One of the smartest services to be offered on the internet was NetFlix, so it amazes me just a bit that the idea wasn’t translated to audio books sooner. But you know how the saying goes… Better late than never.
A service for me, too
BooksFree.com was introduced to me recently and I thought, “what a great idea… for other people.” I only say that to make a point. I don’t read much. I used to, but I’m so busy these days that I mostly only make time for books that involve instruction and computing. Still, I found myself searching through the audio books and found something I was eager to receive. Something else occurred to me only after my selection arrived. An audio book is much easier to enjoy while writing code or working on graphics than a paperback. My hands and eyes were freed up for work while I listened and I found a new respect for audio books.
Signing up, selecting, ordering
Even though I was testing with a free month in order to write this review, I had a charge on my credit card because my discount code was invalid or I wrote the wrong one down, perhaps. Not only was I able to call the company, which is less and less an option these days, but the problem was not one for long. The first person I spoke with transferred me to someone else who quickly resolved the problem. It felt like a small company which is refreshing when you just need a small mistake fixed quickly. Anyway, beyond that, my signup process was pretty quick and easy. The process involved three basic steps. The first is to choose the plan that fits your reading/listening needs and budget.
Once your choice is made, they throw a form at you. It’s really not that bad, though. For the most part, this is just all your shipping and billing addresses, name, any special discount codes, username and password, etc. I had this one filled out in about a minute.
The last step to get all signed up was to enter in my credit card information and agree to the terms of service.
Using the service to get and return books
Once I had an account set up, using the service was a little frustrating at first, only because I kept searching for stuff that I’m guessing doesn’t exist as an audio book like any of the O’Reilly stuff. It makes sense but like I said, that’s mostly all I read. Eventually, I searched for Douglas Adams, which brought back all of his books that I’ve read and a few more selections. I searched and tried browsing for other stuff. Browsing is not as useful as the search, but I find that true for most product-centric sites.
After picking out the original, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I waited for it to show up and within a few days, it was in my mail box. As I mentioned before, I found that I could easily listen and write code at the same time, so I was able to get through the whole thing rather quickly. A few days after pulling the CDs out of the packaging, I put them right back in, re-sealed it, and dropped it in the mail. A few more days, and I received an email to let me know it was safely back at BooksFree.com.
Is it worth the price?
In America, there’s no doubt that the economy is hurting and most people are keeping a tighter grip on their money. In such an economy, will a service like this do well? The fact is that there are lots of luxury items and services still doing just fine in our economy, and this could very well be one of them. The trick is to offer something that is still valuable enough to the consumer that they’ll opt to keep it over some other luxury when trimming the fat from their spending. And it doesn’t hurt if the cost is tempting. Originally, I was wondering why I’d ever want to pay $23 for one book a month. It’s the one-at-a-time plan, but I assumed that with shipping and the time to enjoy the book, etc., I’d only ever get one book a month out of the deal. Assumptions are often wrong, which is why I wanted to actually get and return a book. For me, the whole process, including enjoying the book, ate up about nine days. If you wanted to, then, you could probably get 3 books a month out of the deal, making the rentals cost about $7.50 per book to rent. Of course, moving up to the two-at-a-time plan for $27.49, you could probably enjoy 6 books per month for about $4.58 each. Additionally, a family who all enjoys books could benefit quite a bit from the six-at-a-time price plan. It’s still not the most appealing idea when you could always pop into the library and check out books, but if the audio book selection is better, that might make a difference, as well as the obvious benefit of not having to leave the house. I like any service that makes things easier for me and I’ve already pointed out my new respect for audio books, but should you use the service? If the convenience is important and you like to enjoy more than a couple books per month, I think it’s worth a try.