Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Corrupt Borders - audiobooks with download errors

Last September I was delighted to find that I could buy Christopher Paolini's "Brisingr" novel from, since it was not available from, my usual audiobook supplier. Delight changed to anger when I discovered that the book I had bought was corrupt, and that the Overdrive Media Console software was unable to warn me of the corrupt files. Listen to a snippet of the corrupt file (813kb MP3).
Many of the books use protected WMA files, and you only get to download the book once. You can't backup the license either, so the book only works on a single machine until it breaks. By comparison, the Audible books can be downloaded as required, provided the machine is correctly activated. I can still listen to the very first book I bought from Audible, even though I have gone through several computers since then.
I complained to the Borders store, and got a completely clueless response, so I wrote to OverDrive's support centre, and they promised to get the book fixed. In the meantime I listened to the damaged book, and had to borrow a printed copy to figure out what had happened during the corrupted pieces. Not ideal.
Eventually after 6 weeks of hearing nothing from them, I enquired and was told that I could now download the "fixed" version. It wasn't fixed. What do you make of this (210k) or this (221k)? After demanding a refund of my US$30, I was told that an even newer version had been uploaded on 23rd December 2008. Nice of them to contact me and let me know. Now they want me to download the book for a third time. It's a mere 425074 KB download, which means that by the time I download it again I will have spent as much on bandwidth as on the book itself. Now they tell me that parts 1, 4, 5, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22 need to be downloaded for a third time. That's 12 out of 23, notwithstanding that part 23 (amongst others) was corrupt the first time. What a ripoff!
[Update 12 Feb 2009: both books have been refunded.]

I'll rather buy it from Audible. At least their software warns me if there is a problem with the download, and I have never had to listen to a corrupted book from Audible.

To add insult to injury, my recent US$22.50 purchase of John Grisham's "The Associate" is also corrupt (372kb and 225kb) so once again I have to go through a dozen hoops. It's most frustrating, and it's completely random whether I get a good copy or not: Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" was fine, albeit a bit scratchy. I bought the remaining books in the series from Audible, and the quality was much better. I haven't listened to my purchase of "The Day of the Jackal" yet. Watch this space.
[Update 12 Feb 2009: So far The Day of the Jackal files are all fine, with the occasional hiccup that could well be part of the original recording]

My biggest frustration with Audible is that a lot of the new titles are not available outside the USA (including my country), but at least I know that when I buy the book it will actually work.
I have also bought books from Simply Audiobooks, but their selection is much more limited: "Brisingr" and "The Associate" are available for rent, but not for download. At least Simply Audiobooks have a corruption detection system as well, and the quality of their books is good, even though many of them are the dreaded WMA format.
My hassles with DRM (copy protection) have taught me a simple lesson: convert all your audio books to MP3 format. Apart from the fact that my wife and I can then listen to the book on our Nokia cell phones, it means I can actually make backup copies of the books I have purchased. For this purpose I use Total Recorder Standard Edition, and it has worked fine on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. It's been well worth US$17.95.


Anonymous said...

You spend so much money on stuff that you don't need.

And since you're not even getting quality, what is the rationale?

I use winamp for all my audio playing, and with "chun-yu's mp3 creator" plugin, i convert any files to mp3 quickly and easily, with all the options i could ever use, free.

The other advantage to it is that you can rip ANY audio, whether or not the cd is protected. There is nothing worse than not being able to rip a cd you own, for nokia/mp3 players etc.


Donn Edwards said...

>> And since you're not even getting quality, what is the rationale?

That's why I am demanding a refund.

I use Winamp too, but it doesn't play the audible format. The audio books are not sold as CDs (that's even more expensive) but as downloadable files. It's possible to write most of the titles to CD, but "Brisingr" requires 23 CDs, which just adds to the cost.

Buying audio books in CD format is exhorbitantly expensive. "Brisingr" on 23 CDs is over R600 from

Winamp can rip CDs directly to MP3, so I don't see the need for a plugin.

Anonymous said...

TO my knowledge, only winamp PRO allows mp3 ripping, paid for ... and often gives errors for copywritten discs. What the plug in does is substitute an mp3 writer in place of the sound card. You can rip anything that you can play, WITHOUT being moitored in any way, and if you can find the appropriate plug in that plays your audio book files ... bingo. wma is played by winamp, so i assume they're in another format.

23 cd's is a heck of a lot of data ...