Related link: http://www.audible.com
I access the internet through a bank of computers connected to a satellite IP service. The connection is fine for stateless things like web browsing, tolerable for things like chat, and unable to handle Real Audio. So, when I wanted to hear the latest episode of This American Life, I tried Audible.com.
The requirements seemed okay. I needed a regular PC with some disk space for their software and an internet connection, or I needed a Mac with iTunes. This sounded perfect—I had the PC connected to the internet, and if I could get the file, I could just carry it to my Mac on my USB key drive. I cannot connect my Mac to the military network, but for most things that is merely inconvenient.
I bought the file I wanted, found it on the page that lists my purchases after a bit of searching through all of the tabs, then tried to download it. Instead of an audio file, I got an installer for their PC software. This installer insists on Administrator privileges to install, so I could not install it. There was no way to simply download my purchase to use it on another computer.
After polling some friends online, I found one with a Mac and a DSL connection and got him to download it for me. He had no trouble. On the Mac, he simply downloaded a file, which he then made available to me (luckily we use the same ISP). I downloaded the file from him and carried it back to my Mac.
What Audible.com forgot to say was that even Macs need an internet connection to activate my computer so I could play the file, even though I already had the file. When I tried to import it, I got an error. I noticed it was trying to make a network connection. Their “What I Need” page did not say anything about the Mac needing an internet connection, and if it had I would not have purchased anything.
A couple of days later I happened upon a private network (non-military) and was able to activate my PowerBook to play the file, and when I finally could listen to it, I was disappointed. The sound quality was that of an old AM radio—not really noisy, but not crisp. They recorded the show at around 30 Kbps for their high quality version which came out to 14 MB for an hour-long show, whereas I am used to the much better sampled versions of the show I made with Real Audio and Audio Hijack (which are about 4 times the file size).
I emailed their customer service about their misleading requirements section, but I did not even get an auto-reply.
In all, not only was their service disappointing, but the product was not worth the effort. I would have given up on it a lot sooner if the content were less compelling. And, if I did not have a friend back in the States ready to help, I would never have been able to listen to my purchase.
Have you had better luck?