I wrote in a previous post about my discovery that I was completely wrong about audiobooks, as they aren’t dull and plodding at all but a way for me to include reading in my day without having to sit down and open a book to the exclusion of all other activities. (Back in the days before we had a TV, or even a DVD player on the computer, we spent our evenings reading aloud, just like cultured nineteenth-centurians, so I should have been totally gung-ho about audiobooks anyway. Everything old is new again!)
In just a few short months I’ve so gotten in the groove of getting my material in this format that it almost seems weird to read an actual book. The way was paved for me to start listening rather than reading when I finally got a smartphone; I could download audio files to my old not-smartphone, but it was somewhat of a process, and I couldn’t access material directly online. I had also fallen in love with podcasts via the first season of Serial and had done some listening to sermons from my former church and my new one. All it took for me to get into the wonderful audiobook world was for there to be a book at the library that was only currently available in that format and I was off to the races. So, since you may be wondering about using this capability yourself, I thought I’d write today about some of the platforms that are available. My dear friend Ronnie has been a great help in this endeavor. (And she also writes great comments on my posts!)
Okay, we’ll start out with the Big Kahuna of audiobooks, Audible. They have by far the biggest selection and are adding to it even as we speak. Their advertisements are all over the place. Right now I’m in the midst of my free trial period, which I got because of my Amazon Prime membership. (Amazon owns Audible.) Usually you get one free audiobook when you sign up; I got three. They also have a returns policy: if you decide you don’t like your book, for whatever reason, you can click a button and return it, and you get your credit back. (Of course, this wouldn’t apply, at least I’d think it wouldn’t, if you’d finished the book.) I listened two two books and enjoyed them (they weren’t available through the library), but I’ve had a hard time getting a third one that I liked.
First I pre-ordered and got a new novel that I had heard about on the radio; although I’m not much into novels these days I thought this one sounded creepy and intriguing, but it wasn’t. It was boring. After struggling on through about a third of it I thought, “Wait! I can return it!” It was much easier than I had thought, although you have to go to your “account details” page and look for the link that says “transactions and returns.” They don’t have a big banner on the home page that says “Don’t like your book? Return it!” You do have to know about the deal. For my second book that I ended up returning I chose the memoir Porcelain by the musician Moby. He had been a guest on the Gretchen Rubin podcast and sounded so nice and unassuming, so shyly and slyly funny, that I decided to get the book. Both Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth had said that they loved it. Well, I didn’t. The graphic depictions of the New York party scene during the 1980’s was, as the Elephant’s Child said, ‘Too butch for be!” Would they let me return a second book, I wondered? Yes indeed they would.
Once I (finally) finish my free trial, then I will have to start paying for my Audible membership, which costs $14.95 a month. I initially thought that this charge covered an unlimited number of books per month; not so, my friends! With your monthly payment you get . . . one book. (Another audiobook company, Scribd, apparently did try the all-you-can-listen-to model and had to change it.) Your $14.95 gets you one credit, which is always redeemable for one book, no matter how long it is. If you want to get another book or books that month, you get 30% off the regular price. So we’ll see. I figure I owe them at least one month’s paid membership after all the hassle I’ve given them.
I will point out, by the way, that it was very liberating to say, “I don’t like this and I’m not going to finish it!” Humans often fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, whether in finances or books or relationships or outings or just about anything: We think that if we’ve already invested a certain amount of time/effort/money then we have to keep on going with whatever it is, even if we clearly need to bail. We have to realize that the previous investment is gone and there is nothing to be gained by continuing to lose. This fallacy is most often cited in reference to economics, but it’s valid in many areas of life. (Not all areas, of course. Sometimes you need to stick it out no matter what. But we often draw that line too largely, involving ourselves in unprofitable or even dangerous situations out of a false sense of obligation.)
This post is running very long, so I’m going to end it here and write tomorrow about audiobook platforms through the public library, which are an unbelievable deal. In the meantime, if you’ve been wondering about Audible after seeing all those ads and listening to all those sponsorships that they’ve been running (they sponsor several podcasts I like), I would encourage you to give their free trial a try. It can’t hoit!