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.