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Treo 600: A Very Audible Experience

BACKGROUND
Let me start by saying that if you had asked me the question - "Andrew, would you be interested in audiobooks?" - a couple of months ago my immediate answer would have been a resounding NO, Zero, Zip, Nada, Niente, absolutely positively not interested!  I should have learned a long time ago not to ever be so categorical about anything as my experience with Audible and its Listen to two audio programs for FREE has completely changed my mind on this front.

It all began after writing the post "Treo 600 is Great but does it do Entertainment?" when I discovered that you could now listen to Audible's audiobooks on your Treo 600.  So I was curious and began to play around with this and I found them to be extremely good, fun and simple to use.  I have to admit that I was initially prompted by their introductory offers of either a 'Get a FREE Creative MuVo MP3 player from audible.com' or 50% off my first month's subscription – I only later learned that there were also two other even more appealing offers (see Special Offers Selection)

CONSIDERATION
I started by visiting Audible’s website where I could Listen to two audio programs for FREE and rapidly found some books that I was interested in (I was particularly surprised by the extensive selection of bestselling ones) and for example found 'Hear Bill Clinton for FREE at Audible' which had a sample audio chapter which I could listen to streamed online.  I guess that I struck lucky with this book because the introduction is made by President Clinton himself and the Wow! factor was definitely achieved on me.

I was now ready to try Audible’s service and very close to buying there and then.  By pure accident (because the marketing for this has been pretty lousy) I discovered that PalmOne and Audible had partnered to offer Palm handheld and Treo users one free month subscription and to Listen to two audio programs for FREE selecting any from Audible’s vast library.  This was a great way to get started!

MEMBERSHIP ACTIVATION
Now I was ready to try/buy.  So I went to Audible’s offer page, clicked on the ‘Join Now’ button and signed up for their ‘BasicListener’ service which will be charged at $14.95 per month if you decide to keep your membership after the 30 day trial period is over (you can however cancel it at any time).  I completed my personal details and payment details and voila! I had officially become a member of the AudibleListener service.  (Personal Note: if or when you decide to join please fill-in my username ‘treonauts’ in the box asking you “If an Audible customer referred you, please enter that person's username” or in your 'My Account' settings once you have signed up.  Thanks in advance.)

Having gotten hooked on the sample of Bill Clinton’s audiobook before I naturally used my first free credit to add this one to my basket and later also found ‘The Second Coming of Steve Jobs’ which I had been meaning to read (err… sorry I mean listen) for some time.

INSTALLATION
The next step was installing the AudibleManager on my PC (also available for Mac and iTunes plug-in) as well as the AudiblePlayer for Palm OS devices.  For this you just need to go to the ‘Audible Software’ section, download AudibleManager (only a 370k file) to your PC and double-click and begin installation (as always I would recommend that you set a ‘restore point’ on your PC before installing).  Installation was simple and smooth.  Upon launching the installer you will be prompted to choose from the many devices on which you can listen to Audible’s books (Palm Handhelds, Treos, iPod’s, PocketPC’s, etc.) and while you can later select multiple devices you must start with just one (in my case I naturally selected the Treo 600 option).  Connect your Treo to your PC with your sync cable and when prompted perform a hotsync which will install the AudiblePlayer on your Treo (you will be prompted for each step within the installer).


AudibleManager for PC (above) and AudiblePlayer on Treo 600 (below)

Full installation completed, the next step was to download my free Audible books to my PC and from there to my Treo.  Piece of cake.  Within the AudibleManager PC application there’s a folder called ‘New Individual Programs’ which is directly linked to your account at Audible online and where you will automatically see any new books that you have purchased.  Select the one(s) that you would like to download and click ‘Download Checked’ and wait for the book to download (considering that each book can be anything between 16MB and 400MB depending on the size of the book and the quality of the audio that you select I would not recommend this to anyone who is not connecting via broadband).

You’ll next have to choose where on your Treo you would like the books to be downloaded to – your built-in memory or your external card (using it you will soon come to see the many benefits of owning one or more 512MB SD cards).  After a couple of minutes your book (or audio program as Audible likes to call them) will have been transferred and you'll be ready to go.

The good thing about the AudiblePlayer on the Treo 600 is that it fully supports the 5 way navigation button - Center Button = Play/Stop/Pause | Up/Down during playback = Volume | Left/Right during playback = Backward/Forward (also Fast Forward).  It's not the most sophisticated piece of software that you'll have come about but I guess that this is partly the point in trying to deliver a 'simple' solution.  I wouldn't mind if they could offer different skins though...

EXPLORING & DISCOVERING
Again, I was repeatedly dumbstruck by Audible’s poor marketing.  As I continued to play around their website, my installed AudibleManager and AudiblePlayer I was quite literally amazed by how much flexibility and choice was built into the Audible service.

