In 2001, faced with a 70-100 minute commute to work each way, every single day, I figured I needed to do something to make that time worthwhile. Remembering back to an account that I was given to test the usability of Audible audiobooks on the Compaq iPaq, I renewed the account, joined the Platinum Listener Club at Audible.com and have never looked back.
I was just a little bit shocked last night to see that I have 588 purchased books in my account all these years later. And no, I have not yet listened to them all, but between my wife and I, we have. This retrospect came about because my wife carries a Blackberry Tour 9630, and is trying to figure out ways to un-complicate her life, and not having to carry an iPod for Audible content would really help. In fact, I am in the same sort of situation myself, because there is not yet an application that allows me to listen to Audible content on the Android platform. It’s coming, and soon, I believe, but not yet.
While support for Windows Mobile and iPod/iPhone/Touch has existed forever, support for the Blackberry platform has not. It was released in 2009, while I was still carrying the Blackberry Storm. Invited to beta test the solution and then after initial release, I was not impress. The app was buggy, inconsistent, and unreliable. It was essentially impossible to download audiobooks directly to the device (remember the Storm has no Wi-Fi), and even when you got them on the SD Card, the player was prone to jump, skip, and forget where you were, if you stopped and came back later. In essence, unusable.
Trying It Out
It was with some trepidation that I went to www.audible.com/bb on the Tour and downloaded version 1.45 of the Audible Player for Blackberry. It loaded quickly, and in just a moment, I was able to enter in my user name and password. A little bit of clock spinning, and I was presented with a screen offering access to my Online Library or the Online Store. Checking out my Online Library, I was very please to note that all 588 books appears (in groups of 25, I believe) and I was offered the ability to sort by date, by title, or to just search. One of the things I detested about the previous version is that it always came up sorted by oldest purchase first, which is backwards for how we read books. The new version correctly sort for newest first. So far, so good.
The Blackberry Tour 9630 also lacks Wi-Fi support. In the previous version, it was impossible to actually download a audiobook OTA. This isn’t so surprising, since using the Audible Format 4 (the level supported on the Blackberry platform and the one I prefer), each part of an audiobook will be between 80-120MB in size and in a large unabridged book, it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 parts to an entire book. All that being said, it was supposed to be possible. I think it is a waste of bandwidth, as I prefer to just move the audiobooks to the device using USB, but I can imagine myself purchasing a new audiobook and wanting to get it immediately. To test it out, I downloaded the two parts of a recent audiobook purchase OTA (a total of 185MB in two files) and while it did take about 10 minutes, they transferred without incident and were then immediately available to play locally. I will also note that it is possible to stream a book direct from your personal Library at Audible.com, without downloading locally, and the player will also remember where you left off. That’s a nice feature, but a little hard to use on an airplane.
After testing the player repeatedly, stopping, starting and changing books, I am very pleased that the previous issues with skipping, jumping, and losing the bookmark seem resolved. My wife especially likes the ability to listen to the audiobook without having to have headphones plugged in. The speaker on her Blackberry Tour was very capable of playing an audiobook at an acceptable level. The only real issue I see now is that the 8 GB MicroSD in the Tour is just not going to be enough. Happily, that is easy to resolve.
There are actually quite a number of Blackberry devices now supported with the Audible for Blackberry application:
- Bold™ Series: 9000, 9700
- Curve™ Series: 8300, 8310, 8320, 8330, 8520, 8900>
- Pearl™ Series: 8100, 8110, 8120, 8130
- Pearl™ Flip Series: 8220
- Storm™ Series: 9530, 9550
- Tour™: 9630
- 8800 Series: 8800, 8820, 8830
I have a renewed hope now that I will soon see an Audible for Android application, and frankly, I can hardly wait. I had decided to stop carrying my iPod Touch in anticipation of this happening, and frankly, the books are backing up. If you haven’t tried Audible before, give it a try. Audible.com is currently offering a free copy of Thomas Friedman’s excellent book ‘Hot, Flat, and Crowded’ for new customers. I highly recommend it as a good place to start. Enjoy!
If you’d like to check Audible for BlackBerry out you can download it from http://audible.com/bb.