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Topic: Browsing Audio Books on iTunes...

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Old 05-09-2005, 06:03 AM
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Browsing Audio Books on iTunes...

If you like digitally downloading your audio books and using iTunes and you have an iPod, then here's a little something I wrote up on browsing audio books on iTunes:

So I was browsing iTunes for audio books and I have some comments to make. I believe iTunes features all the audio books and audio programs available for download that are on Audible.com (because they have 9,000 titles and they all say Presented by Audible.com).

And now if you have iTunes you might want to have it open to see what I'm talking about. You can access their audio books by going into the iTunes Music Store. To get to the Audiobooks Page you can select "Audiobooks" from the Choose Genre drop down on the iTunes home page. You won't see a search on this Audiobook page and if you search in the overall search box in the far upper right search entry box, when you search "My Life" you will bring up Bill Clinton's audio book but you'll also bring up Mary J. Blige's song "My Life" and a whole host of songs you weren't looking for. You can search within audio books by clicking the magnifying glass in the far upper right box and selecting Power Search or by going back to the iTunes home page and clicking Power Search on the left bar. Audiobooks is a Genre you can select to search within and entering an audio book title in the "Song" field or an audio book author in the "Artist" field will take you to a result of what you're looking for hopefully.

Another thing you can find (and it's a group of audio programs mostly not available on Audible) is their Spoken Word genre. Correct me if I'm wrong but I can't find a specific Spoken Word page. You have to click Browse Music on the left hand bar of the home page and then select Spoken Word as a Genre from the first of their three adjacent browsing windows that you can scroll down (as Spoken Word is not in the home page's drop down of genres for some reason). When you select Spoken Word in the "Genre" box, then you see their list of authors under "Artist" and you can click on them to see their spoken word "Albums". I think these are grouped separately from Audiobooks because these are produced by independent music & spoken word companies and not the audio book publishing industry. You'll find quite a few authors here with titles that Audible doesn't have like political lectures from Noam Chomsky & Mumia Abu-Jamal, poetry read by Allen Ginsberg & Jack Kerouac, comedy albums with Jerry Seinfield & Lewis Black, and a whole host of titles from people I've never heard of but might be great spoken word artists. And with these it's nice because you can buy them by track so you can test a track and see what it's like before buying the whole album, kind of like iTunes music.

Other than that, iTunes has its good points and its bad points for browsing audiobooks. They have Categories for you to browse but they don't have any Subcategories within those Categories like Audible has. And when you click into a category in the browsing windows it brings up an adjacent list of authors which can be difficult to browse since a lot of authors are doubled up because their names are slightly different for different books and there's no way to just browse all the titles alphabetically. They also lack the ratings & reviews of Audible.com. And they also lack anything like the Audible Listener Program which is a must in terms of saving money for the avid audio book downloader like myself.

On the positive side it is pretty fast to browse around their categories and authors and titles which is not always the case with Audible (even though I just got a new computer with a faster processor and Audible.com is a lot faster for me now). And their audio books are AAC files with the m4b extension which basically means they will go to the Audiobooks section of your iPod and you can bookmark them there and listen to music and then go back to the place you bookmarked the audiobook. Also listening to audio samples of an audio book is really easy to do on iTunes. Since you have iTunes open already it plays the sample almost instantly when you click the Preview button on a audio book product page or double click a title in the browsing window. Samples on Audible can take longer to load since they require you to open Windows Media Player or Real Player. And of course if you have an iTunes account you know that the downloading is really fast and easy. So that's it for iTunes browsing. It's a good option to have and I'm sure Apple will continue to make browsing better as the audio book world goes digital.

So now I will open up the debate. If you're not an Audible Listener and you're just buying a la carte, which is the better way to browse, buy, and digitally download audio books: Audible.com or iTunes?



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Last edited by LOLDavid; 05-09-2005 at 06:25 AM.
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Old 05-09-2005, 12:39 PM
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LOLDavid--

I have an audible subscription, so I don't buy my books a la carte, but I do have a couple of good reasons for purchasing books from audible rather than iTunes:

1. Audible allows unlimited downloads, so if for some reason, I need to re-download my book, I can just log on to their site and get it again.

2. Books downloaded from iTunes are only playable on an iPod. I have a few other "audible ready" devices (a rio 500 and a creative labs muvo) that I also use to listen to books on.

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Old 05-09-2005, 04:04 PM
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To expand on Dordale's points 1 and 2:

Availability

As Dordale mentioned, titles you've purchased from Audible can be retrieved from their servers even if the title is no longer being offered or if you are not a current subscriber (or if you never were a subscriber because you purchased a la carte). If your disk crashed and you need to replace an audiobook you can retrieve it from the Audible server. (And since Audible allows you to authorize 3 different computers at any time, this also works if you've upgraded your computer since the original purchase.) For iTunes you need to burn a CD as backup.

Formats

Audible usually offers works at 3 different levels of compression: formats 2, 3, and 4 with format 4 giving the largest files and the best audio quality. Format 4 is what you get from iTunes. Some players and software (such as Microsoft Reader) only support formats 2 and 3. The iPod Shuffle has problems holding bookmarks for format 4 files, but appears to work well with format 3. You can download both formats from Audible; you don't have a choice from the iTMS.

Selection

Audible and iTMS do not have the same inventory. Until recently, I would have said that Audible has more titles available than through the iTMS. This is partly because many titles were originally transcribed in formats 2 and 3. So Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, Alexander Spencer's reading of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and other such titles are not available through the iTMS. In some instances, where there are multiple versions of works in format 4, the iTunes Music Store may only carry the least expensive of these. Under Audible you can search and select works by narrator; that's less of an option under iTMS. Also if Audible reencodes newer versions of the work, or higher quality formats at a later time, you have access to those versions, too.

