Audible.com – Review

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Larry Behrens from PoorDadTech.Com.

audible

It started with a Facebook ad, of all things. Those ads that are over there to the right of the page promising you free gadgets, free girls or fake farms. This one offered me a free audio book of an autobiography I was debating over. I resolved to deal with only one page of spam and clicked on it. Months later what I have found is if you really buy a lot of books, this could be a way to get more for a little less. 

I’m talking about Audible.Com. Before you click away thinking I’m a hack for their company I’d like to throw two numbers at you: 15 and 3.  The 15 is the current number of books in my library on Audible.com, 3 is the average price (in dollars) that I paid per book. That’s it right there. 

 Audible is a website where you can purchase and download audio books. Those books transfer to your MP3 player and there you have it. I downloaded that first book promised in the Facebook ad for free. But I did have to give up a credit card number to begin an account, something I hate doing. The reason, because I’m the poster boy for being too lazy to cancel. It would be really nice if Audible truly gave out a no strings attached free copy. 

In a story that’s as unpredictable as a Harlem Globetrotter game, I forgot to cancel the membership. I shelled out the $14.95 for one month and resolved to move on. I received one credit for paying up the month. Audible credits are like currency, you can use credits to buy books or store them up. With the plan I was on they gave me one credit a month. I would go on to be an Audible member for three months and here’s what I learned: 

The Good 

  • Most of the books on Audible can be “bought” for one credit, so you can usually get at least one book a month with your membership.
  • There are two MP3 players in my home, I have an iPod Nano and my wife has a Sansa Fuze. Audible made it pretty simple to download the right file for each player. Getting the files to work with iTunes took about 5 minuets work I could’ve done without, but that’s it.
  • After that first month, I did try to cancel my membership; Audible offered me $20 to stick around and I took it, because I am easily bought
  • The children s books are a flipping bargain, and some of them have the illustrations move as video while the story is being read.
  • I got another free book for downloading the Audible App to my Blackberry (although they choose the book).
  • When the $14.95 a month became too much to pay, Audible offered to keep my account active for months. I didn’t get any credits, but I could still access the free content if I wanted.
  • Even if/when I am no longer a member, I keep the books in my library.

 

The Bad 

  • While there is a decent selection of titles, Audible simply doesn’t have an audio book for every published book. I would check their library before signing up to see if they’ll have enough to interest you.
  • After accepting their "$20 to stay" offer, I could no longer cancel online. I had to call in and talk to a representative who tries to keep you on board.
  • $14.95 a month adds up. Assuming a hard cover book is $20 you do save money if you only download one book a month. But I think the savings are a wash when you consider you’re buying a book you can’t put on your shelf.
  • Remember how I said most titles are 1 credit?  Well, some of the high demand or longer volume books can run 2 credits. My wife wanted to hear "Twilight" but we would’ve had to wait two months (to accumulate 2 credits) and would’ve paid close to $30 for it.
  • Audible offers free content to members, such as an audio version of some newspapers. But I could never find the time or the need to download them.

 

The Verdict 

If you’re going to make an Audible membership work you will need two essential things:

  • a love of owning many books
  • the time to listen

If you fall into those categories then the price for Audible is right for you. You will accumulate books much faster, and cheaper than buying the hard copies. 

If you buy a new book maybe once every three months or less, you might want to keep with the old-fashioned way.  As I said, I’ve purchased 15 books from Audible and that is more than I usually buy. But since I was paying for the membership I felt the need to make it worth it. But while I have 15, I’ve found the time to listen to about 4.  

The reason I don’t have a lot of time? I can’t stop clicking Facebook ads.

Bio: Larry Behrens is the founder/editor of PoorDadTech.Com, a tech blog aimed at those on a budget. He lives in New Mexico with his wife and four kids who will have to pay for college on their own because of his love for gadgets.

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.

11 Comments:

  1. “$14.95 a month adds up. Assuming a hard cover book is $20 you do save money if you only download one book a month. But I think the savings are a wash when you consider you’re buying a book you can’t put on your shelf.”

