Audible’s business model is neither purely a retailer like Amazon nor a subscription model like Spotify. It’s somewhere in between. It costs about £8 a month to join and for that you get one free credit. That’s essentially a free book a month. However, you have to pay for your other purchases and downloads can be as much as £20 a book.
To be honest, compared to Netflix or even Amazon Prime where you pay to be a member and pay again for items, I found Audible to be a little too rich to try. Would I really use it often enough for it be worthy while?
I was first tempted to give Audible a go was when I hooked up my Amazon Fire TV. That fantastic little box which brings Netflix, Amazon Live Videos and iPlayer to my little room isn’t, weirdly, compatible with Audible. But Alexa is.
Alexa is Amazon’s connected home assistant. You speak to her and she speaks back. There is a deal for music subscription for Alexa users but not for Audible and that’s a shame.
Nevertheless, with the Alexa being such a hit in our little flat I decided to give Audible a go. Strangely, the final nudge was Spotify’s weekly discovery playlist serving up too many bad suggestions for a few weeks in a row. I wanted to have something to listen to at work.
I’m on a pretty secure network at work. There’s no chance I could download any special software to listen to Audible. However, the site provides a web player that buffers the book and then lets you listen in. It’s simple but it works.
If the first test was whether I could stream Audible from work the second test was whether I could listen to an audiobook and work at the same time. I can; sometimes. It depends what I’m working on. I suspect my years of experience of definitely listening and not multitasking even a little bit while also on a long, multi-person, conference call has provided valuable practice.
The book I picked for my first purchase is Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire. I’ve not read the books but I think I may have the Mistborn RPG. That one credit got me 24 hours and 39 minutes of listening time. Compare that to the price of a movie ticket and Audible is great value. Not every audiobook is as long as The Final Empire: Mistborn, Book 1, though.
Alexa makes a difference.
Being able to go home, flop on the sofa and say ‘Alexa, read me a book’ and have the good quality speaker pick up the story from where I listened to at work is very handy. Believe it or not there are times when I don’t fancy watching TV or playing a game. Audiobooks fit very well in those gaps.
I imagine many gamers who subscribe to podcasts know this well. Listening to an articulate voice feels rather more personal than the flicker of the TV screen.
The Alexa experience isn’t perfect, though. You can ask for any of the books you’ve bought, go back or forward by 30 seconds or navigate by chapters. There have been times – like when I nodded off after a very busy day – when I’d have preferred to leap back by 5 or 10 minutes.
Happily, I’m enjoying Michael Kramer reading the unabridged Mistborn book. It’s a great story and I find myself paying attention in different ways compared to reading a book. For example, I might skim read a little during a combat scene as the details aren’t important and I can get a feel for the action without detail. The combat in The Final Empire, though, is read skillfully to me, and so I listen. It’s a transfer of effort; from me to Kramer. It does change the experience.
I’m tempted to pay for The Dark Tower next. It’ll be expensive as it comes in 7 parts and the cheapest part I can find is £15 and most £20. There are plenty of other Mistborn books to listen to as well. Perhaps I’ll spend those free credits on one series while paying cash for the other.
As it stands, I imagine I will be keeping on my Audible subscription once my free month runs out. However, I’ll certainly be looking to see what benefits and sales Audible provides in exchange for my loyalty.