Audio books, Part I

March 28, 2009 | By Patrick | Filed in: Geek, PAS, Vacation.

Thinking ahead to our cross-country travel this summer, I’ve begun investigating the various audio book options available to help pass the time. Sure, I’m a fan of podcasts, but I’m also pretty good about keeping current with my listening habits. I’ll build up a bunch to listen to while on the road, but I’ll probably burn through those rather quickly. It’s going to be hard to update my podcasts from the road since my main PC is a desktop at home.

I’m not a huge reader, but I do like the occasional thriller. I’ll usually read a book or two while on vacation, so why not get started while on the road? Let’s take a look at some of the various options for audio books.

Audible – is a prominent advertiser on podcasts, so I hear all about the company. Their theory is you’re already listening to audio on your iPod, why not try a book subscription? They integrate seamlessly with iPods and the books you buy are yours forever. At $15/month for 1 book/month it’s a pretty good deal if you often buy hardcover books as soon as they come out. The subscription is very favorable to their regular prices for ad-hoc book purchases – the latest John Grisham novel is $31.50. Not great for me since I usually wait for the paperback at about $7-8 per book. They have a half-price introductory offer as well as a 20% discount for educators. All in all, probably not the best option for us.

Public Library – I know, I’ll just rent audio books from the library! Turns out this is great in theory but lousy in execution. At the public library, you can A) borrow the CDs and listen to them, or B) borrow their MP3 player and listen to the book. Wow, where to begin? Option A is OK, but most books span 10 or more CDs. I don’t feel like dragging 20 or more CDs out west and taking the chance of losing or damaging them. Option B gives me more crap to take along and lose/damage. And what about batteries? Can I at least use my own headphones? I’m not going to find out.

Downloading books – This is another example of a good idea that doesn’t live up to its potential. Through the on-line library searching tool, there is an option to “check out” audio versions of some books. Hey, this might actually work! Upon further investigation, however, not all books are created equal. Some you can burn to CD. Some you can play on your generic MP3 player. Some you can play on your iPod. Those that are directly transferrable to your player must be done so during the “check-out” period. When the “check-out” period expires, you are to completely erase all traces of the electronic file. Really? What if I’m not done? What if I forget? What if…OK, will do. Downloadable books are generally not new releases, but that’s OK. There are so many that I’ve missed that they’re new to me.

Given the above, I chose to go the download route. I perused the on-line library and picked out a few classics. Wait, I can only add 5 books to my cart. Why? OK, fine. I proceed to check-out and it tells me I’ll be notified via e-mail when my selections are ready. Ready?!? What does it take? Why aren’t they ready right now? They’re electronic! There should be no time when they’re not READY. <takes breath>

Within a day I received my first notification that ONE of my selections was ready to download. Hooray! (Or so I thought…)

It’s getting late, so I’ll fill you in on my plight in the coming days.

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