Internet Review: Audiobooks On The Go Or Online

By Jayne A. Hitchcock

I travel quite a bit, at least once or twice a month, and to break up the monotony of airports and flying, I tend to listen to an audiobook. Cassettes were a pain because they were too bulky, especially since I like to listen to unabridged editions of books. CDs scratch too easily when it comes time to change them. Then someone told me about this web site called Audible.com, where I could not only download audiobooks to a compatible MP3 player, I could get one for free, too.

Where do I sign up?

It was easier than I thought. I opted for the monthly option, which at that time was $15.95/month (this was over two years ago). For that amount, I got two audiobooks or titles, no matter how long they were. So for Stephen Kingís Dark Tower series in the unabridged edition, I listened to the latest book for the equivalent of less than $8.00 versus the regular price of $52.50. . .and thatís discounted from the $75.00 retail price. Talk about savings.

When you sign up for the monthly membership, you get a free MP3 player or half off the first month of membership. I needed a player, so that was my choice. It was the Otis, which was compact in size, about 3 inches square and came with earbuds, leather case with belt clip, and a car cassette adapter. I liked this player, mainly because it was smaller than a regular cassette player and I could quickly add more memory to it by buying additional MMCs (Multimedia Cards). This allowed me to put the entire book on the Otis, broken into two sections (this is the norm for unabridged titles from Audible.com).

If youíre unsure of becoming a member, there are picks under $10 and some arenít half-bad. But I think youíll want to become a member at the current $14.95/month for one audiobook plus one radio, magazine, or newspaper selection or $21.95/month for two audiobooks each month. . .plus your choice of 50% off the first month of membership or a free MP3 player Ė a Creative MuVo , which retails for around $60 just by itself.

Still not sure? Audible.com also offers a first audiobook for just $9.95, so that you can see. . .I mean hear for yourself what a deal this is. No cassettes, no CDs, no more hassles.

I made the mistake of telling my husband about Audible.com. He stole my Otis and took over my account, so I went ahead and got another account just for myself and got the new MuVo player. Itís much smaller than the Otis (just under 3Ē tall and 1.38Ē wide) and fits in my shirt or pants pocket when Iím traveling, which is great. Itís also good for when Iím gardening, walking, or just want chill and listen to a book. This lets me keep the earbuds in my ears or hanging around my neck. In addition to the earbuds, it also comes with a car cassette adapter and has more memory than my old Otis did Ė 128MB. This easily holds one unabridged book and some music. I also like the audio on the MuVo better than the Otis. Itís clearer and cleaner.

The only thing I do not like about the MuVo is that I donít know how much time is left on a book Iím listening to Ė there is no screen to view like there was on the Otis. But thatís a minor complaint. The MuVo is USB-compatible so that you plug it directly into your USB port Ė no wires necessary.

When you do select a book to download to your compatible player, you can choose from format 1, 2, 3 & 4. Format 1 takes up the least amount of space, but is really scratchy and warbly to listen to. Thatís the best way I can describe it. Formats 2 & 3 are better in quality and amount of space used. Format 4 takes up the most space, but is the cleanest and clearest of them all. Unfortunately, my MuVo doesnít accept format 4. But format 3 works more than well for me.

When you select the format, you can either download to your player or save it to your hard drive. If you do the latter, you can listen on your desktop or laptop or burn it to a CD (the CD player has to be compatible Ė a normal car CD player wonít accept it Ė we found this out the hard way). You can also save the audiobook to your Library for later downloads or to re-listen to again. Or have a husband like mine who sneaks into my account and downloads a book Iíve already listened to.

Once you decide to download to your player, the AudibleManager program starts on your desktop or laptop (this program is part of the installation process that is on the included CD-ROM). Here you keep track of what audiobooks youíve downloaded to your desktop or laptop, which are then transferred to your player. You can also plug your player in to your desktop or laptop to find out how much time is left on the book you are listening to, if you donít have a way of viewing that info on your player (like the MuVo). AudibleManager also keeps track of any radio, magazine or newspaper subscriptions you may have, plus a host of other options and commands to keep everything in order. You can even keep track of and add music selections to transfer to your player here, so itís a nice all-in-program.

What impresses me most about the Audible.com Web site is that you can search for books by author or title, peruse the various best seller lists on their site, or even cruise around Amazon.com and see if a book or author youíre interested in has their book available as an Audible.com file. There are some other nifty things, like books that are coming soon (with release dates), staff picks, and if you are like me, just unabridged selections. You can also view audiobooks by category that show whatís New & Notable, best sellers in that category, editorís picks, and even sub-categories to make your search easier.

If you get as excited as me about Audible.com, you can refer a friend or even check out their fundraising and corporate programs. There is more than enough to keep you busy at their Web site. I like the fact that their instructions are very easy to understand Ė from how to use Audible, how to pick the right compatible player, buying accessories and more.

Whatís the best thing about Audible.com? Their books are NEVER out of stock.

I do have to warn you though, if you enjoy this as much as me, make sure friends and family get their own accounts, or you could lose your account and your MP3 player!

Come to think of it, if you do sign up, let them know I sent you Ė my member name is jahitchcock.

I ended up getting an Apple iPod Mini for my birthday, which I use to download my audiobooks and all my favorite songs. Yippee!

Audible.com
Compatible for Mac or PC desktops and laptops, MP3 players, PDAs and more

*(these are available only as a 1 month or 1 year subscription)


J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at jahitchcock.com.

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