Audio Book Formats

In the past audio books were only produced as 'books on tape' but today things have changed. We now have numerous choices to consider when purchasing audio books. Here we will explain the many types of audio books available and the benefits to each.

Digital Audio Book Recordings

Digital recording versions of popular books have quickly become the fastest growing area in the audio books market. It is now possible to order you books online and have them downloaded to your computer or player in minutes. No longer is a trip to the store necessary. There is often an additional price break on MP3 recordings as there are no hard costs associated with distribution such as media and brick and mortar sales.


MP3 stands for MPEG audio Layer 3. This has become one of the largest standards for digital audio in the last several years. MP3's can be easily listened to from many portable audio players and home computers.
Sound Quality: Varies depending on retailer and encoding. Usualy quite high.


Audible uses a proprietary format for encoding their audio books that has been engineered to be supported using various readers and hardware players. Audible also offers 5 different types of encoding which produce higher or lower quality to produce smaller or larger file sizes. It is also now possible to burn your audible books to CD for easier listening. Many of the most popular sound and hardware players now support Audible, such as the Apple IPOD and Creative players. Please check out our hardware guide from the menu to see a listing of supported and recommended devices.
Sound Quality: Quite Good

NOTE: It is important to consider also what sort of copy protection is in use with the particular digital encoding you intend to purchase. Some retailers employ various copy protection schemes, which will limit the places you can play your audio book. Many of the more established retailers have put much time and money into developing compatibility with many of the leading portable audio players and personal computers. Our retailer guide will give you the lowdown on what formats are available and many limitations you may face. It is also recommended to check our hardware guide to find out exactly which device would fit your needs best.

Traditional Media, Audio Book Recordings


This is the most traditional format for audio books and has referred to in the past as "books on tape". Typically you will find books recorded onto anywhere from 1-6 tapes depending on the length of the novel. The downside to books on tape is that you typically have to rotate the tape and flip sides more often than with other formats which some might find to be quite annoying. One of the leading benefits of cassette tapes is that you can speed them up quickly without modification using a Variable Speech Control tape recorder. This allows you to listen to books quicker with less distortion without sacrificing listening ability. With the invention of CD audio this has become a less popular distribution model for all but purist audio book listeners.
Sound Quality: Least of all available.


The most common and widespread medium for purchasing audio books. Traditionally you can fit an audio book on anywhere from 1-6 CDís depending on the length of the novel. The advantage of using CDs over tapes is that you will not need to change the recording as often. CD media is also cheap and easily produced which mean that in some cases you will see a price break over Tape distribution. CD audio books are also the most compatible of all versions as they can be played on nearly any CD player and most cars are already equipped for play without any special hardware or modification.
Sound Quality: Excellent