    I’m not sure that this is the best comparison. These are two different products. An unabridged audiobook in a retail store is more expensive than the print version. For example, the print version of The Lost Symbol is $17 on Amazon, while the unabridged audio book is $30 – and this is actually a decent price for this long of an audio book. (Yes, there’s an abridged version that is cheaper, but that’s not apples to apples).

    If you’re looking for free audio books, take a look at Librivox.org. I reviewed them a while ago. Volunteers read public domain works.

    http://www.observingcasually.com/librivox-free-audio-books/
    .-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..What Does Mitch Albom Know About Fantasy Baseball? =-.

    • I guess the cost is due to the fact that is cheaper to record a book (and probably more time consuming) than to print it? I’ve been tempted by Audible for a long time now, hearing it advertised and praised on many of the TWiT podcasts. The two things holding me back are the cost, and, more importantly, the fact that I have no listening time. I am a big podcast listener, and even have to start paring some of those back, since I can’t get to them all in a week.

      • I think there are two factors to the cost:

        1) You have two pieces of intellectual property, instead of one. The actual source context is copyrighted, and the recording is separately copyrighted. You also have two “artists” to pay – the writer and the reader. The recording is actually a “performance” that can be copyrighted.

        And if you don’t think the reader makes much of a difference, they do. I actually have a favorite reader (Scott Brick). On the flip side, my audio version of The Cell Window features a rather average reader (me). Having Brick read the book would actually enhance the experience. Sadly, I couldn’t afford his services :)

        2) Audio books are more convenient for a lot of people, and people are willing to pay for the convenience. There are a lot of situations where you can listen to an audio book but not read a print book (cruising down the interstate at 70 mph, for example). Kind of like ATM fees – ATMs save banks money (human tellers are expensive) but the banks somehow manage to charge for the service, because it’s convenient for customers.

        As for the actual production costs, I’m not sure how much of a difference there is. Some of the larger audio book can have 20+ CDs, but CDs are cheap. Then again, paper is also cheap. There could be an issue of the fixed production costs being spread over a small base, since a book typically sellers fewer audio copies than print copies. Of course, with digital versions, production costs would be minimal. Once the recording is made, just export to MP3 and put the files on a server.
        .-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Should I Turn Off My Computer At Night To Save Energy? =-.

  2. I have been a subscriber to Audible for 3-4 years now. I have 167 books downloaded which comes as surprise to me. I had not idea I had bought so many.

    Anyway, I love Audible. It is far easier to download books than import them from CDs, not to mention having to keep up with the CDs.

    Time is a problem, but I commute 30 minutes each way five days a week and walk on the treadmill 2-3 hours a week. I actually get “snippy” if someone is in the car with me and I can’t listen to my book. -grin-

    I agree with Kosmo that the narrator can make a real difference. There are some books that I actually prefer in audio because the narrator is so good. There is also a series of books that I stopped buying in audio because they changed the narrator.

    Obviously, I think Audible is worth the money involved.

    • Thanks for the input, Elaine. I don’t think I’ve ever head of a dissatisfied Audible customer. You all are making it harder and harder for me to pass it up.

  3. FYI, you can get the entire Twilight series, as well as a pretty decent selection, from your local library’s digital service for FREE! I download from both San Diego City and San Diego County Libraries. I’m going to sign up for and cancel Audible.com so I can get the rest of the Night trilogy by Elie Wiesel.

    • Thanks, Sarah. Now I just need to find the time to listen to everything!

      • I walk my dog a lot and listen in the car, while I’m doing yardwork, on my way to sleep … 44 audiobooks in 6 months since I started. All free, all from my two libraries!

        Here’s a tip for everyone though: if you transfer the audiobook to your player, the file will not expire like it will if you leave it on your hard drive. Then you can listen to it when you get to it. Did I mention that it’s FREE! =)

  4. Thanks for this review. I like your style (of writing) and the balanced approach you take to your review. Library, here I come!

  5. This is in reference to some of “BAD” parts you mentioned. As an FYI Audible is adding more and more books all the time. If a person travels a lot, plane, car, etc… It really makes a long trip shorter. Like Khat said, it is a balanced article you wrote. Thanks

    • I wasn’t an Audible user when Larry wrote this, but I am now. My problem now is I actually have too many books in my wish list, and not enough time to get to them. The selection is great.

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