I really don't mind paying for audio books when I can find them, but this experience has to be the worst so far. I was looking for a J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts book for my wife, but Audible didn't have it, while Borders wouldn't sell it to me. So I found it at ClearAudioBooks.com, an outfit I haven't tried before.
Step 1: The first hurdle was paying for the book. I have resisted using the Verified by Visa system since it was introduced in 2006 because it relied on popups. After going round in circles I was eventually forced to call my bank with an "Error 11" and they enrolled me in the plan, like it or not. So we were off to a good start.
Step 2: Next came the problem of downloading the book. You have to set your download manager to collect only 1 piece at a time, because if you do several pieces then the server gets confused and wastes your time. At 451MB for the 64k version of the book, that's a lot of wasted bandwidth, adding another $5 to the $24.99 purchase price, but I digress.
Step 3: When I tried to play the audio file, I was confronted with yet another hurdle: the Windows Media license nightmare. I'm running Windows Vista and Windows Media Player 11, with all service packs and updates galore. Do it should be a simple case of click on the file to play. Wrong. You have to log in and give a password. It didn't work. See error message at the top of this article. I tried 3 or 4 times.
Step 4: Contact customer support. This is easy because there is a "click here" link hidden away in the bottom right hand corner of the Windows Media login screen. Never mind that the link is for a lost password. Now you have to register on a different system in order to log a support call. Yet another user name and password later, I managed to tell them about the problem. They'll get back to me: Ticket ID: SZQ-150802. No, wait, I have to visit their site to find out the status of the ticket.
Step 5: Keep clicking in desperation. Eventually the verification works on the free The Very Best of BBC Comedy that I also downloaded. I guess they knew I would lose my sense of humour, so they tried to give it back. Eventually it worked, so I tried the purchased book. Another error message:
Step 6: After this message, the book started playing. This is the point that I convert it to MP3 format before the computer changes its mind. Don't you just love how simple DRM technology is? Much easier than buying an MP3 from Simply Audiobooks and downloading it and then clicking "play", don't you think? Now if only they would sell me the book I was looking for ...
Update: When I click on the link to see the status of the ticket, I get an error message: "ERROR: You do not have enough permissions to access this page. Please log in by entering your Email Address and Password." This continues in an endless loop, even though I have logged in with the correct user name and password, supplied by email along with the link. I think I'll have to listen to that BBC comedy again, just to deal with the stress. I think I'll have to send this post as a glowing testimonial for their web site.
Update: I reported the error message to the people who make the "help" desk software, and got the following UNHELPFUL reply:
Yes, you are right, they are using our software but the issue which you have reported could be at their end. There might be a possibility that our client has made some changes in the software settings because of which you are getting this error. Our client will need to report this to us, so that we can take action on it accordingly.It's all the client's fault and responsibility to fix the third party software, and there isn't the remotest possibility that the supplier could offer to help, or even express any interest. That's just the kind of service you can expect from the sales team at Kayako Infotech Ltd.
Please note that our software provides both the options i.e. a customer may submit a ticket directly or he/she will need to login to submit a ticket. So, it entirely depends on how a particular client of ours has configured the system.