I travel quite a bit, at least once or twice a month.
To break up the monotony of airports and flying, I like
to listen to audiobooks. Cassettes were a pain because
they were too bulky, especially since I like to listen
to unabridged editions of books. CDs scratch too easily
when it comes time to change them.
Then someone told me about http://www.Audible.com,
where I could download audiobooks to a compatible MP3
How to Sign Up
It was easy to get started. I chose the $15.95 per
month option (this was more than 2 years ago). For that
amount, I got two audiobooks or titles, no matter how
long they were. So I listened to the unabridged edition
of the latest book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower
series for less than $8. The regular audiobook price
was $52.50—and that’s discounted from the
$75 retail price.
When you sign up for the monthly membership, you get
either a free MP3 player or half off the first month
of membership. I needed a player, so that was my choice.
I received the Otis, which is compact in size and about
3 inches square. It comes with earbuds, leather case
with belt clip, and a car cassette adapter.
I liked this player, mainly because it was smaller
than a regular cassette player and I could quickly add
more memory to it by buying additional multimedia cards
(MMCs). This allowed me to put the entire book on the
Otis in two sections (which is the norm for unabridged
titles from Audible.com).
Audible.com offers fiction and nonfiction books plus
a variety of other listening choices, such as:
- Audible Originals, which are exclusive to Audible.com
and include short stories and books that aren’t
currently on cassette or CD. It also offers stand-up
comedy from Robin Williams and Supreme Court oral
arguments (I kid you not).
- Periodicals like Forbes, Jazz Times, and
Science News; newspapers including The
New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
- Public Radio shows like “All Things Considered,”
“Car Talk,” “Marketplace,”
and “Fresh Air.”
- Harvard Management Update and Health Letter.
- Free Audio. Yes—free! Although most are politically
related, sometimes you find a gem or two or three.
If you’re unsure of becoming a member, there
are picks under $10 (some are decent). But I think you’ll
want to become a member for either $14.95 per month
(one audiobook plus one radio, magazine, or newspaper
selection) or $21.95 per month (two audiobooks each
month plus your choice of 50 percent off the first month
of membership or a free MP3 player—a Creative
MuVo, which retails for about $60).
Still not sure? Audible.com also offers a first audiobook
for just $9.95 so that you can see what a deal this
is. No cassettes, no CDs, no more hassles.
My Husband Likes It Too
I made the mistake of telling my husband about Audible.com.
He stole my Otis and took over my account, so I went
ahead and got another account just for myself (this
time I got the new MuVo player).
It’s much smaller than the Otis (just under 3
inches tall and 1.38 inches wide) and fits in my shirt
or pants pocket when I’m traveling, which is great.
It’s also good for when I’m gardening, walking,
or just want chill and listen to a book. This lets me
keep the earbuds in my ears or hanging around my neck.
In addition to the earbuds, it also comes with a car
cassette adapter and has more memory than my old Otis
did—128 MB. It easily holds one unabridged book
and some music. I also like the audio on the MuVo better
than the Otis. It’s clearer and cleaner.
The one thing I don’t like about the MuVo is
that I don’t know how much time is left on a book
I’m listening to—there is no viewing screen
like there was on the Otis. But that’s a minor
complaint. The MuVo is USB-compatible, so you plug it
directly into your USB port—no wires necessary.
Choosing a Format
When you select a book to download to your compatible
player, you can choose from formats 1, 2, 3, or 4. Format
1 takes up the least amount of space, but it is really
scratchy and warbled to listen to. That’s the
best way I can describe it. Formats 2 and 3 are better
in quality and the amount of space used. Format 4 takes
up the most space, but it is the cleanest and clearest
of them all. Unfortunately, my MuVo doesn’t accept
format 4. But format 3 works well for me.
When you select the format, you can either download
to your player or save it to your hard drive. If you
do the latter, you can listen on your desktop or laptop
or burn it to a CD. The CD player has to be compatible—a
normal car CD player won’t accept it. We found
this out the hard way. You can also save the audiobook
to your library for later downloads or to listen to
it again. Or you might have a spouse like mine (he sneaks
into my account and downloads a book I’ve already
Once you decide to download to your player, the AudibleManager
program starts on your desktop or laptop (this program
is part of the installation process that is on the included
CD-ROM). Here you keep track of what audiobooks you’ve
downloaded to your desktop or laptop, which are then
transferred to your player. You can also plug your player
in to your desktop or laptop to find out how much time
is left on the book you are listening to, if you don’t
have a way of viewing that info on your player (as with
AudibleManager also keeps track of any radio, magazine,
or newspaper subscriptions you may have. There are also
a host of other options and commands to keep everything
in order. You can even keep track of and add music selections
to transfer to your player here.
Search for Titles
What impresses me most about the Audible.com Web site
is that you can search for books by author or title,
peruse the various bestseller lists on their site, and
even cruise around Amazon.com to see if a particular
book is available as an Audible.com file. There are
some other nifty things, like upcoming books (with release
dates), staff picks, and unabridged selections. You
can also view audiobooks by category. Under the category,
you can learn the new and notables, the bestsellers,
the editor’s picks, and even subcategories to
make your search easier.
I like that the instructions are easy to understand,
from how to use Audible, how to pick the right compatible
player, how to buy accessories, and more.
Benefits of Audible.com
What’s the best thing about Audible.com? Their
books are never out of stock.
If you get excited about Audible.com, you can refer
a friend and check out the fundraising and corporate
programs. There is more than enough to keep you busy
at the Web site. I have to warn you, though: If you
enjoy Audible.com as much as I do, make sure friends
and family get their own accounts, or you could lose
your account and your MP3 player!
If you do sign up as a result of this article, let them
know I sent you. My member name is jahitchcock.
Compatible for Mac or PC desktops and laptops,
MP3 players, PDAs, and more
Some of the compatible players (as of September
(Go to http://www.audible.com
for a complete list.)
- Apple iPod and iPod Minis
- Gateway Digital Jukebox Player
- SoniqCast Element Aireo
- Casio, Dell, palmOne, Sony & Toshiba
- Creative’s MuVo
- Motorola and T-Mobile Smartphones
- Rio 500, 600, 800 & 900
- Iomega Hip-Zip
For the PC
- Pentium (or compatible) 200 Mhz or higher
- Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, or
- 32 MB of RAM
- Audio card and speakers
- VGA graphics card or compatible video graphics
adapter at 256 color or higher
- Approximately 25 MB of hard disk space for
full installation and content files
- 28.8 Kbps or higher modem (56 Kbps or alternate
method of High-speed broadband Internet connection
- Internet and e-mail access
For the Mac
- Mac OS X
- iTunes3 or above
Jayne Hitchcock is
a freelance writer and the author of Net
Crimes & Misdemeanors. Her Web site