Rant #1: Why I Hate Audible.com

I just wanted two things. One was an iPod shuffle, so I could listen to it on the bus. The other was the audio book version of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. I’ve read it 20 times, and I thought that listening to it would help me memorize useless Tolkien trivia and perfect my pronunciation of words like “Maedhros” and “Cabed Naeramarth”.

I discovered that audible.com was giving away “free” iPod shuffles if you join up for six months. It’s about $20 a month, but you get two books a month.

I did a search, and yes, they carry The Silmarillion. I figured six months for $120 dollars = $90 iPod shuffle + $60 Silmarillion audio book + 11 other books.

So I signed up. Great idea, eh?

No.

1.) Audible.com does NOT carry The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Peform a search, and it comes up. Then join. Suddenly, The Silmarillion disappears. You see, audible.com is not authorized to sell this book in the U.S. So once you join, you can’t order the book any more.

The web site could ask visitors, or determine through their IP addresses, where they are located. Then people browsing the site would not be mislead about what books they can download. I suspect this “mistake” is intentional — audible.com customer service was hardly apologetic.

So, no Silmarillion. Fine. I downloaded another book, Steven Weinberg’s The First Three Minutes.

2.) Audible.com does not divide audio files into manageable chunks. The entire 9 hours of The First Three Minutes comes in two files.

This would be bad enough on a regular iPod. But iPod shuffles have no fast-forward or rewind. They just jump from track to track, randomly or in order. So once I started listening to the book, I couldn’t navigate through it, or listen to something else and then go back. If I missed something, there was no rewind. [Note: I have since learned that you can fast-forward and rewind on an iPod shuffle. Still, books need to be cut into manageable chunks. Two 4.5-hour files doesn’t cut it.]

If audible divided their books into, say, 10-minute chunks, they might work on an iPod shuffle. But they don’t. And remember, they recommended the shuffle. They mailed me the damn thing.

So, audible.com, two strikes and you’re out. You officially suck.

15 Comments

  1. Sounds like you’re more mad at the shuffle than audbile. It was free after all. If you have a decent mp3 player you can skip around chapters a lot easier. The shuffle is just a horrible mp3 player. It’s a expensive memory stick that can play mp3s. Mine has already died on me.

    Audible is not a bad service and downloading their content even if it’s in 9hr sections is not slow unless you’re still on a 56k modem.

    I have to admit I do wish they had a better selection of books.

  2. Actually, the iPod shuffle does have fast-forward buttons — reverse, as well. Press and hold the track-forward and track-backwards buttons, and you’ll jump through the audio. Sure, it’s not nearly like arbitrarily jumping through the track, and it does suck that they’re not broken up into neat chapters, but there is something there.

    That said, Audible does suck.

    — Derek (derek aaaaat place with-a-dot org-like-thing)

  3. Most Audible files have chapters in them… just tap the fast forward button on your shuffle, and you jump by the chapter mark.

  4. “Most Audible files have chapters in them… just tap the fast forward button on your shuffle, and you jump by the chapter mark.”

    Unfortunately that’s not true. It will only skip it to the next song or book. It is incapable of chapter skipping.

  5. You think they suck now? wait til you try to quit. You can’t. It took me 6 months and 33 letters to get them to remove my creditcard data from their website, plus 3 phone calls – and I only purchase a total of ZERO books – as they promised a credit at crutchfield.com towards an ipod and never came thorugh with it. So technically, I was never even their customer.

    You poor sap, welcome to the misery that is audible.com

  6. At least we all now know what Audiable.com does and how they go about it. They’re a bad company who rips off people…With ‘shitty’ Hardware. Aka.. iPod Shuffle. All True.
    But it … Was free
    So it’s all good =)
    Just replace your already crappy mp3 player with.. A better one =)
    Maybe, just maybe..A Nano :O
    Videos, are to me. Useless. For I own a TV.
    ~Spike

  7. Totally agree. My experience with Audible has been bad too. Customer service is really bad. They don’t even bother to reply or return calls.

    CD burning is a joke, the FAQs refer to defunt software, they force your DL Nero 7 trial which uninstalls your older Nero . The chapters are not placed properly and sound quality on CD is metallic.

    Don’t use these idiots.

  8. Audible.com did not suck in 1996 when they were a streaming pioneer.

    Today Audible blowz because they have never made any substantial improvements to their huge deficiences:

    1. When publishers print a book, there is always this little thing in the front called “Table of Contents”, with Parts (sometimes), and Chapters (almost always). inAudible.com audio books come in enormous chunks. Which is why I am posting this at this moment, because I am listening to “Charlemagne–From the Hammer to the Cross” which is 14:38:53 in 2 files (!!) of 440 minutes and 437 minutes respectively. Even in Winamp doing direct positioning is a pain in the arse, with resolution limited to ~1.5 minutes!

