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Do Audiobooks Take Up Data?

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Many people today use their mobile devices to listen to audiobooks while commuting, using a treadmill, or doing any other task that requires hands-free operation. For those who need to consider the cost of data on their mobile plan, however, it can be a concern that data is being slowly but steadily consumed by these downloads.

Listening to selections from Audible or one of the other audiobook publishers does not require depleting your data plan. Downloading a book, depending on the length, can require 280 MB on average, so the impact on your data plan is during the download.

Audiobooks, magazines and newspapers have been available in several forms for more than a decade. Some of these file options include CDs, DVDs, cassettes, USB sticks, and digital formats, such as MP3.

How much data does an audiobook use?

While listening to your copy of the latest digital volume from your favorite author, or absorbing information on a topic of interest from a previous download, there is no impact on your data plan. Where the costs come in is when you prepare for your listening time by actually downloading the audio file to your mobile device. 

For an average book length of 10 hours of listening, the download will require about 28 MB per hour, or about 280 MB in all. That can have a significant impact on a limited data plan. An average novel is ten hours, though many books are longer or shorter, so in part the download size will depend on your choice of listening materials, and at some level, the quality of the audiobook. 

Some examples of various audiobooks showcase this variation in listening time. The War and Peace audiobook, narrated by Frederick Davidson and produced by Blackstone Audio in 2005, claims a listening time of over 61 hours. This is an unabridged version, which means the entire text of the printed book is read by the narrator. Using the 28 MB per hour guideline for data download, you would use just over 1700 MB to prepare to listen to this book.

Another unabridged title is ‘Unsolved’ by James Patterson and David Ellis. This audible book is narrated by Kevin T. Collins and Brittany Pressley. The length of this listen is 12 hours and 12 minutes. James Patterson’s books are appealing to a sizable fan base, and this particular title would require downloading approximately 340MB to be able to hear the entire narration. 

At the other end of the book length spectrum, for example, is ‘How to Plan A Baby Shower’ by Eliza Manuel with narration by Peter Seymour. This how-to book is unabridged and the listening time is only 1 hour and 17 minutes, which equates to approximately 36 MB to download.

Can I listen to audiobooks without using data?

An audiobook (or a talking book) is a recording of a book or other work being read out loud. A reading of the complete text is described as “unabridged”, while readings of shorter versions are abridgements.The two factors of the definition are ‘recording’ and ‘read aloud’. By this definition any recording (using tapes, digital files, or other tools) of a narrated text volume is an audiobook, and does not necessarily use your data plan. 

Audio files can either be downloaded, which saves a copy of the file on your personal device, or streamed, which transmits the file in small packets for a one-time listening experience, but does not save it to your device. Streaming will require an internet connection, either through cellular data or wi-fi.

In order to download any file to a personal device and save it, you must either use a cellular data plan or connect through wi-fi.  When connected through your cellular data plan, if your data is not unlimited, this can incur costs through data overages.  One method to avoid these costs is by setting your app permissions to only allow large downloads while connected to a wi-fi network.

Can audiobooks be listened to without Wi-Fi?

Once you have downloaded an audiobook, you can listen to it using any of the usual players at any time, without requiring a cellular network or wi-fi connection. So long as the file is saved to your device, you should be able to access it and listen.  A network connection is only required for the initial download itself, and sometimes to update audio player apps.

Where Do I Find Downloadable Books?

With the growth in popularity of books which you listen to, rather than hold in your hands, readers can find a growing presence of audiobooks online. There are options to purchase a copy of the audio file, to download or to stream the volume, and some allow you to take part in subscription services which charge a monthly fee and provide a free audiobook or two with each subscription. is the largest and best known of the audiobook services. It is an Amazon subsidiary, which explains the 200,000 titles across dozens of categories. Audible offers readers many features and options. allows customers to rent, stream, or buy audiobooks. 

Blinkest is devoted entirely to nonfiction titles, and has a lower price with a year’s subscription. It produces its books in bite-sized chunks so it may appeal to those seeking to better their knowledge level without spending a lot of time in the process. 

Scribd is giving Audible some pressure because of its unlimited access to thousands of e-books, plus sheet music, magazines, and audiobooks. Unfortunately, you can’t keep your purchased downloads if your subscription expires. is also a rival to and Scribd, both in size and convenience. It has a podcast section which is 70,000 titles strong. 

The best completely free audiobooks service is Librivox, a streaming and download platform which has hundreds of audiobooks in many categories. This collection of books is all in the public domain and they are read by dedicated volunteers. 

Saving your data plan

When the benefits of audiobooks have you fully convinced, but you can’t afford a data hit, there are solutions. Perhaps the simplest is to use wi-fi when you want to download your next volume. Many public places offer free wi-fi, so there is no need to use your data to read. Try the library, coffee shop, schools, reading rooms, and churches. Many waiting rooms for clinics and passenger areas for planes, trains, and buses offer wi-fi. If possible, use an app setting that asks permission before automatically using your limited data plan. 

Why use audiobooks instead of printed versions?

It is common in any discussion about books for matters to get tense when the topic is ‘Which is better, print or audio? The honest answer is two-fold: personal preference and environment. There are places and occasions when neither option is appropriate. For example, don’t read a book, whether digital or paper, while driving. It is also not recommended to wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to a narrator while driving. Studies show that driving while distracted places one at a higher risk of an accident. Many states ban the use of cell phones without hands-free devices while driving.


Audiobooks permit getting your reading fix while doing almost anything else, including while on a run, cleaning house, walking the dog, or cooking dinner. For some people, an audiobook is the only way they are able to snatch time to read. 

Narrators are actors

Narrators make the speech and emotions of the characters come alive. Trying to convey a strong accent or speech pattern in print rarely comes through without breaking up the flow of the story. Skilled narration not only nails down accents, but can vary volume and pace, and can change the vocal range to identify different characters. Multiple narrators with sound effects can make the book an immersive experience.

Learning disabilities, physical challenges and audiobooks

For anyone who is dyslexic, reading may not be a joy; it is a stressful effort to comprehend meaning where the symbols we call the alphabet do not behave in a ‘normal’ fashion. When listening to the narrator reading information in a textbook, the student is able to gain the meaning from the spoken word and narrative that would not be possible from the printed text. 

Those with limited vision can utilize the many audiobook options for exploring the world in ways that may not be available in Braille. People with vision problems that occur later in life can still enjoy their favorite volumes at a time and place of their choosing. 

The weight of a book can be tiring when reading, while an audiobook is easily accessed on a handheld device that you would be carrying anyway. You are free of eyestrain which can happen when lighting on your text is poor, or you are in bright sunlight. Take your mobile phone on your next vacation and you need not worry about weight allowances in your baggage. 

Bringing books to a wider audience

Although reading is still a major means of communication in the world today, it can be more widespread by taking advantage of adaptability across multiple venues and senses. Making text classics available in audio form simply provides another way to enjoy the experience.