Barely Audible

Audible.com is a great place for audio books. For some. That is, for residents of the USA. But for us others, it’s a real PITA and extremely irritating.

My gripes are as follows.

The selection of titles for subscribers in the USA and outside is totally different. There’s much less available to us, and the most interesting stuff, in general, is what we can’t get. I got an Audible account just to listen to those titles talked about in podcasts, only to discover I can’t get most of them.

My real gripe is that Audible isn’t up front about this. It’s mentioned nowhere that my selection is limited. The only way I found out is by counting titles in different lists while being logged in and comparing to the same lists when logged out. There’s at least a 25% difference in the number of titles available. Jeez. They could’ve told me before signing up, couldn’t they? Or they could list the titles with a flag telling me I can’t get them. The only reason to do it this way is if they want to deceive me into thinking I’m getting a fair deal, while I’m not.

So, I’m not happy with paying the full price for a substandard service. But I’m not, I’m paying more than the full price, since Audible adds sales tax on top of the advertised price, also without warning me in advance. They add another 21% VAT. Yes, I know, they have to according to EU tax laws, but it’s still not fair. According to most tax laws in EU (that they claim to follow), advertised prices should include tax, but that’s a part of these laws that Audible does not adhere to. Also, tax on books in Sweden, at least, is 6% and not 21%, so I’m getting a particularly raw deal.

Next: the frickin’ DRM. I’m using Macs and it’s fairly easy to authorize one or several iTunes for Audible. It’s not so easy to keep them authorized. For a while there, I had to keep authorizing after every boot; very annoying. I finally asked support and they told me you have to be an admin on your machine while autorizing, else it won’t stick across reboots. Jeez… and how am I supposed to know that? It’s nowhere in the instructions I can see. And, btw, this is exactly the kind of assumption that brought the Windows platform down; making life hard for users to run as non-admins.

I just got myself a Garmin GPS 660 FM, great little machine. It also has a provision for Audible books. There’s a manager app from Audible that you need to use to download and transfer books to the Garmin, since it’s all DRM’d. That app only works for Windows. The instructions say you don’t need it on the Mac, since iTunes handles it. Yeah, right, but iTunes doesn’t recognize the Garmin, and Audible books can’t be exported as plain MP3, so I’m forced to install Windows under Parallels, just to get the Audible manager app, just to connect the Garmin for that.

Only to discover that the Audible app throws up a mass of error messages that don’t mean anything and that the Garmin has a sloooowwww…. transfer speed (USB 1.0 I think), so it takes forever. (Transferring non-DRM’d files can be done by plugging the SD card from the Garmin into my SD card reader, and running at full USB 2 speed, but since the Audible files are DRM’d, I can’t do that.)

Then, when I went to cancel my account, I first looked up in the FAQ’s on Audible’s site how to do that. They pointed me to my account page where there should be a link to cancel. It wasn’t there. Then I discovered that if you went to the “contact support” page, you could select “cancel account” as subject and fill in an email body and send it out. Which I did, a long message outlining all my gripes, only to be met with “Sorry, we don’t accept account cancellations over email” after clicking “Send”. OMG, this is worse than trying to cancel a Compuserve account used to be, and that is saying a lot. The reason given was that they want to talk to me to hear what my problem with the service is so they can rectify it. Fair enough, but they could’ve told me that before letting me write that entire message.

So I called support, who cancelled my account, no questions asked. They don’t want to know what my problem was.

In conclusion, if you’re not based in the USA, this is not a good service to subscribe to. Not recommended.

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