I love audible.com

I commute over two hours per day, so it doesn’t take me long to go through all the books I want to read at local libraries. After I became frustrated with missing books in series I was trying to listen to, I decided to check out audible.com, which I had heard of, I think from Orson Scott Card’s blog. Audiobooks on CD are insanely expensive, but somehow Audible makes a profit with prices just above the cost of a paperback. Of course, to get that price, you need an annual subscription with 12 or 24 audiobooks. This is no problem for me; in fact, I renew my “annual” subscription with 24 credits multiple times per year because I go through well over 24 books. So I end up paying under $10 for new audiobooks, when the CDs actually cost upwards of $50.

At first, however, I was not a fan. Audible uses DRM (Digital Rights Management, or more accurately, Dastardly and Rude Mistreatment-of-customers) to “protect” their content. This makes it so you can’t listen to your audiobooks on your devices unless Audible supports them. Also, you have to use their software (or iTunes for applicable devices) to transfer books to devices. Copying an audiobook from one Kindle to another in windows explorer with USB mode will mean they are unplayable on the other device. You have to use Audible manager to load the audiobooks onto each device. Why the hassle? Like I said, it’s to “protect” the audiobooks from piracy. The only problem with this idea is that the books are already on all the torrent sites, so it doesn’t actually stop piracy. Also, pirates will have nice, DRM-free versions of the audiobook, so only those who pay have the headache of dealing with DRM. Brilliant, huh?

DRM lets Audible restrict burning of CDs to one copy. However, they needn’t bother. Burning an Audible audiobook (done with iTunes) is not an experience that is even worth the effort. It will forget to burn some of the CDs, and there is no good way to burn a disc that was skipped. You have to listen to the surrounding discs (and hear all sorts of spoilers) to figure out where the missing section is, and write down the times and then burn the disc again. This is way too much of a hassle to even bother. If you use must CDs to listen to audiobooks, stick to the library; Audible is not for you. I luckily had an iPhone and was able to abandon CDs, which ended up being cool since I could keep listening as I walked to my lab, and not just in the car. However, before I switched to using my iPhone, I almost cancelled my Audible account in frustration. Fortunately, Audible offered me a free audiobook as I was cancelling, and convinced me to stay. I’m glad I did.

Audible works pretty well if you want to listen to Audiobooks on a Kindle 3 or an iPod. It integrates with iTunes, which has a nice interface for audiobook management. You can also download books directly via the Audible app (which is also available for Android). Kindle 3, when connected with Wi-Fi, will see your Audible books and let you download them directly to the device without using a computer, as long as you have your Audible account connected to your Kindle’s Amazon account. This is easy since Amazon bought Audible.

With Apple encouraging publishers to shoot themselves in the foot with the Agency model, many new e-books are expensive at release and Audible has become the cheapest way to get the latest books. It’s an interesting turnaround since audiobooks are usually more expensive.

Audible also lets you download your books as many times as you want, unlike iTunes, where you are doomed if you lose your files.

In conclusion, here are some bullet points. Bullet points are cool.

Pros:

    • Ridiculously cheap. The ridiculosity depends on how often you buy audiobooks.
    • Convenient. If and only if you have a compatible device.
    • High quality audio for a download. Get the enhanced quality version of the files and they sound quite nice.
    • Great website. The interface is very convenient and intuitive.

Cons:

    • Trying to burn an Audible book longer than a few CDs is a torture that even the Spanish Inquisition would have balked at
    • If you manage to survive the process and then lose the CDs, you can’t ever burn them again. See next bullet point.
    • DRM is always there to get in your way and remind you how publishers love pirates, not their paying customers.
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