Over the summer, I had a revelation about my youngest son after presenting him with a beautiful, shiny new copy of the first volume of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques: he comprehends better when he listens to books than when he reads them. I’d always known that he was a struggling reader and had tried hard to get him to love reading more by providing him with books that I thought he would enjoy. It worked with varying levels of success over time, but never by anything that I could really predict or quantify: some days he would easily devour chapters of a book, others he’d  refuse to read the same book without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. It was only when I began to start planning for my upcoming Challenge B class and started looking for audio book options for the assigned novels my students would read that it dawned on me that perhaps my own son was one of those students for whom audio books is the better option. 

It was only natural, then, that I start my search for the perfect audio book provider with Redwall, since that was the most recent book I had purchased for him. I knew about Audible.com and so it was there that I started my research, but I quickly discovered that it could never be the solution for my family of readers. At $14.95/month for only 1 book, it seemed like a total rip-off to me. I needed to find a solution that would allow my family to share books among ourselves at a reasonable price and audible.com definitely didn’t fit that bill. 

I decided to pose the question to my Facebook friends, and quickly got some great feedback that eventually led me to Oyster, then to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, and finally to Scribd. I’d heard of Scribd several years ago but at the time, it was simply a site for sharing PDFs, Word files, and other miscellaneous documents. At some point, though, it acquired digital rights to books and now features an immense library of both digital *and* audio books in a wide range of genres. I searched for Redwall and quickly found an audio version. With their “first month free” offer, I signed up, downloaded the book, and soon my youngest son was picking up where he left off. 

{The rest of this post sounds like a huge sales pitch so I apologize in advance for that. I have no vested interest in selling you on Scribd but just want other families to know about this excellent resource. Please read on with an open mind and see what you think for yourself.}

The cost for Scribd per month is $8.99, which includes unlimited e-books and audiobooks from their site. Unlimited. This was key for me! I know that many libraries have digital books that you can check out for free, but my experience with those has been that they are often subject to huge waitlists–sometimes even longer than the actual hardcover books. Also, I haven’t had great luck always finding the books I’m looking for in e- or audio book format. This is where I think Scribd really shines.

Scribd, a great site for audio books

These are some of the books that are currently featured on Scribd’s homepage.

As of the writing of this post, their catalog contains all but one of the books that are assigned to my Challenge B students, the sole exception being The Phantom Tollbooth. Each of the other books—Little Britches, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Hiding Place, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond (but also Sign of the Beaver and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, both of which are also possible choices for directors for the last book read in fall semester)—are available in audio book format. And not just a cheap recording of some random person reading the book but the exact same versions that are available on Audible for a much higher price! 

For fun, I also decided to see whether the assigned Challenge A and Challenge I books were available through Scribd and I was pleasantly surprised. Of the books assigned in Challenge A:

  • Number the Stars; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Magician’s Nephew; Amos Fortune, Free Man; and The Door in the Wall were all available in audio book format;
  • The Bronze Bow; The Secret Garden; and A Gathering of Days were all available as e-books

In Challenge I:

  • The Sign of the Beaver; Johnny Tremain; The Call of the Wild; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Billy Budd; The Scarlet Letter; The Red Badge of Courage; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever; Born Again; Starship Troopers; Up from Slavery; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; To Kill a Mockingbird; Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson; Walden; and The Witch of Blackbird Pond were all available in audio book format
  • The Old Man and the Sea was available in e-book format

With smartphone and tablet apps available for both Apple and Android devices, Scribd is super easy to get around: just go to their homepage and begin navigating their site depending on the two major categories—e-book or audiobook. You can quickly set up collections and download books to your device for offline listening. I recently listened to a volume of Alice Munro short stories over a couple of weeks during the end of summer while running around doing various errands. If I wasn’t at home, I didn’t have to worry about whether I had a good connection because the book was downloaded to my phone. 

We have a pretty tight budget at our house for entertainment expenses but this $8.99/month has been one of the best investments we’ve made when it comes to digital reading. With an incredibly diverse selection of books for that low monthly price, available as either e-books or audio books, you really can’t go wrong with Scribd. Check it out and see if you’re not as impressed as I was!