October 27, 2012

How to Suck at Acquiring New Customers – Audible.com

How to Suck at Acquiring New Customers - Audible.com

Just had the worst sign up and getting started experience at Audible.com. I find out of an offer from the Tech News Today podcast for a 1 month free membership and 1 free book. So I decide to sign up thinking it will be a quick 5-10 minute thing. 1 hour later, I am writing a blog post about the horrible experience setting this service up.

The actual sign-up process is quite streamlined. They ask you to set up an Amazon account. I was expecting to setup some sort of account so that’s not bad. Then even though your checkout total is $0, they want you to fill out credit card information. Ok, I understand because they are selling a monthly subscription. So I’ll do that.

But to actually start listening to your first book, is a whole different story. They don’t have a web-app, so you have to download some client. I wanted to listen to the audio books when doing chores around the home, so I decided to download the Windows client. During installation, the client wants me to close all my Chrome windows. I find this really annoying whenever an application asks me to do this because I always have something going on in my browser windows. Anyway, I reluctantly close all Chrome windows. The installation finishes and the application starts up. There’s a button to go to my Online Library where I can go to get books.

So I’m back on the website now. I decide to buy Game of Thrones as my first free book. Oh but wait, I have to pay $22.05 for this book! What happened to my first free book? After some looking around I realize that the 1 free book is based on the fact that they gave me 1 free ‘credit’ when I signed up. And the site claims that:

a very small number of audiobooks and other titles are valued at more than one credit

The Game of Thrones book is priced at 2 credits (as well as every other book in that series). To be fair, some of the other books I looked at, including popular titles like The Hobbit and The Hunger Games, were priced at 1 credit each.

Anyway, I decided to get The Hunger Games in the end. Now its added to my Online Library, and there is a button to download the book. But clicking on the button tells me that I don’t have the Windows client installed and that I need to download it. Even though I clearly have it installed and running! After getting frustrated, I call up Customer Service who direct me to switch off the ‘Software Verification’ setting in my online account because they don’t have good support for Google Chrome. Its awesome that you can’t find this information on their help pages.

So I hang up with Customer Service and am finally ready to have my computer read out my audio book to me. But no, it wants me to Activate my client before I can use it (even though it let me download books without activation). Still, this would be fine, except that it doesn’t actually accept my valid username and password! Hats off to Audible for making it really easy for me to give away my credit card information but making it nearly impossible for me to get the service I want, while pretending to be a legitimate business.

The Audible iPhone app worked fine – I was able to download and listen to books. But the Windows client would just not let me activate it. I called up Customer Service again, and they had no clue what was wrong. The only thing that I could think up was that I had an extraordinarily long password. I mentioned that to Customer Service and they said that it shouldn’t have any effect. Also I was able to log into the website and the iPhone app using this password. After getting no where with Customer Service, I hung up and decided to change my password to a shorter one. Lo and behold, suddenly I was able to activate the client. What a horrible bug to have, and be completely oblivious to its existence.

The only good thing was that I was able to change my password back to the long one after activation and the client kept working.

Great job Audible! You make me seriously doubt if I want to renew my membership next month.

Comments (15)

  1. June 15, 2013
    DJ hay said...

    your weblog is really excellent. It was extremely nicely authored and effortless to comprehend. Unlike additional blogs I’ve read which are really not very good. I also discovered your posts extremely fascinating

  2. July 6, 2013
    james said...

    Although your post is dated, I wonder whether they fixed these bugs, or whether this is an iphone problem. Works great on droid. I found this while searching for some help with the settings, but have had no problems.

  3. March 2, 2014
    sam said...

    No! Audible still sucks! Tried them today and I can’t believe how bad they are. Had to download their own media player to use the content I just bought, but even then, their website didn’t recognise that I had it, so I couldn’t use the service at all. Simply can’t be bothered to try again.

  4. April 4, 2014
    Kevin said...

    At least you got the iPhone app to work. I can’t say the same.

  5. April 17, 2014
    adf said...

    It’s true. Had a very similar experience and canceled the same day – they also make it a pain to actually cancel, requiring many steps/screens.

