Sunday, March 09, 2008

Simply Audiobooks simply not working - updated

I buy and listen to a lot of audio books. Yesterday I was doing a search for a title not yet available to me on Audible, and found another web site called that allows members to download books and listen to them on a Windows Media compatible device. This is far from ideal, but better than not listening at all.
Not all the titles are available for download (or purchase for that matter), and judging by the unhappy comments in the community forums, the rental option also has its down side, so I wasn't able to buy or download the Earth's Children books by Jean M Auel, but I did find the unabridged version of John Grisham's "The Appeal", which Audible advertises but won't let me buy.
I signed up and started the download, which took some time because it is a long book. While it was downloading I read the FAQ to make sure that I had all the right components and stuff to make it work. I even tried the free book to make sure everything was working. But when it came to actually listening to the book I'd bought, the wheels came off.
The emailed instructions and the on-line Getting Started Guide tell you what needs to be done before you listen to your first book, but there is no help to tell you what to do after you try to listen and get nowhere. Nor is there a test file you can download and play to ensure that everything is working. DUH. And did I mention that their Technical Support is only available Monday to Friday? Not much use when you buy something on a Saturday.
So now I wait until Monday 9am EST, which is late Monday afternoon for me, and hope that the Tech Support people can actually help. Time will tell, but I'm not optimistic, given the amount of technical help available on the site.
Update Monday 10 March: To their credit, Gillian from Member Services sent me a reply at 11pm on Sunday night. That's awesome! Her solution was to reset the licence from "Claimed" to "Unclaimed" and then instruct me to delete the old book and download all 268MB again. I decided to risk it by just trying to play the book and see whether the DRM stuff was working. It was. So I am now listening to John Grisham's new book.
I had guessed the email address of Pete Wright, the VP of Software Development, and to his credit he wrote back on Sunday at noon (local time). I have suggested some changes to the site to help get the process going:
  • Warn Firefox users to download the extra ActiveX control using Internet Explorer;
  • Add a DRM'ed "Play Me First" file to the download shelf when users sign up, so they can test their setup and get it working before screwing up th liense on a "real" book; and
  • Add a test on the login screen in WMP to ensure the ActiveX control is installed.
I'm not sure if these will be implemented, but let's hope so. The more audio books the better, and hopefully the book publishers will drop this stupid DRM nonsense. After all, the CDs don't have DRM, so why should the downloads?

1 comment:

CasaTriton said...

I had tremendous trouble with SimplyAudioBooks. I bought Atlas Shrugged, which was secured with digital rights and would only play with Windows Media Player. But I could never get the rights acquisition to work. I tried 3 different versions of windows, 2 different browsers, 2 different networks, and 2 different versions of windows media player. After all these, they assured me that I must be doing something wrong. I'm a professional Internet programmer, so I guarantee I was doing it right.

After 2 weeks of hell with their unhelpful tech support, they refunded my money (even though I didn't ask for a refund) and told me they refused to try anymore to help me get this working. Very frustrating.