March 10, 2006

Do your books talk?


Audio books are not new inventions – they have been around since cassettes went mainstream however over the past 3 years there has been a small explosion in the availability of titles. The biggest provider of audio book and content is Audible.com

Audible launched in November 1997 at the beginning of the dot com frenzy and survived the aftermath – when the service launched the product was too advanced for the current technology. In 1997 nobody had either CD burners or iPods and Audible nearly went bust. Nearly ten years on millions of consumers have both iPods and CD burners and Audible is now a hit. In fact Audible now has over 400,000 users and has partnerships with Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.com – two of the leading worldwide websites.

Based in the US Audible lets you browse and buy over 25,000 audio titles from all the popular categories including New Releases, Best Sellers and Award Winners. Buying from Audible is simple. Sign up for an account, enter your credit card info and you are right to go. If you use an iPod and iTunes the Audible file you download can be loaded into iTunes. If you are using another program chances are high that you will be able to do the same with your Audible content.

Your iPod should have plenty of room to hold your Audible file, however if you’d prefer to burn your content to CD you can do that as well. Audible files can be very long (some over 10 hours!) but your burning program should offer to split the content over numerous discs (as CD’s typically only hold about 80 minutes worth of music). There is plenty of support at the Audible website – just click the ‘Device Centre’ link at the top of the page.

Audible also offer listener packages aimed at high volume users. For example you can spend US$150 and get up to 12 books per year – that works out at nearly US$12 per book – a large discount to retail where you typically pay US$25. Additionally, if you sign up to one of their membership plans you also get access to daily Audible subscriptions. You can also purchase and download Audible content through the iTunes music store using either your credit card or a pre-purchased voucher available in stores.

I’ve been testing Audible over the past few months and have been extremely impressed. I purchased Bill Clinton’s autobiography – a large book in print and one that would have taken me over 6 months to read at my snails pace. Listening to the book (6 hours) took me a little over 2 weeks. Not only is it more time efficient but I also think I got more out of the book as it was narrated by Bill Clinton – it is his book after all – who better to read it to you!