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Audible.com App for iPhone and iPod Touch: Some Good Some Not So

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I’m an Audible.com fan. I like to listen to audio books when I’m driving. I’ve been a member of Audible for quite some time and actually listening to audio books is one thing that makes driving to and fro occasionally something I look forward to. Audible’s selections of books keeps increasing as does my library and my wish list. Up to now I’ve been content to listen to these books on either an iPhone or iPod touch while driving, but now Audible has released an App for those platforms, following its recent release of an App for the Android platform. There is also an App for the Blackberry platform.

On the one hand I’m glad to see this, on the other I’m not sure I personally need it, since I can get basically the same audio experience from iTunes. That said, Audible has added some bells and social feature whistles to the App to potentially lift it above the iTunes experience. Most of those social features don’t fit in to my usage, but that may be different for you.There are some nice navigation and control features that do raise this above the iTunes experience, including button-less touch controls (tap the screen to play or pause, swipe left to rewind 30 seconds, right to fast forward, swipe up to add a bookmark.)

In early and very limited testing, the app works as advertised, mostly. It will play in the background on an iOS4 iDevice, which is a plus. At the moment you can’t purchase books from within the App, instead having to do so in Safari or on your computer. (Audible gives us the increasingly familiar refrain that this feature is coming in the next update.) Once purchased all the books in your library on Audible’s servers show up, so you can download them (but only using WiFi if the book is over 20MB) to the Audible App for playback. Here’s where there is a glitch. The heavily compressed audio files take quite some time to download. Far too long in my opinion. At launch, Audible was saying they had problems with their servers, but an announcement in the news feature of the App says that’s all cleared up. But it is still taking over an hour to download a one half of a book via WiFi. I’ve tried testing that on two different WiFi networks with the same results.

There’s a feature to show books already in your iTunes Library, but due to Apple’s current iDevice file system (or lack thereof) you can’t access a book already in your iTunes library, which is also a glitch but one related more to iOS4′s limitations than Audible’s. Who needs to copies of a book in two different libraries? Sure that can be resolved by just not syncing books via iTunes and removing them from that library, but at the current download speeds I’m seeing, using iTunes is preferable to the new App for getting books to my devices. That said, none of the books stored in your iTunes library contain the chapter info or the other metadata associated with a book downloaded by the App. (By the way, one of the nice features of Audible.com is that any purchases you have made remain in your library in Audible’s cloud. If you need to re-download them at any point you can easily do so. )

Not having an Android or a Blackberry device, I can see where the Audible App is a big plus for that platform for audio book lovers. But I’ll need to do some more testing to see if it is worth occupying some space on my iPhone given that it can’t access the iTunes library at present. I’ll be doing some driving this week, so I’ll be checking it out further.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

20 Comments

  1. Corinne

    07/17/2010 at 9:55 am

    It took me about half that time to download a 2 part book, with 120 to 130mbs each.

  2. Warner Crocker

    07/17/2010 at 10:52 am

    Interesting.

  3. Ronald Stepp

    07/17/2010 at 1:17 pm

    I am really disappointed that the app doesn’t seem to have any built-in ability to sync between the iphone and ipad app. If you are reading somethibg on the iphone, then download the same book to the ipad version of the app, it doesn’t pick up where you left off, nor do the listening stats pick up where they were in the other device. Very disappointing, I had heard many good things about the app from android users.

    • Dan Menezes

      08/24/2011 at 3:53 am

      Hi Ronald, Audible does allow syncing (of a sort) between iOS devices – such as your iPhone & iPad.

      You’ll have to sync each with iTunes though, so that the listening stats can transferred. So for eg, if you’re at 36 mins on a particular book on your iPhone, sync it to iTunes. Then plug in your iPad and sync and you should be able to proceed from the 36th min on this device.

      Hope this helps.

      Now, if I only could figure out how to get this done with the Android version of the app as well …

  4. steve

    07/17/2010 at 7:14 pm

    Too bad about the download issues, but I’m VERY glad to see this app. I try to avoid syncing with itunes as much as possible so its great to be able to get my audible books with no computer needed. In app purchases will be better too, but I’m glad they didn’t wait to release this. More and more my iPhone is an autonomous computer which is nice and simple. It is working great for me at the moment now that the download issues are resolved. (Do wish it was faster even now, however…but I remember their wifi Palm app being this slow too so that must be the limit of their server’s speed.)

  5. Simon

    07/20/2010 at 12:05 am

    I was really excited when I downloaded this as I really hate managing my books through iTunes. It means that when I just plug in my phone I have to race to add in the audible password (or forget then find the books are missing).

    For me the downloads not too much of a problem, but I read two types of content novels and business books. Business books I like to listen to at double speed but it looks like this app won’t do that. For me that’s the killer. It means I have to manage book 2 different ways, so I will never use it.

    Would live to see these problems fixed in an update.

    • BadDude

      07/19/2011 at 4:48 am

      Actually the app let’s you listen in .5 speed increments all the way up to 3X speed.

