OK, but sometimes looses my place after ending & restarting the app. Not always, just sometimes then making it a hassle to find where I left off.
    Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  5. James
    December 2, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    I used iBooks for a long time, but keeping all the metadata correct and making sure iBooks was happy was too much of a pain.

    So I got Bookmobile and was a big fan of that for a while. But loading up books was still a pain. Zipping up a directory of mp3s made things easier to transfer but it was still just too many steps for me.

    I just recently got Bound and love that is (just recently got the feature) connects to my OneDrive account. The only thing I wish it would do it start in a directory of my choosing and sync location across devices. But it is SO much easier to load books now.

  6. Kenny
    September 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    To get the default music player to remember or bookmark your place, you must perform the following steps.
    1. Use MediaMonkey or some tool to make sure all of the metadata is the same for all of the tracks. Otherwise, iTunes may not know they need to stay together.
    2. Drag the files into iTunes, go to Music to find them, select them all, right click and select Get Info and mark that the files are a Compilation (checkbox).
    3. Go to options in iTunes and select to Remember Playback Position and CLICK OK (do not select the media kind to audiobook until after clicking OK - next step).
    4. With files selected, right click and select Get Info again, go to OPTIONS and change the media kind to AUDIOBOOK.
    Now, you can use the built-in player if you like. What I have found over the years is that Apple will eventually make every audiobook application you love not work with some software update, so you might as well use theirs.

  7. Jan
    August 17, 2017 at 7:29 am

    How do you access other Libraries Overdrive audiobooks if you don't have a library card for that library? I use the Overdrive app for my library and my daughter shares her library card with me for hers. But I don't know how to say access a library in Ohio if I'm in Maryland. Would really appreciate any help I can get. My library will get trilogies where book 1 and 3 are audiobooks but book 2 will be an ebook so I can end up buying it. Thank you all I n advance for your time and help!
    Have A Great Day!

  8. Shabby
    August 3, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing how to put audiobooks in iTunes (to sync to my iPhone)! I've been figuring that out.

  9. Hadie Bartholomew
    February 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    OverDrive is not limited to just the U.S. You can find OverDrive in 36,000 libraries, schools and colleges in 63 countries. If your library has the OverDrive service, you can access eBooks and audiobooks via the OverDrive app for free with only a library card.

  10. Hadie Bartholomew
    February 14, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Hi, OverDrive is international, not just for U.S. users. You can use the app to access eBooks and audiobooks for free with a library card at any library that has the OverDrive service, worldwide. You can find OverDrive in 36,000 libraries, schools and colleges in 63 countries.

    • Khamosh Pathak
      February 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks Hadie, I'll update the article.

      • Hadie Bartholomew
        February 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        Thanks Khamosh. :)

  11. Bhavik Solanki
    February 14, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Thank you for sharing this great information. This very helpful information. Here give good explanation in detail . It's Wonderful information.

    • Khamosh Pathak
      February 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      You're welcome Bhavik!