Audible Review: Audiobook Downloads and Rentals
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|Membership plan saves frequent readers money on the biggest download library in the audiobook business|
[Editor's Note: Right now, Audible is offering NextAdvisor readers 50% off of their first three months, bringing it down to just $7.49 per month for one book a month. Just click on any NextAdvisor link to Audible to take advantage of this great deal.]
Audible is the biggest name in audiobooks, which makes sense since they're owned by Amazon.com, the go-to source on the Internet for physical books. Audible is so big, in fact, that it provides the downloads to Apple's iTunes music store, which we also reviewed. Does Audible's subscription plan offer an advantage? It depends how much you like to listen.
Audible's monthly subscription plans start at $14.95 per month (with the first three months at $7.49). Like the other audiobook download services, it's a one-credit-per-month plan, with most books requiring a single credit for download. It seems that particularly popular titles with a "cover price" over $40.00, such as those from the Twilight, series take two credits. Curiously, there's no option to buy additional credits, but you can subscribe to a two-credit-per-month plan for $22.95. There's also a yearly plan that comes out to $12.46 per credit (or $149.50 per year), and you'll get all 12 credits up front. As an added bonus, all subscribers get a free daily audio subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, roughly an hour of listening content per day. Titles can be purchased without a membership plan, but the price-per-title is generally higher (unless you're purchasing radio programs).
Content-wise, Audible is king, boasting over 100,000 audio programs. You can find The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Twilight, and just about any other best seller out there. Want to see if it has the book you're looking for? Check the Audible search box below (results will open in a new window):
And there are classics galore. The rest of their inventory is comprised of audio versions of newspapers and magazines, as well as TV and Radio content. The browsing, searching, and buying experience is top-notch. Books have a publisher's summary, user ratings and reviews when available. There are also generous audio samples for each title so you can decide if you like the book and the narrator.
Audible distributes its audio programs as proprietary AA (Audible Audio) files with DRM (Digital Rights Management) which limits each audiobook to three computers and three audio players. Audible supports a wide range of audio devices, and you'll tell Audible which one you use, so you get the right file type. You should check out Audible's Device Center to be sure it supports yours, but those from major manufacturers such as Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Amazon, Philips, Samsung, and Sony are included.
There are four file-quality options for most devices, ranging from the AM-radio-quality Format 2, to the CD-quality Enhanced Format. If you have a slow Internet connection, you'll probably want the former, while the latter is meant for those who are bothered by highly compressed audio. You can use a compatible media player or the AudibleManager (a free download) to listen to your audiobooks, as well as to transfer them to a compatible device. One of Audible's best customer-friendly features is that once you buy a title, you can re-download it any time you want. If your hard drive ever crashes, or you delete the audiobook, Audible will let you get it back. This is a feature you won't find on iTunes.
The book we bought only cost us one credit, our full allotment for the monthly fee of $14.99. Audible's list price was $20.99, which is roughly the price of the equivalent 6-CD set on Amazon.com. Even at the non-introductory price of $14.99, we'd be saving money. We chose the highest-quality file for download. It's good to note that an hour-long radio program can cost $0.66 or 1 credit, so save those credits for books. You can always pay the program price for other content (which comes at a discount). Audible gives its subscribers 30% off the listed price for titles bought without credits.
Audible's sound quality was good on the audiobook we downloaded. Using fairly high-end headphones and our iTunes equalizers turned off, we found both voice and music to be perfectly listenable, but a bit flat and lacking in dynamics. To our ears, it did not sound as good as the same title did on CD. We are rather picky with audio though. Those who have no problem with run-of-the-mill MP3 files probably won't have any complaints.
Audible's help section is fully fleshed out and rather well put together, just like the rest of the site. Even though Audible is owned by Amazon.com, it has so far avoided that site's overload of distracting page elements. With Audible, you only see what you need.
Audible has been in the business since 1997, and has clearly spent a lot of time getting the business right. While it's not the cheapest plan, and we didn't think the audio was perfect, it does have the largest selection and best shopping experience of all the subscription services we looked at.
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Audible Forum Posts
- How can I listen to Audible audiobooks in the car?
It's actually super easy to listen to your Audible audiobooks in the car. Check out this blog post I wrote about the different ways you can do it:...
- How can I listen to Audible audiobooks in the car?
I only listen to audio books in my car. I am not sure how I can do that with your service. Just not sure how it would work for me.
- Audible.com Review
Here is NextAdvisor's review of Audible.com: http://www.nextadvisor.com/audiobooks/audible_review.php