    When someone endeavors to listen to and learn from a long non-fiction audiobook, it is EXTREMELY HELPFUL to have structure in the files and tags. Properly separated and titled chapters. Often re-listening is beneficial, and having proper structure in the audio is very beneficial. Imagine what people would say if publishers tried to sell books without a table of contents, without an index, and with all visual indications of parts and chapter breaks removed! That is audio from Audible.com.

    2. inAudible audio sucks. How dare they perpetuate this nonsense about 4 quality levels from radio to “CD quality”?!! How dare they fraudently represent 32 kbps audio as “CD quality”!! An outstanding rip of most audio books can be accomplished in 64 to 96 kbps audio, with most VBR rips weighing in around ~70 kbps. But 32 kbps is NOT enough, and a lot of signal must be filtered in order to allow encoding at this super low bitrate.

    In a nutshell: Audible.com sucks big time. And since they have such an extensive library of cr@ppy audio — that they consider a major asset — they will keep peddling this sh!te for many years to come. Audible.com deserves scorn, not new customers.

    Whenever I start an audio book and hear “This is Audible” … I want to puke on it.

    Answer: p2p, bittorrent. You will often find genuine CD rips of fine audio books, with very high quality audio, 64-128 kbps. And whenever you do stumble across a title that is unfortunately an Audible.com release, at least you didn’t waste money on it.

  9. I convert all of my audible downloads to mp3 then split them up into 15 to 30 minute chunks.

    I really have enjoyed audible.com, though the audio quality is not great. Audible has 3 grades of audio available, with the highest grade, often times, being only a high bitrate version of a low bitrate audio file. In other words, the file is much bigger but the audio quality is the same.

    One major gripe I have with audible.com is their new webpage design which features hideously bloated code and flash applets. This adds up to slow scrolling and other holdups while surfing the site. The web geeks who designed it need to be fired as this appears to be an exercise in stroking their own damaged geek egos. The web site is an F minus. Absolutely terrible!

  10. Audible is a truly horrible horrible company. I ‘signed up’ for a ‘free’ trial last may. I have now found out they have slid £8 per month out of my account for the last ten months. I rang to cancel, they said OK, but if you want the credit you must withdraw it before you cancel. I could not even listen to the ‘free’ trial. Now before somebody who has some sort of vested intrest in this scam posts back up here. Yes, I am stupid, for clicking through, and I guess I should not have this innate faith in human nature, but the heads up is, They have £80 of mine for which I recieved nothing apart from having the phone put down on me twice by the jerk-offs who ‘are here to help you’. If somebody wants to send me £80 for sweet FA, I’ll let you shout at me for an entire hour. I hope these people don’t go to sleep at night.

  11. First comment: You really should read the whole piece, and not just scan if you are going to weigh in.

    The bundling of the Ipod Shuffle by Audible was specifically an implication on their part that their consumers should expect them to be of use for their product, as distributed. This is not what the consumer gets, and it’s the classic case of bait-and-switch fraud!

    Having listened to some Audible tracks which I did not myself pay for, I too was stunned and disgusted to see that people actually pay full-bookstore prices for the clunky production of two enormous files. PLUS, that infuriatingly cock Texas drawl breaks in with “THIIIIS is Audible” every single time you resume your place in the book from pause or stop. Having sample this company of crap, I cannot imagine why so many have permitted this company to monopolize the audiobook industry by lamely handing over their hard-earned cash for such an insulting, and half-assed excuse for a product. Screw you, Audible! THIIIIS is bulls***!!!

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  13. Thanks a lot. I was considering Audible.com but it now reminds me of the Columbia and RCA record clubs of the 80’s. Lots of promise and then lots of disgust. I’ll go to the store and get a book.

  14. I’m so mad at this site that I joined at will.
    My audio player of choice that plays their audio doesn’t magically work like a book I can thumb through.
    Sure, I could just deal with it like an adult, but instead I’m incredulously mad that my music-box-du-jour can’t understand their files.

    I’m so, so mad! Why can’t everything I do or want work seamlessly forever?!

  15. @Tiki: Oh my god. This is incredible. I do believe you are the VERY FIRST PERSON to ever use sarcasm on the entire Internet!

    You must be so very proud of yourself.

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