Books have changed a great deal in recent years. While physical books are just about as popular as ever, there is an ever-growing electronic book market; this encompasses not only what is traditionally thought of as an ebook (think Nook, Kindle et al), but also audio books.
In the audio book arena, there are not many tools vying for attention – it’s Audible all the way. While there has been an aps available for mobile devices for some time, the Windows 8 Audible app took a little while to see the light of day. Now it’s here, but is it any good?
Books Your Way
The lure of audiobooks is magnetic. Not everyone has the time to sit down and read a book, but with Audible installed you can have the latest bestsellers read to you while you’re doing something else.
Launch the free app and you’re invited to sign into an existing Audible account, or create a new one. This is used not only to bill you for any purchases you make, but also synchronize your books between devices.
You have at your fingertips a library of tens of thousands of audiobooks in every category under the sun. If you’re yet to sign up for an account, you might want to browse through some of the titles on offer and perhaps consider downloading one of the many free samples.
This enables you to get an idea of how the Audible store works as well as trying out the audiobook navigation without having to make any sort of financial commitment.
Browse the Shelves
If you have a mobile device and an Audible account, you’ve probably used the service on iOS or Android and you’ll be aware that you can browse through the titles you already own as well as making new purchases.
Assuming you have already used Audible you will be able to use the app to download any of the books you have already purchased. But whether you already have books or not, you’re free to start browsing through the store.
Unlike in other versions of the app or the Audible website, there are not a huge number of categories for you to look through. Click any title and you can read a little more about it, listen to a sample and read review written by other users.
It may seem as though you are limited to browsing through the three highlighted categories – New Releases, Best Sellers and Editor’s Picks – but there is in fact a search option; although it is strangely hidden out of the way.
Click on any book title, scroll down and you’ll find the search function nestled towards the bottom of the sidebar.
Options such as adding titles to your wish list are also available but this feels like working in a miniature web browser rather than a specially formatted feature of the app. The Audible app is great for listening to books, but if you want to browse for something new or do anything with your account, you’ll probably find it easier to switch to your browser so you have more space to work in – the sidebar starts to feel quite cramped after a little while.
Once you are signed into your account there are not many settings for you to configure. You can choose between downloading books in standard or high quality and this enables you to choose how to make best use of your available storage space.
If you’re using the app on a portable device you can opt to ensure that downloads are only performed whilst connected to a wifi network to avoid incurring data charges. You can also adjust the number of seconds playback is adjusted by when the back button is pressed.
Audio books are something that have long been associated with the elderly, but they have snowballed in popularity in recent years. The appeal is understandable, particularly taking into account the syncing features offered by Audible.
Not only are all of your books made available on any of the devices you own, but your listening position is also synchronized. This means that you can listen to a book in the car whilst you travel using your phone, and when you reach your desk in the office or at home you can pick up from where you left off. It’s seamless, beautifully simple and a joy to use.
The same cannot be said of the browsing and purchasing experience. It seems strange that so few categories are pulled out for easy browsing and that the search function is not featured somewhere more prominently than in the sidebar.
Overall, Audible is an app that is perfect for listening to your existing audio book collection, but the browsing and purchasing experience needs a little work to give any advantage over using the website.