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Downloading Audiobooks

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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, where I could download audiobooks to a compatible MP3 player.

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

Great Variety offers fiction and nonfiction books plus a variety of other listening choices, such as:

  • Audible Originals, which are exclusive to 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. Maybe more.

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? 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 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 listened to).

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 the MuVo).

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 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 to see if a particular book is available as an 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

What’s the best thing about Their books are never out of stock.
If you get excited about, 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 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 2004):

  • Apple iPod and iPod Minis
  • Gateway Digital Jukebox Player
  • SoniqCast Element Aireo
  • Casio, Dell, palmOne, Sony & Toshiba PDAs
  • Creative’s MuVo
  • Motorola and T-Mobile Smartphones
  • Rio 500, 600, 800 & 900
  • Iomega Hip-Zip
(Go to for a complete list.)

System Requirements

For the PC

  • Pentium (or compatible) 200 Mhz or higher
  • Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, or Windows XP
  • 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 recommended)
  • Internet and e-mail access

For the Mac

  • Mac OS X
  • iTunes3 or above

J. A. Hitchcock is a freelance writer and the author of Net Crimes & Misdemeanors (CyberAge Books, 2002), which is presently being updated.

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