Last week we had a look at another side of digital reading beyond eBooks – audiobooks, available by subscription from Audible. Today we will dig a little deeper.
One curious thing incidentally is your subscription must be either with Audible.com or Audible.co.uk (there is no .es store currently). You should be able to create an account with either or both, but the subscriptions are completely separate and non-interchangeable, a fact I find surprising when it comes to products which are 100% digital.
The inventories aren’t the same either, and it’s frustrating when you run into a review of something on the .com store and find out that it isn’t available on .co.uk where your account is – which doesn’t happen quite enough to make me experiment with paying for two subscriptions, nor on anything I want quite badly enough to pay an ‘a la carte’ non subscription price or yet.
You can download the free Audible app on most smartphones and tablets, as well as your computer/mac, and any Kindle with speakers – such as the Kindle Fire or Touch. The latest release cleverly syncs your progress across multiple devices just as the Kindle app does. You can download and play with the app without creating an Audible account though, because there are a number of free excerpts you can play with, and you can also listen to any audiobook purchases from iTunes via your Audible app.
You use your Amazon log-in to identify you, and access any previously set-up means of payment (eg debit card), which keeps things simple – for you as a customer, and for Amazon to keep taking your money!
Once you have set up your account and got your first credit or credits in it, you use those to make your actual purchase – after which, your purchased audiobook is then available to download to any device you have the app installed on and log in. The download may be divided into multiple parts (optional in most recent version of the iOS app), to enable you to manage local device storage better, and also to start listening quicker to a new purchase – although you can start listening before the complete file is downloaded anyway, and this happens pretty fast.
If you’ve bought books on your computer, you will see them listed in your Library section of the app in the ‘cloud’ section, and you will need to pull them down to your device first to start listening, just as you do with an eBook.
The listening experience is very straightforward – buttons like play, pause, stop and so on will be familiar in function and appearance. There is a button to skip back 30 seconds, which is great if you get interrupted, drift off or lose your thread. The fast forward and rewind buttons take you to the start or end of the current chapter –chapters which appear to map on to the published books’ structure and layout. You can also use the controls to insert bookmarks, or even personal notes, in the content itself as you listen.
I don’t tend to use these last functions much at all because for me an audiobook is usually something to enjoy whilst my hands and/or eyes are otherwise occupied – otherwise I would prefer to just read the book. I don’t want to make notes whilst driving, travelling, exercising or decluttering a kitchen cupboard, but it’s a great opportunity to listen to something I need or want to hear, perhaps to distract me from the physical efforts or boredom if nothing else.
Another place I enjoy audiobooks this time of year is on the beach – watching and supervising kids, I can’t lie down and read a book, but anything not too distracting on my headphones is good background entertainment that doesn’t detract from sea-safety vigilance.
I sometimes find myself too busy to make time for professional and business reading, and I find non-fiction is great for audiobook enjoyment. Fiction engages the imagination differently, I wasn’t bothered by the fuss over the George R R Martin novels costing two Audible subscriptions, because why would I want to hear anyone else doing the voices differently to the ones in my head..? Of course that does happen in a movie but that’s OK to immerse in someone else’s creative vision, for me – reading a book is more personal.
When it comes to business books and not being enveloped in Stephen Fry’s mellifluousness, I sometimes opt for speed over immersion anyway, and the Audible app allows you to run the audio at 1.25, 1.5 or even up to 3x speed- this can take a little getting used to, but for quickly refreshing material it’s surprising what you can take in at a higher speed than usual, enabling you to listen to more in less time (duh!).
The latest version of the app has other functions I never use – social buttons: tell the world what you are reading! And some kind of mastery setting so you can add up how many books or hours of your life you have consumed, for some reason, if the mood seizes you.
If you are interested in checking out audiobooks on Audible, a final word about the subscription-based model. As I have said before, I think it’s good value overall, especially with the introductory £3.99 a month. You can cancel it at any time, and it rolls over if unused, so you can go in and pick a few books at once – or set up a wish list to save until your sub renews. But, like any subscription of this type, don’t forget about it and leave it running if you are not using it – there are no refunds on forgetting to cancel.
Enjoy, tell me what audiobooks you are enjoying this summer – email@example.com, or @casslar
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, July 11th 2014
©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL