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Bedtime story anyone?
Member Name: hayley_dl
Date: 06/03/11, updated on 06/03/11 (199 review reads)
Advantages: playback quality ok, easy to subscribe/cancel, good selection of books
Disadvantages: slightly too expensive unless you're a regular listener
I recently registered with Audible as I received a voucher for a free audio book. Not being one to turn down anything free I signed up thinking I'd get the free book and then just cancel my membership after it had finished downloading.
Audible, it turns out, is a website owned by Amazon where you can download audio books to your computer, phones and many other devices in order to listen to them on the move.
Sign up was easy, simply fill in a few of your details: email address, name, user name and credit card details. There are two options: £7.99 per month - this gives you one audio credit a month, or £14.99 per month which gives you two audio credits. They have an offer at the moment where your first three months are half price (making it £3.99 or £7.99). Once registered you get your audio credits immediately; one credit is equivalent to one audio book from their selection.
If not used your credits will roll over for up to 6 months.
No book shop is ever going to be successful without a good selection of books. Fortunately, this is not a problem with Audible, they have an amazing range of books both fiction and non-fiction. They claim to have over 50,000 titles but I'm certainly not going to sit here and count them to check that claim.
Some of their books are abridged, whilst this will appeal to some in order to save space on computers/iPhones there are many unabridged ones too. These are easy to find and again cover all categories. There are 31,432 titles in the unabridged selection and so there are plenty here to keep even the fussiest buyer happy.
If you want to purchase more audio books over and above the limit allowed on your account this is possible and will cost £3.99. You can also buy all their audio books without creating an account but prices vary from £9.99 to £61.60(!) the subscription fee is less then that so your better off subscribing, downloading the books you want and then cancelling your account again.
I consider myself fairly computer literate but even I was stumped when it came to downloading my first book so the first step here is probably to have someone tech savvy at hand to help!
Once you've chosen the book you want you click download, then it takes you to a page where you select the device your downloading to. Once it knows that, there is a programme you need to download in order to play the books - it won't just play from your computer or phone. One thing I should note here is that there is no option for iPhone, despite saying that the iPhone is a compatible device. This is because you need to download the Audible app from the app store. I have only downloaded to the iPhone and so for the sake of this review this is what I will be talking about. I can only assume that the other players are very similar if not the same.
Once I had downloaded the Audible app I then needed to sign in on my iPhone and locate "My Library", the book could then be downloaded from there.
I chose an unabridged version and so it came in two parts. They claim to have split it to quicken the download speed. My book consists of 16 hours of listening time and took around 3/4 hours to download so it's not the quickest download time ever but you can start listening to the book while it's downloading.
Besides a good selection of books the other thing a good audio book store needs to be successful is a decent quality playback. I'll admit this did annoy me slightly initially and it took me a while to work out what was so frustrating about it. The actors are American and so everything is read back with an American accent. I have nothing against American's or their accents and to be fair to Audible their accents are light and so easily understood. This doesn't bother me now I have gotten used to it but it did take me some time to adjust and even now the difference in pronunciation does catch my attention over the story itself and so this is something to be aware of when downloading.
The sound quality itself is not the best I've heard and there is room for improvement but it's not awful by any means and doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. If listening through the iPhone however I would strongly suggest listening through headphones. The below average quality of recording combined with the below average quality of the iPhone speakers really does lead to a poor playback experience!
The actors however are very good and I feel they capture the inflections in the story very well and adjust their voice to suit different speakers where there are quotes so I have no complaints here at all.
I wasn't actually expecting much from the player - just an option to play and stop different books so I was pleasantly surprised in this respect. Again, this is the app for the iPhone I can only presume that other players are the same.
Firstly, in your library you can arrange books by date of download, title or author which makes it easy to find the book you're looking for if you have a large library. There is also a statistics area where you can earn different badges in relation to how many books you've listened to, how long you've been listening etc. and there is a news area which gives you easy access to the most recent updates.
During playback itself there is a sliding bar which allows you to move forwards and backwards through the book easily. Whilst this has the potential to be quite a useful feature I have knocked it by accident and then it's difficult to find my place again.
You can also place a bookmark and add a note to highlight interesting/important parts of the book enabling you to easily find that spot again. There is a sleep timer where you can set it to automatically turn off at 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. I have used this a lot as I need sound to sleep so I place a bookmark in case I fall asleep before it turns off and then set the sleep timer for 30 minutes. Whilst I am often asleep before then so can't check that it does last for exactly 30 minutes the bookmark makes it easy to go back to where I was when I fell asleep.
You can also adjust the speed of playback from normal, twice or three times as fast or half speed. I've found that normal is just right so haven't had need to use this but when I tested it for this review it did work.
There is also an option allowing you to move forwards/backwards 30 seconds. Whilst I initially thought this was a rather useless addition I have to admit I have used it several times when I was distracted and therefore missed some of the playback.
This is all well and good but what about if you need to cancel your account?
Let's face it £7.99 is a lot of money for a book a month, especially when we're all short on money anyway but cancelling is easy. You simply sign onto the website and select "my account". At the bottom of the page is an option to cancel.
When you click this you will have two options to try to convince you to stay. A £5 voucher to use on any book, if you refuse this they will offer you a free audio credit. I accepted the credit, downloaded a second book and then went to cancel again. There was no problems when cancelling even after accepting the credit. I simply went to my account, clicked cancel and went through the process again. They then confirmed my account was cancelled. Your username and password remains active however which means you can easily access your account should you chose to and the audio books you have already downloaded you can keep.
Would I Recommend It?
I think if you listen to audio books a lot then it is a good site since you get massively reduced prices on top of your free book a month. Otherwise I don't think it's worth joining as a regular member but I can't fault the service and the playback quality is fairly good despite the faults I mentioned earlier. So if you're looking for an audio book then it is worth looking here and just signing up to download that one before cancelling the membership.
It is definitely a site I'll be buying from again. It gets 4 out of 5 from me.
Summary: A good quality site I will buy from again
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