Among others, I found out that:

-        You can listen to your audiobooks a) online using Windows Media or Real Player; b) on your PC c) you can burn your books to CD and listen to them in your car or stereo or d) on a vast number of portable devices (treonauts should be proud to know that their Treo 600 is currently the only smartphone enabled to play Audible’s books!).  This overall flexibility was one of the main reasons that I was won over to the Audible system and with over 380,000 users apparently a lot of other people feel the same. 

-        You don’t have to become an Audible subscription member to purchase audiobooks – you can simply go to their website, browse the books, listen to the sample and select and buy any one title you would like. (You can use this link to Get 50% off any Audiobook @ audible.com. or this one Hear a book for just $9.95 at Audible)

-        Their selection is extremely good as they tend to make only top selling titles available - you can download some 50,000 hours worth of Audible programs across a wide range of categories.

-        If you have had some previous experience with audiobooks you will find that Audible is significantly cheaper than traditional books-on-CD or tape.

-        Audible was rated 9/10 by CNET and selected as the Editor’s Choice.  It has further received rave reviews by Walt Mossberg from the Wall Stret Journal and also The New York Times.

SPECIAL OFFERS SELECTION
As I was researching the material for this post today I also found yet another and even better Audible promotion which will give you $100 off any AudibleReady device that you would like to purchase when you sign up for a 12 month subscription to Audible (BasicListener is $14.95/month and PremiumListener is $19.95/month).  For those of you who don't yet own a Treo 600 this promotion means that you can now purchase yours at Amazon for $269.99 (after Sprint and Amazon rebates) while for those who have been dreaming about getting an iPod this is the chance to get one saving $100 (if you subscribe to Audible).

Note of caution about the many Audible promotions because it can get very confusing on their website.  Read the following carefully:

A.  You can only use one of the four promotions which I mention to either get:

     1) Listen to two audio programs for FREE (worth $100+ depending on which titles you choose)
     2) a FREE Creative MuVo MP3 player from audible.com  (worth $70+)
     3) 50% off your first month's subscription (worth $7.50-$10.00)
     4) $100 gift certificate towards the purchase of any AudibleReady device (See list below)

B.  If you would like to take the $100 off promotion you must first decide which of Audible's online retail partners below you would like to use.

      1) Amazon.com, 2) Buy.com, 3) Crutchfield, 4) PalmOne, 5) J&R, 6) Tweeter, 7) MobilePlanet or 8) DataVision 

C.  Choose the AudibleReady device (see list below) that you would like to buy (but don’t buy it yet!)

D.  IMPORTANT STEPS TO REDEEM $100 GIFT CERTIFICATE AT YOUR SELECTED AUDIBLE ONLINE RETAIL PARTNER (My advice: save yourself a lot of headache and buy your AudibleReady device from Amazon.com or Buy.com.)

    1) Amazon.com: You must sign up by calling Audible's direct Amazon number on +1 (888) 424-4560 (full offer details here).

    2) Buy.com: You can sign up to Audible's service by clicking on the Buy.com logo on this page Save $100 off an Apple iPod with a year of Audible

    3) Crutchfield: You can sign up to Audible's service by clicking on the Crutchfield logo on this page Save $100 off an Apple iPod with a year of Audible

    4) PalmOne: You must go to Audible.com > Click on '$100 off on Apple iPods, PDA's and more!' button > Click on PalmOne logo > Register to Audible service

    5) J&R: You must call J&R on 1-800-530-2856

    6) Tweeter: You must go to Audible.com > Click on '$100 off on Apple iPods, PDA's and more!' button > Click on Tweeter logo > Register to Audible service

    7) MobilePlanet: Go to http://www.mobileplanet.com/audible/
        - Purchase a specially-marked AudibleReady device at MobilePlanet.
        - Your product will be held until you join AudibleListener.
        - Visit the special offer page at audible.com. You'll find this link in your confirmation email from MobilePlanet.  
        - Join AudibleListener for one year starting at $14.95/month.
        - Audible will notify MobilePlanet that you've become a member and your product will ship from MobilePlanet

   8) DataVision: You must call DataVision on 1-888-888-2087

E.  Now you can finally go and buy your AudibleReady device at your online retailer of choice!

Listed below are some but not all of the AudibleReady devices available at Amazon (all prices are after using your Audible promotional certificate code):

PalmOne Treo 600 - $269.99 (after Sprint+Amazon+Audible rebates)
Apple iPod 40GB - $279
Apple iPod 15GB - $136
Apple iPod Mini (Blue) - $149
Apple iPod Mini (Green) - $149
Apple iPod Mini (Pink) - $149
Apple iPod Mini (Gold) - $149
Creative Labs 64MB Nomad MuVo MP3 Player - Free + $33 credit
Creative Labs 128MB Nomad MuVo MP3 Player - Free + $26 credit
Garmin iQue 3600 PDA/GPS Handheld System - $317.99
Gateway DMP-X20 Digital Music Jukebox - $170
HP iPAQ 1935 Pocket PC - $132
HP iPAQ 2215 Pocket PC - $242
HP iPAQ 4155 Pocket PC - $260
PalmOne Tungsten E Handheld - $76
PalmOne Tungsten T3 Handheld - $239
Sony CLIE PEG-TH55/U Handheld - $260

CONCLUSION
I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult and at times painful it was to figure out and write about all of the ins and outs of the Audible service and its promotion(sss)… but in the end I found the ability to listen to audiobooks on my Treo 600 and the entire experience to have been well worth it – quite transformative actually.  I will obviously never stop reading physical books but I have now discovered a new type of media that I like – a lot.