  6. Reader

    07/21/2010 at 9:29 am

    I’m happy with this new app when it works correctly, but that seems rare. On a recent road trip, I was unable to download Part II of a book I had already downloaded to iTunes–my iPhone “audiobooks” folder seems to have been wiped out by the Audible.com app and I am unable to sync books directly to my iPod anymore (by far the easiest way to transfer content). The music is there and all other content, but audiobooks have been disabled. My only option is to go through the Audible app, and the wireless function is not working correctly. Alas, I had to make the last five hours of my trip without the help of an audiobook. Very disappointed and perhaps I will have to remove the audible.com app until this is resolved. In my opinion, the promise of wireless download (which I would rarely need) in no way compensates for the loss of the ability to sync books directly through a transfer cord.

  7. ChrisDelph

    08/04/2010 at 7:20 pm

    This is a great app for managing your Audible books. I enjoy how easy it is to use. Unfortunately, it does not support speeding up the audio. Would be a nice feature to have.

  8. Tmanager1222

    01/08/2011 at 2:09 pm

    How can I get to my library while reading another book. Can a new book be started before one is finished? How? Thx

  9. Joseph

    03/20/2011 at 6:00 pm

    I still haven’t figured a way to remove a book from my iPhone once I have finished it I have a small iPhone with limited storage. So I must keep on it only what I am currently listening to, any trucks I have tried using iTunes but it still syncs the books in my iTunes lib back to the iPhone Apple has made it’s stuff so propritary it is crap”give me complete manual control over my content” I know there are apps that allow file manipulation but mist require a jailbrek and I do not want to do this…. HELP

    • Tmurdock

      07/12/2011 at 12:45 pm

      I got this from Audible’s website. One tip though, you have to go into each part of a book that downloads in multiple parts to remove them.:
      “Audio titles that have already been downloaded to your iPhone will be displayed with a white background with in My Library.To remove a downloaded title from My Library, swipe your finger from left-to right on the title to reveal the Remove from Device button. Tapping this button will remove it from your device.Removing a title doesn’t remove it from My Library; it simply removes the downloaded audio from your device’s memory. Please note that you are not able to remove iPod audiobooks that have been synchronized via iTunes. To delete titles transferred using iTunes, you need to connect your device to a PC/Mac with a USB cable and remove it using iTunes.”

      • Dan Davidson

        05/26/2012 at 10:32 pm

        Thanks for this. I could not find it on the poorly designed Q&A help section, but it made perfect sense once I read it here. When you press and hold on a multi-file item, it turns blue (on my iPod) and then takes you to the individual files, where it works just as you said. Wipe to find the delete, which removes it from your device, but not your online library. In the Help items all I could find were the directions for dumping the file altogether.
        This app, by the way, allows you to see separate listings for things purchased using iTunes and those purchased using Audible.

  10. Leif Skogberg

    08/20/2011 at 4:31 pm

    Yes, in app download speeds are horrendous. Over 1 hour remaining (could be 1h55m) to download part 1 of ADwD (213MB) using the audible app (version 1.6.1) to my iPhone 4 and about 6 or 7 minutes downloading it from the audible website onto my computer. WTH? Is this an issue writing to memory and that’s why it’s so slow? Honestly I don’t know what the issue is but I can say that using the app is not worth it unless I cared to run the download for 10 hours. I’m not even connected to WiFi that many hours during the day. For me this is an unusable application until this issue is resolved. And here I was excited about getting reading (er listening) achievement badges :) 

  11. Ashwin Malshe

    08/30/2011 at 2:39 pm

    I am somewhat relieved (it’s not just me type of relief) and also annoyed to see that this download problem has persisted for so long…I spent hours downloading a 3-part book and I have bought several books from Audible which are not yet downloaded.

  12. Meyersci

    12/27/2011 at 9:21 am

    Geez I hate using Audible!  My Sony Walkman would not work with it, so I bought an iPod Touch a year ago.  I am not an IT specialist, but I use constantly changing technology for teaching so neither am I my elderly mother trying to navigate this mess.
     
     Audible and the Audible downloads are remarkable in their user-unfriendliness.  I had to wait until Christmas break just to have enough time (4 hours so far) to mess with them.  Each time I try to download a book I end up calling customer service.  I get their promotional e-mails at my two e-mail addresses but when I log in under those names from my PC, neither account shows any credits I have earned.  I only see those through the iPod.  I don’t want to shop for books using the iPod, but that’s how I am forced to order them since the desktop doesn’t recognize the credits, even though it finds my account! WTF?

    Getting between listening, buying, downloading and back to listening is more complex than the No Child Left Behind Act. Criminy!
     
    All I want to know is ; Will these downloaded books still be accessible if I cancel my account after i download them?

  13. Rosedale

    02/05/2012 at 7:01 am

    I download audible listening books to my iPad. Can you tell me how to delete them?

  14. Ljmford3

    02/26/2012 at 6:31 am

    One problem I have encountered is that when I am reading a huge book and then go to listen to it when I am on a road trip I can’t access the chapters and cannot zip to a specific chapter in the audio book. It really screws me up.

    • Dan Davidson

      05/26/2012 at 10:35 pm

      This one’s easy. You can access those things. but not while you’re driving. Pull over and find the chapter menu. Once you’re in a chapter you want, advance by the vernier slider or in 30 sec jumps (there are buttons for this) until you get to where you want to be. Do not attempt any of this while you are driving.

  15. susan coley

    04/04/2013 at 7:50 pm

    Now it’s 2013…I need a phone and my ipod nano is about to bite the dust. I’d like to get an I phone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy 3 or 4 for my audiobooks while driving. Anyone have thoughts?

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