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How Much Data Does Streaming Audiobooks Use?

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Listening to audiobooks, music, or other digital entertainment on your audio device is a great way to enjoy the benefits of personal choice entertainment without the cost of purchasing a book. Streaming audiobooks is not without cost though, You will pay for some amount of data used for each minute you spend streaming audio to listen to an author or title narrated in audiobook form.

If you are a regular listener to audiobooks, the data that you use is variable by the quality of the audio you stream, and the size of the audiobooks. Due to the amount of data that is needed to play through an entire audiobook,Wi-Fi is preferable if you have access to an unmetered connection.

For most people with concerns about data plan limitations, an understanding of how streaming amounts are calculated is helpful. The calculations are based on the approximate rates of audio streaming, the size of the audiobook, and the quality of the audio which you stream.

What are the audio streaming rates?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), audio streaming average rates are approximately 1 MB per minute. Therefore, total data usage is dependent upon the quality of the audio which you stream, and the size of the audiobook. The next calculation is the determination of the audio or music file quality. 


Both audiobook and music file quality depends on the bitrate. An audio CD has a standard bitrate of 1411 Kbps (kilobits per second). It is important to understand that Kbps or kilobits per second is an entirely different measurement from KBps or kilobytes per second. 

MP3 rips from audio CDs can range from 96 Kbps to 320 Kbps. Audiobook streaming services typically run in the range of 64 to 192 Kbps, or thereabouts. When listening to music, the difference between the lower end and the upper end of the range can make a distinct difference in the quality of the sound. For speech, 64 Kbps can record as well as play back voice with no perceivable loss of quality, as long as good compression software is utilized. 

128 Kbps is considered to be quite good quality for an audiobook. So, if you were listening to one hour of streaming each day for a month at 128 Kbps bitrate, the approximate usage would be about 3 GB of data. If you were to use the lower, but still adequate, quality of 64 Kbps, the usage would be half that amount, or 1.5 gigabytes. 

Data plans are variable, limited by the features and the company which holds the contract. The average smartphone owner uses 2GB to 5GB of data each month. Streaming HD video content is by far the biggest culprit when it comes to draining a monthly mobile data allowance, however it is the combination of everything you do on your mobile device which adds up to your overall data threshold.

Audiobook size

The majority of streaming audiobooks run anywhere between 200 MB and 1 GB in total size, depending on their file compression and the length of the book in question. The typical play time in an average audiobook size is about ten hours, though some audiobooks are significantly longer.

According to the Guinness World Records, the world’s longest audiobook is 146,444 minutes 52 seconds long, titled Shree Haricharitramr ut Sagar. It was produced by Gyanjivandasji Swami – Kundaldham’ and Ishwarcharandasji Swami – Kundaldham (both from India), and published on 27 October 2017.

At 113 hours and forty-three minutes, listening toTakaaki Yoshimoto‘s Fifty Lectures would take five full consecutive days.

The Holy Bible King James Version; Narrated by David Cochran Heath and published by Christian Audio, Listening Length: 72 hours and 1 minute

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; Narrated by Frederick Davidson, and published by Blackstone Audio. Listening length is 61 hours and 6 minutes.

Streaming vs downloading

A quick calculation in regards to the titles shown above indicates that streaming an audiobook over cellular data is unlikely to be the best choice if you are trying to limit your data usage. However, if wi-fi networks are unavailable, you may have limited options, especially if you need to be mindful of your data cap each month.

As more and more people depend on the features available on a smartphone, it may be a deliberate choice to increase the data available on a monthly plan in order to enjoy the extra streaming features. If you are a regular user of audiobooks or other data-dense entertainment, it may be important to you to be able to enjoy the smartphone features without worrying about a data cap. In this instance, an unlimited data plan may be the least costly and least stressful option to enjoy listening to streaming audiobook titles free of guilt.