As an long time Audible user, only briefly a subscribing member, I've grown accustomed to audio content and have accumulated over 15 solid days of audio books, plays, and other pieces. While there are many outlets for obtaining digital audio material, not to mention physical, one major selling point of Audible's format was native support for Apple's iTunes and iPods. While Windows Media Player required additional software to recognize it, an early deal made Apple's ecosystem a no brainer.
Because of this inherent compatibility, Audible content could always be easily transferred to iPhones to be played with the iPod app (renamed "Music" in iOS5). There was nothing wrong with this way of playing content, however, Audible wanted to bring more to the experience. It took Audible until 2010 to release an iPhone app to buy, download, and play content within the app, but that first option was short lived (more on that later).
Upon its initial release, the app was designed to rely on iOS 4's new features, such as app multitasking. It was intended to replace the playback functionality of the iPod app, which would provide achievement stats such as "hours listened" and reward with badges (which are only stored within that copy of the app, there are no global stats). The ultimate downside to this feature over a year after its release is that it Audible lacks any social networking for users to associate with other users and compare each others' libraries and reading achievements. Let's get this out of the way - Audible sucks at engaging its customers and allowing them to engage each other. For being a book retailer, it fails to grasp the notion that reading is a collective experience and isolating us slows down discovery. For God's sake, people don't have book clubs for the fun of it! You expect people to gather at their local Borders to... oh wait. Anyway, back to the main topic.
Although I'm just going off memory, I want to say that the Audible app was originally unable to play content in the background, which meant if you wanted to browse the web or use any other app that allowed background playback, the playback would immediately terminate when you closed out the app. For me, this meant launching the app, playing the book, then using some other device to do what I wanted... or I could just transfer the audiobook from my computer directly to my phone's storage and let the iPod app use it. If I wanted to earn those achievements, I could let the Audible app discover it - another feature that I never saw work until now. With October 10th's v1.7.1 release, I'm seeing a lot of the promised functions work as intended, with one exception. Audible completely removed any ability to shop their catalog within the app. I honestly can't remember the app ever having "in app" purchases, but I think Audible tried to circumvent Apple's 30% commission by launching a web browser within the app and having your buy from their mobile site. As fun as it is to shop online with a 3.5" touch screen, I would sooner just go to my computer and make the purchase, then get the content to my phone. Now it seems that pressure has forced Audible to remove even that, allowing you to create a link on your homescreen to their site.
This is where I have to say that stupid business decisions hurt consumers. Trust me, I get it, 30% is significant and Apple (as well as Google, RIM, and other mobile market platforms) should lower that to 15-20%, but if I can't easily make purchases on the spot (read: impulse purchases), then I won't make them at all. Just accept the loss in order to make more sales. More sales are more important than more revenue, because sales lead to repeat sales, which leads to more revenue. While angling iTunes as a competitor to wipe out illegal music downloading, Apple quickly realized that giving people an absurdly easy way to buy content with the push of a button will facilitate more sales. Hell, I was buying $2 comics off the Marvel app until they jacked prices up to $4 each. Whoa, stop the show. Without knowing how much of Audible's "sales" are actually made with subscription credits (has to be significant), shouldn't they be able to get away with members "purchasing" new content with their pre-paid credits within the app? It's technically a $0 transaction at that point, so Apple can have 30% of that all they want. Sure, it only benefits people with credits (Gold and Platinum subscribers), but to play Devil's Advocate, sounds like a great incentive for people to start subscribing! Now to be as fair as I described, Audible loves trying to keep its customers with incentive deals. If you try to cancel a subscription, Audible will likely offer you a discount on 3 months or a free credit. Just be prepared if you try to cancel after accepting a courtesy once or more - they make you call in to cancel. Almost makes the "I'm unhappy with Audible" reason redundant.
Here's the announcement that was emailed to Audible users the other day, hardly sympathetic from their perspective. While I praise Audible, I will always follow up with the caveats that come with their ecosystem.
We'd like to update you on a change to the Audible application that affects the way that you access the Audible mobile store. In order to comply with recent policy changes by Apple, we've removed the "Shop" link from within the app that opened your web browser and took you to the Audible mobile store.
You can still shop the mobile store, and we've created a "Shop Audible" icon that you can add to your home screen so it's always one click away. To do this, launch your web browser on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, go to mobile.audible.com, and follow the instructions to "Add to Home Screen". You can watch a quick video to walk you through the steps, or call us at (888) 283-5051 if you have any other questions.
1. Click to bring up options. 2. Click on [no really, it just ends there, completely blank]
That's it. The link is gone, but everything else is the same. You can still shop the store, and all your books will still be available in the app.
The Audible Team