Friday, July 28, 2006

Audio Books

I have been listening to unabridged audio books for many many years now. I was a big customer of Books-On-Tape and Recorded Books Inc. which were mail order rental companies plus I had a huge collection of well over 200 or so titles. For example I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book but instead own them all unabridged on CD. I also own the entire Lord of the Rings set including The Hobbit and the Silmarillion unabridged on CD.

Before I left the states I sold most of my collection to a used book store. I only kept ones that I thought I would be really listen to many more times such as my unabridged Douglas Adams collection which includes all 5 (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) books in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Guide trilogy (plus 1-4 abridged which were my first audio books and were out long before the unabridged books were available), Last Chance to See, the 2 Dirk Gently books(1 & 2). (also a copy of the first one abridged which again came out before unabridged version), Douglas Adams at the BBC and Salmon of Doubt. The problem with these is all but the last two are on cassette not CD. Last time I listened to them I noticed that they are starting to exhibit some wear, really bad wear as they are about 18 years old. When my last cassette player gave out on me I figured I would get a new cassette player and then convert them to MP3 files so I would always have them to listen to before they completely disintegrated on me. Well you might not have noticed but you can’t easily buy a cassette player anymore.

Then I noticed several books on iTunes that I would like; most notably George R.R. Martin’s New York Times best-selling series: A Song of Ice and Fire. I already own and have read books 1 through 3 in the series. Let me expand on that because it kind of plays into my point later on. I already own the books 1 through 4 in hard cover and have 2 copies of books 1 through 3 in paper back. I also own two copies of the unabridged audio version on CD of book 4, though the second copy was given as a gift by my brother in-law who didn’t know I had already bought it for myself.

I bought books 1 and 2 in the series from iTunes. I would buy book 3 but although they have book 4, they don’t offer book 3. I wrote them email about it, no answer.

Here is the list of unabridged audio books I have purchased from iTunes since I bought my iPod:
• A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin for $52
• A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin for $27
• Evermore by Sean Williams for $8
• The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett for $35
• The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett for $35
• Elric of Melnibon√© by Michael Moorcock for $19
• Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde for $26

That is over $200 dollars in not a long period of time. Actually the last 5 of those were in the last 2 weeks. Point I am trying to make is I am the target hardcore customer of unabridged audio books.

I am really dying for the 3rd book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. I tried listening to the 4th book on CD when I first bought it back in December but it has been so long since I had read the first 3 that I was lost. Yes, I actually READ them! Just because I listen to audio books doesn't mean that I don't also read books. Normally I have two books going at once, one that I'm listening to and one that I'm readying before going to sleep at night. Anyway I started re-reading the series but I was slogging through them very slowly and kept having days pass by where I would read something else at night. That is why I jumped at them on iTunes.

I noticed that they are provided to iTunes by a company called Audible.com. Heading over to their web site looking for the 3rd book, I found they sell the audio books but you can’t browse their collection unless you join. You can browse their categories and see about 8 titles in each, but that is all they will show you. At the lowest level plan you pay $9.95 for a re-occurring yearly membership where you can download 1 audio book. But I want to see their selection before I give them money. As with all shopping on the internet I’m a bit suspicious of anything that wants my money and the fact that they won’t even let me see what they are selling before taking my money makes me think they are hiding something.

I know they are a legit company. It would even appear they are selling downloads recorded by both Recorded Books Inc. and Books-On-Tape. A few of the books I have bought through iTunes are labled "Recorded by: Recorded Books Inc. Offered by: Audible.com" But still I hesitate and if I, their core customer type, hesitate; how many new customers are they scaring away? What hoops and hidden dangers luck inside Audible.com? What, dear reader, will our hero do?

2 comments:

John said...

Joseph,

You can browse the entire catalog at Audible without being a member. Click "Browse Audio" at the top of the page or use the search box toward the bottom.

Joseph the Fourth said...

Okay, I went back and clicked "Browse Audio" and looked around. It doesn't really let you 'browse' them as each category just says "Audible has ### Science Fiction & Fantasy titles with more being added all the time!" and then just shows me about 8 books. There is no link that allows me to see their entire collection. Even if I go through the site map I still come back to the page that only shows 8 titles.

I am assuming that the "get started" link which takes me to the sign up page is different if you are already a member and logged in.

But I never tried the 'search' option which I just did and it does allow me to search their collection. I have found that they do offer the missing 3rd Song of Ice and Fire book, "A Storm of Swords" by George R. R. Martin so I probably will sign up.