Are Kobo’s Audiobooks Too Overpriced?


Last week Kobo started selling audiobooks on their website alongside ebooks.

They also introduced an audiobook subscription plan that costs $9.99 per month in the US and $12.99 in Canada. Basically you get one audiobook per month with the current subscription, and they plan on adding more options in the future.

Kobo’s audiobooks can be purchased individually without a plan as well.

I was looking at the prices of some of them and I’m always surprised by how expensive audiobooks are.

Some audiobooks sell for over $50 and yet the ebook is only like $10. It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

No wonder Kobo and other audiobook companies have to resort to convoluted subscription plans or no one would buy audiobooks.

A quick glance at a number of random titles, it becomes quickly apparent that Kobo’s audiobooks are often priced higher than the same titles at Amazon/Audible. A few are cheaper at Kobo but most are cheaper through Audible.

Here a few examples from Kobo’s top 50:

The Girl on the Train – $28.00 at Kobo; $23.95 at Amazon

Thirteen Reasons Why – $26.60 at Kobo; $20.95 at Amazon

The Late Show – $30.79 at Kobo; $26.95 at Amazon

The Underground Railroad – $20.00 at Kobo; $23.95 at Amazon

The Hobbit – $20.97 at Kobo; $17.95 at Amazon

At lot of Kobo’s prices are higher but Kobo has a price advantage over Audible when it comes to the subscription plan. Kobo’s is $10 per month and Audible’s is $15. Both grant 1 credit per month to exchange for any audiobook, but with Audible you get 2 free audiobooks to subscribe and with Kobo you get one.

It makes you wonder if Kobo’s plan is to offer a lower price on subscriptions than Audible but with higher prices on individual titles to make up for it. If that’s the case you’re better off shopping around for individual titles to get the lowest price because Kobo’s audiobooks often priced higher.

Kobo also has their Price Match Guarantee that extends to audiobooks so you could get lower prices from them in the form of a store credit.

16 Responses to “Are Kobo’s Audiobooks Too Overpriced?”

  1. Does it matter? Who buys audiobooks without using subscription/credits? The way I see it, Kobo audio books are a great price, 2/3 of Audible’s price per credit.

    • If it doesn’t matter than why not have the same exact prices as Audible? Obviously some people buy audiobooks individually or the option wouldn’t exist. Currently you can only get one single audiobook per month from Kobo with their subscription. I’m sure there are plenty of people that want more than that, especially when you can get through an audiobook in just a few days. It’s not like Audible where you can just buy more credits when you run out. One per month is all you can get, at least for now.

  2. Not surprising that audiobooks are more expensive than ebooks. You have a whole additional team of people getting paid.

    You’re probably right in your speculation about differences between Audible and Kobo pricing. I would imagine being based in Canada may play some role too.

    • I can understand them being a little more expensive, but $50 for an audiobook at 4 or 5x the price of the ebook is just crazy. You can buy a DVD for like $20 that takes dozens, sometimes hundreds of people to create. There’s no reason audiobooks should cost that much. You can buy an entire season of Game of Thrones for half the price of a single GOT audiobook. It just goes to show how excessively greedy big publishers are in this day and age.

      • I agree with Nathan — Yes, there is some extra cost to producing audio books. So they should cost maybe a few dollars more per book, but 3x or 4x?

        I think it’s really just supply and demand dynamics. Because the market for audio books is really small they charge more for each book.

        It’s too bad — I’ve never gotten into audio books because of the high cost of audio books.

        • Is the market really small?? 3.5 Billions seems not too shabby to me.

          From an article on

          Over the course of the past three years the highest growing segment of publishing are audiobooks. The global audiobook industry is currently evaluated at $3.5 billion dollars and the United States is currently the largest singular market with $1.8 billion dollars in audio sales in 2016 and this was a 31% increase from 2015. The Audio Publishers of America has stated that every year for the past three years 36,000 audiobooks were issued. When it comes right down to it, the retailers are the ones who benefit from the audiobook revolution. The vast majority of the companies that spoke to Good e-Reader have disclosed that they have seen triple digit growth and expect this trend to continue into 2017.

      • But a DVD is more of a side product than an audiobook. (Unless it’s something that went straight to video.)

  3. For one thing, Amazon sells devices that audiobooks can be played on; Kobo doesn’t. Amazon is *probably* subsidizing … at least a little … their cost and it certainly gives Amazon more incentive to sell them than Kobo has.

    Why Kobo is selling audiobooks at all is a little puzzling.

  4. I don’t have the money for audiobooks and if I did I would want to pay those prices from either…

  5. In addition to production costs, you have storage and bandwidth costs. Just look at prices to purchase movies on Vudu or Amazon Prime. The cost of a digital copy of the movie is as much or nearly as much as buying the physical media (DVD or Blu-Ray), sometimes more if you can pick up the physical media at Wal*Mart in their discount movies bins.

  6. I don’t actually know this but my guess is that the audience for audiobooks is far smaller than for ebooks and production costs are higher. So they have to distribute the cost over fewer sales.

    • Yes, I think that’s a pretty good summation of why the pricing is higher.

      It’s a niche industry — if somehow the number of people using/buying audio books went up — pricing would go down.

      I don’t use audio books right now, but when I used to have a longer commute in my car — I would just check out audio books (via CDs) from the library. Selection was limited, but the price was good. 🙂

  7. I signed up yesterday and am living my first audio book. UK price £6.99 per month is competitive but when I’ve finished this book I’m going to be frustrated waiting for the monthly allowance. There is no way I would pay the prices they quote.
    It does worry me the apparently limited choice of audiobooks at present.

  8. Apart from individual pricing and subscription, you get many audiobooks for a £2.99 on audible if you already have the kindle edition. So sometimes it is even cheaper than 1 audiobook credit to get the ebook+audiobook. But I prefer to read on my Kobo, so I wish Kobo will introduce ebook+audiobook bundle soon.