Review: Simply Audiobooks rental service (one month in)

Simply Audiobooks
Reviewed by Rick Osborne
May 28, 2009

Rating: 5/5

I signed up with the Simply Audiobooks CD rental service one month ago today. The service is similar in concept to Netflix: you use their website to queue a number of audiobooks, which they send to you in postage-paid returnable packaging. You pay a price determined by how many audiobooks you want to be able to rent at one time—I’m using the plan that gives me 2 audiobooks at a time for $27 per month.

I’m a bad-first-good-second kind of guy, so be sure to stick around for the good.

The Bad

In the one month I’ve been signed up, I’ve received 6 audiobooks from Simply Audiobooks. In all cases, I was able to get the audiobooks onto my iPod and the CDs back in the mail by the next business day. Given my 2-out plan, that’s an effective 10-day turnaround per audiobook. Those used to or expecting Netflix’s 2-4 day turnaround will be disappointed. Simply Audiobooks doesn’t have the number of urban distribution centers that Netflix has, and they are bogged down by slower postal times for the larger media packages.

Simply Audiobooks also doesn’t have the number of titles, and therefore the selection, that Audible has. Or, to be fair, they may have comparable numbers, but not all of their titles are available for rental. They also offer audiobooks for purchase and for download, and many titles are not available in all formats. But, their selection is still pretty good—we’re not talking about the wastelands of your local bookstore’s bargain audiobooks bin. If you read mainly bestseller titles and new releases, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Oddly enough, I may be breaking the Simply Audiobooks terms of service by listening to them on my iPod. There’s a bit of ambiguity, but as near as I can tell the terms only allow you to listen to the audiobooks on a CD player and nothing else—you’re not supposed to transfer or shift them to another device. This seems like an antiquated restriction, but I doubt it’s one imposed by Simply Audiobooks—more likely it comes from the content owners from whom the audiobooks are bought. Those concerned with this technicality may want to partake of their download service, instead.

The Good

I moved to Simply Audiobooks after constant frustration with Audible. It’s not that Audible was doing anything wrong, just that their price point wasn’t effective for me. Audible’s credit system, where you pay a monthly fee to accrue credits that can be used to buy books, isn’t cost-effective for people like me who go through more than an audiobook or two per month. The rental arrangement via Simply Audiobooks is less effective for lower volume, but very nice for me: those 6 audiobooks for $27 cost me $4.50 each. You can’t beat that.

The Simply Audiobooks customer service has been excellent. When I mentioned them on my blog and then twittered about them, they took it upon themselves to send me an extra audiobook above the two I already had checked out. Awesome! I also submitted a few website suggestions and got an email back from an actual person thanking me.

The quality of the CDs has been about what you would expect: there have been a few discs with scratches, and a couple of irreparable skips, but nothing too bad. It’s equivalent to what I get from the audiobooks at my local public library.

Summary

I admit it: I am completely enamored with the Simply Audiobooks rental program. It fits my price point and my schedule. Selfishly, I’d love to see them expand to a distribution in my area to cut down on the turnaround times, but that’s the only real complaint I can think of. I’d recommend their service to anyone who goes through more than a single audiobook per month.