The Tech-Pert: Stream Unlimited Audiobooks for $24.95 Per Month
I love audiobooks. Right now I’m halfway through Stephen King’s “11/23/63,” and already it ranks among my favorite spoken-word books of all time.
What I do not love is audiobook prices. iTunes charges $44.95 for the unabridged version of “11/23/63.” The new Steve Jobs biography runs $29.95. And so on. You could listen yourself into the poorhouse if you’re not careful. That’s why I’m thoroughly jazzed about an unprecedented new deal from Audiobooks.com: unlimited audiobook streaming for $24.95 per month (www.audiobooks.com). The only other service that comes anywhere close is Tales2Go (http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-20016799-233.html), but it delivers only children’s books.
Audiobooks.com is home to over 10,000 grown-up titles—everything from the aforementioned Stephen King gem and Jobs bio to bestsellers like “The Kite Runner” and new releases like “Bond Girl.” The library isn’t totally comprehensive—where’s the “Hunger Games” series, for example?—but it definitely contains enough mainstream material to keep you listening happily for months.
When you sign up for an account, you gain instant access to the entire Audiobooks.com catalog. And you listen via your PC, browser, tablet, or other Internet-connected device. This is, of course, the key limitation of the service. You can’t actually download books like you can with, say, Audible, so if you’re in the car and driving in a rural area, you may not be able to “tune in.” In an ideal world, Audiobooks.com would release a smartphone app capable of downloading maybe one book at a time.
That said, the service worked quite well on my iPhone 4S. It runs entirely from the Safari browser, where you sign into your account, pick a book, and start listening. The browser-based controls are impressive, allowing you to bookmark your place and quick-skip 30 seconds forward or back. And the beauty of unlimited streaming is this: If you don’t like a particular book, just stop listening and switch to another. That’s incredibly liberating, as audiobooks have traditionally been a hope-for-the-best affair. If you buy a clunker, you end up feeling badly about the money you wasted.
Speaking of money, $24.95 per month may seem like a lot—unless you’re already buying, say, one audiobook per month. If you end up listening to just one book per week, that works out to around $6 per book—a steal any way you slice it.
You’ll be glad to know Audiobooks.com offers a 7-day trial, so you can see if the service meets your expectations. I think it’s the start of something big, and I’m hoping companies like Apple and Amazon follow suit. What do you think of this? Is Audiobooks.com’s unlimited-streaming option the answer to your endless-commute prayers? Or is $25 monthly just too hard to swallow?