Digital Win: Audible

I have been meaning to do one of these for a while, and now I am finally writing our first digital win piece.  A digital win is what it sounds like.  It is about things that, in my opinion, beat the analog version of itself for various reasons.  In this case, it beats the hell out of it.    Today’s subject is the audiobook service Audible.

     My personal history with audiobooks goes all the way back to 1996.  I was nine years old, a pretty heavy reader for my age, beating accelerated reader into the ground, raiding my school library, and begging my mother and grandmother for every Goosebumps book that came out, or that I did not already have.  My first audiobook was Goosebumps: A Night In Terror Tower.  It was a cassette tape that I am pretty sure my mom came home with just because.  It was about an hour and twelve minutes long, and I listened to it so many times, I am fairly certain I had it memorized.  Every time I cleaned my room, walking around with my head phones on, at daycare after school.  It was pretty high on quality too, had different actors, some mood music, I loved it.  Turns out, I still have it.  

    I took the next step in audiobooks by buying tapes from the library when they sold them off.  After that, after I got in the military and had the money to acquire my first IPod (30 gigs, the first ones with video on them) and I could shop for audiobooks on the iTunes market place.  Since 2007 that was the end of that story, I acquired books at the rate of one or two a month so that I could take them to Iraq with me and listen.  After Iraq my wife and I started using them on road trips (military families tend to travel a good bit) and really that has been our standard protocol for all road trips.  We even have our favorites, The Silence of the Lambs would be worn out now if it wasn’t digital.  They were pricey so we had to listen to them a good bit sometimes, just to avoid buying new ones.  The last one I bought was Patriot Games from ITunes.  

    Enter Audible.  I found out about audible five years ago.  As they are the providers of Apple’s audiobook content, their prices are very similar, but they have a subscription service.  The subscriptions are the way to go.  They have credits, and I have not seen a book a credit will not buy.  For twenty-five dollars a month I get two credits, which is far under the price of an audiobook.  When I started this, that wouldn’t buy a single Harry Potter title, now it gets one per credit.  The idea behind the business model is that you will use your credits and need another fix, and then you will find that your membership also buys you a massive discount on books. I have never bought another book without my credits that was not priced below the value of a credit.  Way I have it figured if a book costs less than ten bucks (super rare) then I wont burn a credit on it.  I have paid for the extra three credits here and there, but overall, I just use credits.  They do not punish you for this at all.  There is not some shifty little trick that says you have to buy a book outright every so often. 

Why I say digital audiobooks are superior to analog (as well as what makes Audible the service of choice)

  1. Space.  Analog audio books (if you can really call it that) take up physical space.  They are either tapes or cds and usually a hefty few of them.  They come in cases that take up space, and thats even if you do not have the nice ones that clip the tape into them.  Space is the long standing argument that exists about anything analog that has a digital solution.  Digital audiobooks take up exactly the space the device you already own occupies.  
  2. Durability.  Those tapes and cds wear out, they take damage. It was not until the Bluray that I thought discs were durable enough.  I collected cds, but those things are super low on the durability rating.  It does not matter if they are kept perfectly, they end up damaged.  They can be lost.  Tapes have a finite amount of plays of them, which can be pretty high, assuming the tape player does not kill them.  Digital audiobooks on the other hand can be downloaded again and again, played forever.  
  3. Cost. If physical audiobooks cost material to produce, you should cut that out of the market.  It has been a bit since I bought a real hard copy, and they can be found for resell at most used book and movie places, but again space.  Audible can beat anything legal that provides audiobooks as far as I know.  Twelve fifty per book is a hot rate considering most books cost between 25 and 30.
  4. Cloud Service.  I have audible apps on everything.  My phone, my wife’s phone, the iPad, the computer, everything that will take it.  So long as I have service for the device I can download any of my books on the go.  Not only that, but it keeps my place.  Listening in the car, get out, go in, play it on the iPad and it will pick up right where I left off.
  5. Return value.  Audible lets you return your credit bought audiobooks for exact value of the credit back.  There is a time limit on the returns, I think it is six months.  However, thats a large window, and you can download your audiobooks to iTunes if you want before you return them.  You would never see that kind of return value on tapes or cds.  
  6. Selection.  Audible’s market is huge.  I am yet to not find a title I wanted.  They have it as soon as anyone else has it.  I wager that if the audiobook exists, then they have it.  There were a few exceptions, Harry Potter for a while was sold out of the Pottermore store only, but they wisely backtracked on that.
  7. Selection again.  They have The Great Courses.  It used to be true that you saved money, but lost out on the additional materials by using Audible for this, but no more!  Now you get the supplement books as a PDF as well.  
  8. Statistics.  This is a personal pleasure.  I love seeing how much time I have spent listening, and my only regret that I did not know about it before and a lot of listening time is missing.  They have badges and listening stats.  I love that.  

Cons or things that can be better

  1. If you return the books, but have them downloaded to iTunes, you can no longer cloud them.  The Audible app has a section built in for your iTunes books, but they still have to be downloaded to the device, which takes up device space.  I can download them to my device and they show up in iBooks as well, so the only advantage to having an iTunes section in the audible app is that you do not have to switch between two.  Considering it still takes device space, and it does not contribute to the statistics.  I would like it if either service would cloud books in iTunes like they do for audible or for music.
  2. Once that six months passes you are forever stuck with a book.  Not really a big deal, but after that your return value is gone, and then you cannot even trade it in somewhere.

    That is all I really have.  I consider myself a pretty hard core audible listener and I find it to be well worth the money.  I have yet to think of a reason for having physical copies of audiobooks.  Audible won the fight for us.  I do not even use all of the features, like the ability to create book marks in an audiobook, and I still feel like I get much more than my money’s worth out of this service.  I listen while cleaning, while working, while running, exercising, even in the shower.  

    My pattern at this moment is to listen to fiction and read history and academic books.  I need to be able to make notes from those works and I do not have the time to go around for both, not like I would like to have.  I had a hard time convincing myself to listen to my fiction stuff, but my wife said something I found to be wise, “would you rather not get to absorb them at all?”  She finished that for me.  It increased my reading efficiency.  I know, a lot of the analog is about slowing down a bit, but that does not count here.  I would only pile up tapes, and I would have mountains of books I couldn’t read. Now, having the audiobook of books I already own physically brings up the question of whether I should keep those, but thats a whole other story.  We live in a world where we have less time, and now we have a way to put some books in the background to ensure we get more reading done.  If you want to really pack them in, you can speed them up ( I listen at 1.25 speed.).   We always say we are about what’s real, and what is real here is getting to consume a book, the content of that book is what is real to me.  Just like the space and money saved.

My name is Brandon and I am an audible addict.  My library has 84 titles and I have spent 1 month 5 days 8 hours and 11 minutes listening to audiobooks since finding audible.  What about you?  Do you like audiobooks?  Do you use audible already?  Tell me about it!

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

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