  6. April 30, 2014
    DigitalReaper said...

    Tried the free trial today. Installed their software, but they don’t support the phone I want to install the book to. So I have to spend hours trying to mess around with burning it to a disc, then ripping it into mp3 format, or trying to find virus laden software to do it for me.

    Cancelled my Audible account, went onto Piratebay and downloaded it hassle free. If you wan’t people to stop pirating, don’t sell shitty DRM software that most people can’t use.

    Audible, what a complete waste of time.

  7. November 13, 2014
    Nacho said...

    Unbelievable. Two years later I just went through exactly the same thing.

  8. January 20, 2015
    jessy said...

    Aaaarrrgghhh! I tried to download and play 2 audio books I purchased and after various attempts at getting results, I finally five up. Audible is terrible. I cannot believe they are still in business.

  9. July 23, 2015
    Nathaniel said...

    I’ve been using Audible for a few months now. I find their browsing setup frustrating, since it wants to categorize and limit what I can scroll through (I just want a list with some filter abilities and ratings), but the setup has been incredibly easy. I already had an Amazon account, so I use the same login info and payment. I was frustrated with the Windows player I downloaded (it looked like it was from the late 90’s), although the Android player is great. Alternately, for Windows (in the Chrome browser) I just use their web-player. I go to whatever book I have and click “play”, and it opens right up to wherever I was. I don’t even bother with the downloaded player anymore. My only real issue is the price. I’m used to buying used books, or even Kindle books, for less than 9 dollars a book. Audio books are great, but without the credits, I can’t afford them (25-40 dollars a book). It seems like they want you to purchase them with credits, and they give you the option to purchase more credits with special deals. While this is somewhat workable (I got an offer for 3 credits for 11 dollars apiece), I just wish the books were cheaper overall. I’ll probably cancel my membership after this month, since the price goes back up to $15/month and my money situation is pretty tight right now.

  10. August 24, 2015
    Carlos said...

    Yep, audible service is shit. And it is not just the service really because finding good audiobooks is very hard. Most narrations are terrible. I don’t get the enthusiasm of some people about audiobooks.

  11. October 27, 2015
    JDubya said...

    1) The entire Game of Thrones series is 1 Credit, not two as described here.
    2) They do have a web app, how did you not notice this? Go to ‘My Library” and under the thumbnail of the audio books “cover” you’ll see a big “PLAY” button. A mini browser windows (call it a pop up) should appear with your title and playback controls.
    3) I’m sorry your one windows. The whole client thing wasn’t something I had to go through at all. You can use iTunes to listen to your book via iTunes if you like.
    4) Having a ridiculously long password is an edge case, in UX Design we consider these cases to be less important than primary use cases, and often choose to satisfy the larger user base. In your case, you admit to having an extraordinarily long password. Chances are they have not encountered this bug in the wild before, OR they have, but only a hand full of times. Though not enough to warrant resolution at the time of sprint planning, where other more common bugs (again for the majority of users – think apps crashing, or playback not occurring) may take precedence over edge cases.

    Hope this helps. I’m a long time Audible fan, and have my own issues with the app. Admittedly I found your blog by searching “Audible app sucks.” – in search of blogs such as this one.

    • December 31, 2015
      Wan Kerr said...

      Hey dipshit. Please note when this blog-post was written. You see how it precedes your response by a couple of years? That’s right, clown. Shit tends to change over time.

      Though with that having been said, my experience with Audible here in late December of 2015 was exactly the same as the authors, so I guess not everything does.

    • December 31, 2015
      subrat said...

      yes audible app sucks.

  12. October 27, 2015
    Ryan said...

    @JDubya. Gotta disagree with your general tone that “nothing is wrong”. I just spent the last 30 minutes fighting with this nonsense during my first book purchase. Frankly I haven’t encountered a worse on boarding user experience in 5 or 6 years.

  13. December 31, 2015
    subrat said...

    yes, it still sucks. i had the same problem today. i am guessing its not compatible with windows 10. it wont even let me enter login details, keeps showing error and wants to debugg it in visual studio.

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