Finally, the longer I kept listening to these audiobooks the more I wondered how this was changing my entire perspective on audiobooks.  I began to think less and less about wanting to get the same out of these as I do from books and more about radio plays or theatre plays which I could not ‘see’ but that I could participate in with my mind dreaming of the spectacle and the many different settings that Audible was transporting me to.


Posted by Andrew on August 13, 2004 at 09:00 AM

Treo 600 Software

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Comments

1
by Levi Wallach | Aug 16, 2004 7:38:17 PM

Great piece! I've been an Audible listener for about 5 years now and while I'm currently not doing as much listening as I'd like, I've probably read a good 80+ titles over the years! The flexibility of Audible is key! You can listen on your computer or on your portable device. Audible's compression scheme is extremely good - much better than MP3 - becauase it was designed specifically for speach. So you listen to very long books that have excellent fidelity with fairly small amounts of memory.

One word of warning for those folks ordering a device - make sure the company you order from has the unit in stock. This seems obvious but last year I took advantage of this (Audible actually gives you the same offer after you've completed your 1-year "commitment" so you can keep getting an additional $100 off of new additional devices if you choose) last year when I ordered an iPod from J&R. Unfortunately they said the 15GB model was on backorder but should be in in a week or so. I think I waited 6 weeks before I finally opted for a 30GB model as those they had in stock. Likewise, I orderd an iPod Mini for my wife in April and it finally arrived in July. Maybe iPods are just an exception, but just be careful!

2
by Fugtussey | Sep 2, 2004 5:08:27 PM

Hate to put a damper on your review, but I been an Audible.com user for over 5 months and have had a horrendously difficult time downloading files via Audible Manager. After over 6 hours of tech service time trying to fix the problem - Audible Manager simply will not/cannot communicate with my Treo 600 - I gave up and quit the service. Audible claims a wide variety of causes, depending on the technician I'm with: Sprint firmware update (I downgraded the firmware - no dice); a bad Treo (I've had 3 replacement Treos for various problems so their all brand spanking new); Windows XP incompatibility ... blah, blah, blah. The maddening thing is I'm able to download once in a blue moon, but no one at Audible can explain why I can or can't download. According to most technicians at Audible, I am the only one with this problem, but 2 of the techs I've spoken to admit that their software guys have been trying to figure out why this happens to a few chosen Treo600 users (one of them said there were 11 documented instances). The lesson? Try before you buy ...

3
by Dragon | Sep 6, 2004 3:31:46 AM

I been an Audible.com user for over 15 months and have had no problem at all downloading files via Audible Manager. I also have the TREO 600 and it downloads and plays just fine. But it worked ( and works ) just as well with the OTIS that I got when I joined up.
My OS is XP Pro.
Maybe it just doesn't like ya. :)

Dragon

4
by Kathleen | Oct 3, 2004 1:39:59 PM

This article is just what I am looking for! Thank you for all this wonderful information regarding audiobooks and the Treo 600. You are sure right about the lack of marketing for such a great feature. I have been searching as well and the results have been less than desirable.

I am very new to this and needed answers and guidance. Your article answers all my questions and so clearly! I'm off to start the audio book process myself. Thanks for your help.

Kathleen

5
by Bob | Oct 15, 2004 8:29:43 PM

Thanks for the extensive review. It was a godsend in guiding me through the strange world of Audible. I made it, bought some books and am beginning to listen. I didn't find the downloading and data transfer quite as simple as I expected. But once through it sucessfully the first time, the rest came easy. A great Treo advantage. Thanks for your articles. Bob

6
by cappleto | Mar 4, 2005 10:54:51 AM

I have a brand new Treo 650. Installed Audible on my PC (Windows XP) and subsequently on my 650. I downloaded the book (C.S. Lewis), but while trying to add it to my card via the on-line synch screen, it won't download. PDA can't read it.
I also noted on the PalmOne site that under Listen to Music, it shows that Audible is NOT compatible. What's up with that?

7
by encubed1 | Jan 2, 2006 4:13:51 PM

Hi,
I'm really disappointed with how quickly the battery on my Treo 600 gets drained now that I've loaded Audible. Does anyone else have this problem? Any solutions?

Thanks!

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