It has been a long time since I first encountered Audible. My first impressions weren’t good, but I have now been a member for over a year and during that time my feelings towards the service have greatly improved.
My initial problems were with DRM and lack of apps. Thankfully someone was listening as they got their act together and made a Audible app for Windows Phone 7 and no doubt there will be one eventually for Windows 8. Having a system that just lets you get on with listening to your content flawlessly on any device kills of most of my previous frustrations. Unfortunately there is still is a convoluted process to burn them on to CDs if you want to listen to them in the car but other than that it is fairly plain sailing.
Although several people have rightly told me I’m missing out on the complete mental involvement of actually reading the book I do think the trade of being able to listen anywhere whilst doing basic tasks is a good trade off. The delivery of the audio book is also a massive factor which dictates the enjoyment of it, again this can be quite a trade off. For example I listened to the “The Way of Kings” and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson which were extremely well acted and executed by Michael Kramer. On the other hand the Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan had a poorer performance by Richard Aspel who I found to be flatter and uninspiring. Michael had a range of very distinct voices, you knew exactly which character was speaking. Richard’s character voices were very similar which often left me waiting for the “said Bob” at the end of the line to make complete sense of a conversation. As a result I came away with a very mediocre feeling book. The books are essentially being performed and so can go either way, sections of the books are often made more memorable by a good performance.
The Audible model is based around a subscription. For most people you will want to a token or two a month at a fixed price. These tokens are then used to pay for Audiobooks, most cost a single token although some with higher production or that have more commercial potential like Game of Thrones are some times broken in to 2 parts requiring a token each. This does sting a bit but generally the increased production quality is worth it. In addition to the tokens you can also buy Audiobooks on their own and there are often members only sales which have great bargains.
In terms of entertainment hours per pound it is extremely good value. For example I recently finished listening to “The Stand” by Stephen King, this came in a over 30 hours for £8. This is worlds away from the huge expense of cassette audio books from decades ago. Given the convenience of always having an epic tomb secreted in your pocket ready to go at any moment whilst you are doing other things I would have to say audio books are now one of my favourite forms of entertainment.