A lot of us out there are waiting for a company to provide a true Netflix-like experience for e-books. Amazon and Kobo have dabbled in this kind of service with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and the Kobo 2012 Book Club, but there is no all-you-can-eat option from either of these companies. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Audiobooks.com. This website has taken the Netflix approach and applied it to audio books. For $24.95 a month, Audiobooks.com provides unlimited access to over 10,000 audio books. The audio books can be streamed across a variety of platforms. We’re here to tell you how it all holds up.
When you sign up for Audiobooks.com, you’ll need to visit the website every time you want to listen to an audio book. Audiobooks.com supports Firefox 9, IE9, Safari 5.0 and Chrome 16.0 on desktops, and is also optimized for iOS and Android. One downside I noticed is there is no standalone application for Audiobooks.com. Instead, you’re taken to a HTML 5 mobile version of the site that has individual tabs for Home, Browse, Search and Account. The mobile site works well enough, but it would be so much faster and more convenient to access audio books from a dedicated application. A mobile app could also contain features that aren’t present on the mobile site such as a section containing books you intend to listen to, or a wishlist that could inform you when certain audio books become available.
One of the biggest advantages Audiobooks.com has is streaming from the cloud. There’s no need to download any audio books. You can also stop listening to an audio book on one device and resume listening on another. Audiobooks.com does a good job at remembering where you left off. Usually, I never had to re-listen to more than a few seconds of dialogue whenever I switched platforms. Speaking of platforms, let’s go over how Audiobooks.com performs on PC, iOS and Android.
The Desktop Experience
Listening to audio books from the desktop is the easiest way to experience Audiobooks.com. You’re immediately presented with a list of new arrivals and staff picks when you sign in. Once you’ve listened to a few books, a recommended section and a list of the books you’re currently listening to will also populate the home page. Much like Netflix, you can give each book a star rating from one to five. Your ratings help dictate which books are presented to you in the future.
There’s also another section of the site labeled “My Books.” In this section, you select which genres you are interested in, and Audiobooks.com will factor that into which books are recommended to you.
Once you pick an audio book to listen to, a separate window will open that contains the media player. The media player has four functions – play, pause, rewind 30 seconds and fast forward 30 seconds. It would be nice to be able to select certain chapters instead of fast forwarding to an unknown section of the book, but such a feature doesn’t exist at the moment.
I was pleased with the audio quality in every audio book I tested. The only issues I see anyone having with audio deals with how well the narrator articulates him or herself.
The Android Experience
My first experience with Audiobooks.com was on an Android device. Specifically, the device I used was the HTC Sensation. It was admittedly a bad first experience. Make sure you allow your Android device to access mobile web pages or you may have problems. I could never get an audio book to play in the default HTC browser from the desktop site. The media player was also very ugly with the timeline stretching well outside its intended boundaries.
Once I enabled the browser to view mobile web pages, the difference was astounding. The media player fit within its borders, and I was free to open other applications on my phone while the audio book played.
That’s not to say I didn’t have any problems. There were occasions across all platforms when audio books would not play. I had to reload the page and start another audio book in order to get everything to work again. This didn’t happen most of the time, but it happened enough to concern me each time I wanted to listen to an audio book.
The iOS Experience
Surprise, surprise there were little issues when I listened to audio books on iOS. My iPod Touch played well with the Audiobooks.com mobile website. The same intermittent audio issues I experienced on PC and Android remained. Also, much like on Android, audio books can be listened to while using other apps outside of the browser.
Audiobooks.com has a lot of room for growth. The HTML5 mobile website is a good start, but an official mobile app is desperately needed to make Audiobooks.com the best it can be. It can also benefit from additional features I previously mentioned such as wish lists, and a way to add books to your collection without needing to listen to them first. All things considered, I still recommend Audiobooks.com for those who dozens of hours listening to audio books on a regular basis. This service probably isn’t for those who occasionally partake in audio books. If you’re unsure, you can sign up for a seven-day free trial.