I’m a fan of Audio Products. I’m daily listening to Music and Podcasts produced by both, amateurs and professionals. In preparation of the upcoming vacations, I decided to finally make a step out of the Itunes store and to signup for an Audible.com account.
24 Hours later I’m deeply disappointed up and I just canceled my membership.
My story: How I got addicted to Podcasts & co.
Round about one year ago, a purchase of $149 USD introduced an significant change in live. On the way back from a conference in Las Vegas I had to spend some time in the Airport of Atlanta. For the first time in my live I saw a wending machine selling consumer electronics, in particular, Apple Ipods. Being without an MP3 player for quite a while I spontaneously decided to buy an Ipod Nano (4th Gen). The purchase opened another world of information for me. I was used to consume information by reading. However, you can’t read always, especially not while driving the car. Discovering podcasts, finally eliminated this restriction. Now I am the one who decided WHEN, and WHAT kind of content I want to consume. With earplugs and an FM-transmitter nothing will “steal” my valueable free time anymore. Literally there exist podcasts for basically all knowlegde areas, produced by amateurs or professionals. The seamless chain of Apple (Itunes + Ipod) makes it so easy to educate myself everyday in little doses. No more manual downloads, no more manual file transfers. Itunes & Ipod manage everything automatically.
Now, one year later after the purchase, I don’t know how I could survive without my little Ipod anymore. Exactly this fact made me worry in respect of my upcoming vacation. I’ll be for a longer period without Internet access and without the possibility to download podcasts and synchronize them with my Ipod.
If I can’t synchronize my Ipod, I’ll just put enough content on the Ipod so that I don’t run out of new content.
The solution (?)
Apart from the Itunes store I heard alot of Audible.com. Audible is currently the biggest audiobook producer, offering currently more than 60.000 titels. Audible is an Amazon.com company. Since I love Amazon for its awesome service and website, I had similar expectations for Audible. Unfortunately I was deeply disappointed. I signed up to Audible using one of the promotions of the TWIT Network which offer a free 14 day trail with one audiobook free of charge.
The webpage of Audible is slow and is by far not as intuitive as Amazon’s great shopping portal. However the search works well and it is possible to listing for a view minutes to the Audiobook. Being excited, I selected What would Google do written and read by Jeff Jarvis. From this point on, it started getting bad.
I wasn’t aware that Audible audiobooks are protected by Digital Right Management (DRM). DRM brings complexity and user frustration. In this case, I needed to download two applications which download and “activate” the audiobook. Audible stores the audiobooks with the .AA file extension which of course, can’t read by any application. Since I wanted to import the songs into Itunes, I had to download an additional application. Audible only support MP3 Players which can handle DRM.
Bad written Software
Having to accept all this hassle, one would image that the software is well written, but it is not. The Audible application always crashed with a “buffer overrun” message whenever I launched it manually or automatically after a reboot.
This was too much. I respect intellectual property and I always pay for content and software which I download and use. But if I pay for something I want to be treated as a customer and not as a criminal or a suspect. Due to DRM you even can’t create a backup of the files you purchased. How important backups are to protect your digital assets was recently discussed in another post.
Who wonders that people keep on sharing and distributing the stuff as long as this industry (or here in particular Audible) treate us like this.
Audible offers several membership models. If you don’t like to become a member, you still can buy an audiobook for an extraordinary amout of money. In my particular case the non-membership price was at 27 USD, thats 10 USD more than the paper copy! Audibles selling model “forces” you sign a membership subscription. Monthly memberships start at 14,95 USD and you can select monthly a book to download. If you pick a yearly subscription, the price drops to round about 10-12 USD per audiobook but you need to buy at least 12 audiobooks.
Cancel Audible membership
Audible promises on their website, that membership subscriptions can be cancelled anytime. Well, I spent about 20 minutes searching the “cancel membership” button, but I couldn’t find it. I can’t say if this button is hidden due to a bad web design or deliberately, in any case, I have a bad gut feeling about this company. I wrote an email to their customer support. Hopefully they will cancel the subscription before they start charging my credit card.
Audible offers great products which I would love to purchase. However I disagree with their selling model. I don’t want to wear shackles and be treated like a criminal as a customer. Their technical solution contains major bugs and doesn’t work on my standard PC.
I believe that prices should be equal or slightly lower than the the paperback editions. A higher price isn’t logical. Amazons Kindle (eReader) Strategy makes much more sense. Kindle Books are often a few bucks cheaper than the corresponding paperback edition. However, I hate membership subscriptions. The only reason I see, why Audible forces it’s members in a membership subscription, is to rip off it’s customer.
As long as they don’t drop DRM and provide MP3 Files I don’t believe that will make any business with Audible anymore. Instead I’ll download now podcasts episodes I haven’t listened to so far. I already started downloading episodes of Security Now, Skepticality or ChaosRadio.