The Audiobook Service I Love and Hate Simultaneously

Uncategorized has been serving up audiobooks since 1995, so it’s hardly new. I remember checking it out when it first came out, thinking it would be something cool to try out and then realizing, “Oh dang, that’s crazy expensive.” Well, guess what, now that I’m older and wiser, it still seems crazy expensive, but I am about to pay for it.

Membership plans start of $14.95 per month, for which price you will get 1 (that’s right, 1) lousy credit. If you pay $22.95 per month, you can get 2 credits. A credit is essentially worth 1 audio book download. So there you have it. You can also pay for annual plans that are much more expensive at around $150-230 per year for 12-24 credits.

Here’s the thing though: as I contemplate doing more exercise in the morning and the length of my soon-to-be commute, I figure these are great times to pack my head full of knowledge. I also do a fair amount of traveling so I decided to give Audible a chance, via their free trial offer, to show me what they got. On a long trip up to Wyoming, I plugged my iPhone into the rental car’s AUX input, fired up the Audible app and started listening to Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith (very interesting book by the way, even though I am a business lover I found this to be quite eye-opening).

As soon as the audio started, I could tell the quality was far, far better than the quality of any free audiobook you can get from iPhone apps like Audiobooks which has a large selection of public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. To be fair, I do appreciate that there is an app that makes great books like Treasure Island available for free… I just wish the quality was better. I don’t like hearing the crackling of microphones and every gulp and swallow of the reader… artifacts which are pleasantly absent from the recordings I have tried out so far.

One thing I can tell you for sure that bothers me about is the terrible user interface. The branding and UX design is lacking throughout the entire experience–it’s like it is geared for a total ignoramus that wouldn’t know the difference. Get this: you can’t search for/shop for any audiobooks from within the iPhone app. It actually makes you go to the mobile version of to see the selection and then transfer back to the app to download it/listen. Talk about inconvenient.

The long and the short of it is this: has a vast selection of high-quality audiobooks you won’t find anywhere else, but the quality of the interface and shopping experience leaves a lot to be desired. I guess that can be somewhat understandable since was bought by who isn’t exactly the Apple of design (I’ve always thought’s site design was disgustingly bad–it works, sure, but it’s ugly). If there was another show in town, I’d pack up my business and move elsewhere. For now I guess I’m in a sort of audiobook limbo.

What is your experience with Audible? Have you found any decent alternatives?