Archive for February 8th, 2012

(Last night, I did something stupid. I’m no fonder of looking stupid than anyone else, but I thought I should post a warning, just in case someone else is tempted to let their enthusiasm make them overlook their free software principles and run into grief. The email is addressed to Audible.com, a division of Amazon that specializes in audio books.

I don’t know what, if any response I will get. If I do get a response, I’ll add it at the bottom of the post)

Yesterday, I purchased my first Audible product, The Adventures of Dr.Eszterhazy by Avram Davidson in the Neil Gaiman Presents series. I intend it to be my last.

My complaint is not with the quality of my purchase, which is excellent. In fact, I was so pleased to see the title that I forgot to check thoroughly how Audible distributes its titles.

In that respect, I was perhaps naive. However, the lack of specificness on Audible’s web page also deserves a large portion of the blame. Specifically, the “What is Audible” page does not specify that files remain in a proprietary format. Nor does it indicate that their format is unsupported on Linux, or requires iTunes to play. If anything, the statement that “you can listen to Audible titles anytime, anywhere!” leaves the impression that the files are not locked down in any way — and that is obviously incorrect. Had any of this information been prominently displayed on your site, I would not have purchased.

As things were, I not only bought something that is against my principles, but also had extreme difficulty listening to it. If I hadn’t happened to have an old netbook from which I hadn’t yet removed Windows, I couldn’t have played it at all.

Moreover, even if I were a Windows or Mac user, Audible’s practices add a needless level of complexity to the user experience that would — by itself — discourage my repeat business. I mean, is it really necessary to use a format that requires the installation of its own separate management software?

Audible appears deeply committed to proprietary formats, but if I could possibly get a copy of my purchase in a free audio format (Ogg Vorbis would be ideal), that would do much to alleviate my disappointment.

But failing that, could the company at least attempt not to mislead potential customers about its actual practices? At the very least, a revision of the website seems in order, and would make me feel better about having given Audible my money.

Until these things I happen, I will continue to regret my purchase, and advise my friends not to make the same mistake as I did.

With disappointment,

Bruce Byfield

Read Full Post »