Searching

I've no doubt that if the iTunes Music Store provided the same search criteria that they would do a far better job than Audible does. This may be a better way for new buyers to browse the inventory. However, you can't search by narrator or publisher.

Some titles that don't come up under audiobooks in iTMS are ones that were distributed by recording companies under the comedy heading (e.g., Monty Python).

Sampling

The iTunes audiobook previews are about the same length as the music previews -- about a couple of minutes long. Audible samples are typically longer (e.g., 15 minutes vs. 2 minutes, although this can vary).

Extras

For some titles (like the Soundwalk travel guide series) there are PDF maps for the routes. Audible contains links to these. The iTMS doesn't.

Pricing

In general, I think iTMS may be slightly cheaper on short works. Audible sometimes runs 2-for-1 sales though, and I haven't seen anything like that on the iTMS.

Edited on 05-09-2005 at 11:49 AM to add link to recent ISIS decision to pull some titles off Audible but keep them on the iTunes Music Store (many at more than the price of the CDs) and add note that later versions of some works (like Ender's Game) or rerecorded better quality versions are also available to Audible purchasers.

Edited to add description of Sampling length

Last edited by moriond; 05-17-2005 at 04:25 AM.
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Old 05-09-2005, 04:18 PM
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well said
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Old 05-11-2005, 04:19 AM
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Good Points. I will point out that I did an extensive and random price comparison and iTunes Music Store Audiobooks were consistently $2-$3 cheaper than Audible Audiobooks for Non-Audible Subscribers (with a few exceptions). So if you have an iPod and you know what audiobook you want and you just want to buy it a la carte, then iTunes may be the way to go if you want to save a couple bucks. Here's my Audible/iTunes Price Comparison:

Salt of the Earth
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95

Art of War (Recorded Books)
Audible: $14.99
iTunes: $12.95

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America
Audible: $17.50
iTunes: $15.95

The Da Vinci Code (Unabridged)
Audible: $28.97
iTunes: $31.95

In-Flight Japanese
Audible: $10.95
iTunes: $8.95

The Power of Now (Unabridged)
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95

The Great Gatsby (Unabridged)
Audible: $14.97
iTunes: $12.95

My Life
Audible: $25.50
iTunes: $21.95

David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall
Audible: $13.59
iTunes: $10.95

A Short History of Nearly Everything (Unabridged)
Audible: $40.47
iTunes: $34.95

The South Beach Diet
Audible: $14.27
iTunes: $11.95

A People's History of the United States
Audible: $17.50
iTunes: $15.95

James Earl Jones Reads The Bible: The New Testament
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95

Working with Emotional Intelligence
Audible: $12.87
iTunes: $10.95

Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History (Unabridged)
Audible: $28.97
iTunes: $25.95

The Deeper Wound
Audible: $17.50
iTunes: $15.95

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95

Brave New World (Unabridged)
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95

Stages of Meditation
Audible: $13.57
iTunes: $10.95

My Life with the Chimpanzees
Audible: $13.59
iTunes: $10.95

Pygmalion
Audible: $16.07
iTunes: $13.95

The Fountainhead
Audible: $31.47
iTunes: $28.95



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Old 05-11-2005, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by LOLDavid
Good Points. I will point out that I did an extensive and random price comparison and iTunes Music Store Audiobooks were consistently $2-$3 cheaper than Audible Audiobooks for Non-Audible Subscribers (with a few exceptions). So if you have an iPod and you know what audiobook you want and you just want to buy it a la carte, then iTunes may be the way to go if you want to save a couple bucks.
Sure. I'd add that some people may want to try a la carte buying first just to see what the audiobook experience on iPods (or other players) is like: what it's like purchasing, navigating, and listening to these works, especially the lengthy versions. Let me add a few other options you can consider. Audible just started running a sale of selected classics for $9.99 each, some of which overlap titles on your list. These can be purchased a la carte .

Quote:
Here's my Audible/iTunes Price Comparison:

Art of War (Recorded Books) <---Books on Tape version available for $9.99
Audible: $14.99
iTunes: $12.95

James Earl Jones Reads The Bible: The New Testament <---complete version, OT and NT, available for $9.99
Audible: $20.97
iTunes: $18.95
You can also buy yourself a 1- or 3-month "mini-subscription" from Audible, as a variation on the full membership. Go to the Buy Gift or icon for gifts on the Audible page to get to the Gift Center and select the link for AudibleListener Memberships. The 1-Month PremiumListener purchase for $21.95 can be treated as a purchase of [any] 2 books for $21.95. If you know there are 6 books that you want to purchase, and are willing to have them to become available 2 each month, you can get the 3-Month Premium Listener option for $65.85 [any 6 books, 2 per month].

The main difference between these options and accepting the "Listen to 2 free books - Risk Free" offer from Audible that shows in the ads at the top of the iPodlounge forums pages is that there is no automatic signup for a monthly renewable membership which you have to call to cancel. So you can treat these as a kind of a la carte purchase. And you can queue up the other 4 books you want to become available for download by putting them into My Next Listen if you don't want to have to remember when your 1 month renewal comes around. Just some more sugggestions.
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:45 AM
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Gift idea is interesting for supplemental buys if you aren't willing to do the audible Ulitmate Listener plan -- 12 book credits for $120 with 2 years to use book credits.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, moriond. I hadn't picked up on the gift idea.
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Old 05-13-2005, 03:18 PM
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Browsing Audiobooks by Narrator in the iTunes Music Store

It looks as though the ability to search for works by narrator is in the midst of being implemented. It is not yet a searchable field, but there are links to some of the narrators that take you to other works they've recorded. A very useful option for the iTunes Music Store.
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Topic: Browsing Audio Books on iTunes...

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