Audible.com

by brian d foy

Related link: http://www.audible.com



I access the internet through a bank of computers connected to a satellite IP service. The connection is fine for stateless things like web browsing, tolerable for things like chat, and unable to handle Real Audio. So, when I wanted to hear the latest episode of This American Life, I tried Audible.com.


The requirements seemed okay. I needed a regular PC with some disk space for their software and an internet connection, or I needed a Mac with iTunes. This sounded perfect---I had the PC connected to the internet, and if I could get the file, I could just carry it to my Mac on my USB key drive. I cannot connect my Mac to the military network, but for most things that is merely inconvenient.


I bought the file I wanted, found it on the page that lists my purchases after a bit of searching through all of the tabs, then tried to download it. Instead of an audio file, I got an installer for their PC software. This installer insists on Administrator privileges to install, so I could not install it. There was no way to simply download my purchase to use it on another computer.


After polling some friends online, I found one with a Mac and a DSL connection and got him to download it for me. He had no trouble. On the Mac, he simply downloaded a file, which he then made available to me (luckily we use the same ISP). I downloaded the file from him and carried it back to my Mac.


What Audible.com forgot to say was that even Macs need an internet connection to activate my computer so I could play the file, even though I already had the file. When I tried to import it, I got an error. I noticed it was trying to make a network connection. Their "What I Need" page did not say anything about the Mac needing an internet connection, and if it had I would not have purchased anything.


A couple of days later I happened upon a private network (non-military) and was able to activate my PowerBook to play the file, and when I finally could listen to it, I was disappointed. The sound quality was that of an old AM radio---not really noisy, but not crisp. They recorded the show at around 30 Kbps for their high quality version which came out to 14 MB for an hour-long show, whereas I am used to the much better sampled versions of the show I made with Real Audio and Audio Hijack (which are about 4 times the file size).


I emailed their customer service about their misleading requirements section, but I did not even get an auto-reply.


In all, not only was their service disappointing, but the product was not worth the effort. I would have given up on it a lot sooner if the content were less compelling. And, if I did not have a friend back in the States ready to help, I would never have been able to listen to my purchase.

Have you had better luck?


6 Comments

jimphelps
2004-02-11 13:11:47
audible.com - audio book
I bought an audio book (The Da Vinci Code) from audible.com. The sound was good. Activation was a bit of a pain but no too bad since I have high-speed internet at home and work.


The biggest draw back is that the book came down a single 6hour 10 minute file. I had to manually "fast forward" to the point where I stopped listening last on my iPod and desktop computer. It was a pain especially when you get 4 hours in. I had to have a sticky note on my iPod so I could write down the time point when I quit listening.


Audible books should come as a series of tracks IMHO.


5 stars for sound
3 stars for accessibility
1 star for usability


Jim

dougkeith
2004-02-22 12:41:34
audible.com - audio book
I've been downloading books from Audible since last summer when I picked up an iPod and am hooked on the serviceľ getting a couple of books every month. I have found the sound for Audible's programs to be fine and haven't had any of the problems downloading the files that Brian had, just having a conventional dsl setup with no network or multiple computer issues like he's had to deal with.


My experience with Jim's problem has been that I can go back and forth between a book I'm listening to and something else, and it will return me to the point that I've stopped at in the book very reliably. On the other hand, very occasionally, it seems like the iPod resets it back to the beginning or the file, or else I accidently hit the reverse button. This is a pain but I have gotten more adept at getting back to where I want to be.


Jim, do you know about hitting select when a file is playing and it divides the progress bar up into sections? With this you hit fast forward (or reverse) to move it through section by section, for a 7 hr file about an hour a section. You can also use the scroll wheel to to fast forward (or reverse) faster that pressing and holding the buttons. It took me a while to figure this out and it was very frustrating until I did, but again I would stress that this only happens occasionally and it should save the place where you stopped listening.


Doug

da_shrubber
2004-02-24 11:57:01
sorry, I think it's great
Bummer to hear about your probs. I'm a regular audible listener and use my ipod, so I don't have a file quality prob since I tend to use the highest quality. I think I hawe 12 books on my ipod. I go from comedy to drama to history. Dig it big time. I'd suggest another try.


rook999
2004-05-24 07:48:20
audible
When I first discovered audible.com I thought it was a pretty slick system. They are misleading when it comes to all of the hoops you have to jump through and software you have to install just to listen to a book.


My biggest problem with them is their pricing. When I began my account in 2001 I was able to get unabridged titles (each title in a series was 6-8 hours long) for $12 each. These same titles and exact same files today (May 2004) are $50 each. They've raised their prices so much that they are no longer competitive with CDs or cassettes. They've just overpriced themselves right out of the market.
The quality isn't great either. I always download the highest quality file available, and even those sound like a broadcast over a telephone line.


Audible was a great idea that just got too expensive and too cumbersome to be easily adopted.

frankpn
2005-01-03 13:37:46
Audible.noncom
I've used Audible in the past, and it is one of the worst companies I've ever had to deal with. With over 20 years of experience with computers, I find it extremely aggravating to deal with the activation and usage of audible media. I just recently tried to go back to a book I had downloaded, and find it is corrupt on my disk - and I'm unable to download the file again. A message to support indicates I may get a response by tomorrow. Excellent - if your file - which YOU purchased doesn't work today - we may have an answer for you TOMORROW. If I purchased the media - let me have access to it.
yohkos
2005-05-12 09:47:58
Audible.noncom
I am stuck with Audible for about 9 more months. Like an idiot I went on a promotion plan. I have been waiting for 5 days to recieve an email from them for tech support. I have installed and reinstalled the audio manager so many times, I have yet to listen to the books I bought. No, I didn't even get the curtesy of an automated email to let me know they were looking into the problem. As soon as my contract is up....NO MORE AUDIBLE for me.