Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on those absurdly-priced audio books

I've already mentioned that I found one of the new video iPods under my Christmas tree. I'm not interested in downloading music videos, movies, and TV shows, but I was thrilled to learn this little darlin' comes with 60 gigabytes of storage. Friends, that's a whole lot of music and audio books.

As I posted here, I was thrilled by the idea of downloading audio books until I went shopping and learned just how pricey they are. I ended up downloading three, and I'm still grumbling about the cost.

M.J. Rose got a new iPod for Christmas, just as I did, and she, too, is stunned by the exorbitant book prices:

So why is my iPod still bookless two weeks post Christmas?

I won't pay the price that's being asked. I won't pay hardcover prices for a digital file. I won't even pay trade paperback prices. I believe that a digital book should cost about the same as a paperback.

Tomorrow I'm going to go to the library, take out three or four audio books for free and download them myself onto my iPod.

So publishers will be out three or four potential sales.

Wouldn't getting $4.99 a download have been better than a no dollar download?

I believe I'll be heading to the library this week, too. Oh, I won't keep the files, and I certainly won't share them with anyone; my conscience would never let me get away with that. I'll just listen to the books once and then delete them, as I did with the three audio books I paid for.

I won't be purchasing any more audio books. I'm so disgusted with the whole racket that I'm not planning to browse the online stores again until somebody assures me that the prices have come down.


Dennie McDonald said...

My hubby got me a book PDA a couple of years ago - and yep - the prices are up there. I will admit - I went for the bargim books $3.00 or less - and I found an author that I now really like and one of my faves had her books in there as well =)

I love the audio books though - I use it when I sew - but the prices - sheesh! I think it will be much more reasonable soon as the market realizes the potential there (though I know they have been around for a while)

My grandmother cannot see anymore so I find the audio books on eBay and send them to her - she loves romance novels - If I could figure out how to get my WIPs in audio - she'd be able to read me too!

J. said...

Dear Brenda, is your friend.

Best, Julien

Roy Jacobsen said...

Are you forgetting that creating an audiobook isn't a cheap process? It takes a long time in the studio to produce something that's worth listening to. We've bought the Harry Potter books on CD, and I know that the cost of the disks themselves is a small portion of the overall cost. But to hear Jim Dale do all those different voices is well worth the price of admission.

Laura in denver said...

Have you looked at Thousands of titles, plus magazines and newspapers and other stuff, for a monthly fee. I got some kind of discount for the first year, and now I think it's $14.95 a month for one book plus one other non-book thing like a daily radio show (say, the Wall Street Journal daily broadcast) that you get seven days a week. No, I don't work for audible. It's been a pretty good deal, though I wish they were a little cheaper.

SAND STORM said...

There are other worries besides the price.

Brenda Coulter said...

Well, let's think about this, Roy. The majority of audio books don't use big-name readers (I love Jim Dale!). I'm sure the Harry Potter audio books were produced by the best people using the best resources, and that just isn't the case with the audio books I've downloaded. They're nothing spectacular, trust me. And sure, there are costs associated with producing audio books. Readers/actors must be paid, and server space for the files isn't free. That said, most of the expenses associated with print publishing don't come into play in the production of audio books. For one thing, authors' royalties on audio books are ridiculously low. Also, there are no physical books to be printed, stored, and shipped, and there's no return postage to be paid (publishers always pick up this cost) when booksellers ship back their unsold copies. There are also no editing costs associated with an audio book--that stuff has already been done and paid for. Ditto for cover art. And whatever advertising has been done for the print book can only benefit the audio version--at no additional cost.

In short, although there are expenses associated with producing, storing, marketing, and delivering audio books, they are nowhere NEAR the production costs of print books. My soon-to-be released mass-market romance novel was in production for a full year--and that was after I finished writing it. That's how long it takes an army of editors, artists and designers, marketing people, printers, and others to produce a little paperback book that will sell for $4.99.

Mass-market paperbacks can be offered at such low prices because they're sold by the bazillions. Common sense suggests that lowering the price of audio books would stimulate sales. It's anybody's guess why the publishers haven't figured that out yet.

Brenda Coulter said...

Julien and Laura, I've never liked being locked into book clubs or any other purchase program. I want to see products at a fair price when I'm in the mood to select and purchase them. ;-)

Carolyn B. said...

Hi, Brenda,

You might try some other alternatives: has several serialized books being read by the authors. I'm in love with "Brave Men Run." And it's free!

I also use to subscribe to several wonderful podcasts -- basically, they're free audio files you can download to your iPod. They may be authors reading from their works, quacks spouting about arcane topics, hobbyists talking to fellow hobbyists, NPR and Discovery channel highlights, and other podcasts of every stripe -- from amateurs to pros. You can find podcasts you like at,,, and several others.

And it's all free -- you can pay for some if you want, but there are so VERY many free podcasts that are excellent.

Some of my favorite podcasts include:
- (2 casual, chatty Brits doing funny top 10 lists)
- Kissy Bits (for romance writing) at
- A Way with Words (for word lovers) at

Enjoy! - Carolyn Bahm

Camy Tang said...

I hear ya about the cost. But the costs of ebooks went down and are still dropping--maybe the costs of downloadable audio books will, too.

I've been listening to writing workshops--ACFW both 2004 and 2005, and RWA 2005. Love those. Plus workshops are audio recordings I'd actually listen to again, versus just hearing an audio book once.

Podcasts are a cool marketing idea for authors, don't you think? They could read a short story or something, and people would listen since it's a free audiobook, basically. And then they'd build up an audience who will buy their books, or even their audiobooks.


Neal said...

Brenda, if you're looking for audio books that don't break the bank, you might be interested in the following links:

* a source for free audiobooks:
* some free sci-fi from James Patrick Kelly (not your bag I know, but others may be interested):
* tips on converting audio CDs for use on the ipod:
* tips on converting MP3s for use on the ipod:

Excuse the horrible formatting: I don't know whether I can create live links in comment posts on blogger.

Neal said...

Oh, and to the person who kindly mentioned, it's actually

Brenda Coulter said...

Excuse the horrible formatting: I don't know whether I can create live links in comment posts on blogger.

You can, Neal. Haven't you ever noticed that I do it all the time?

I'll delete anything spammy-looking, but you people who are posting links, feel free to bring 'em to life. It's okay to link to your own blog or website, also. (Hey, I do it on your blogs!)

I'm looking into a lot of these hot audio-book tips, so thanks, everyone, for taking the time to provide the URLs.

Camy, I agree that podcasts are a cool idea, but I don't know many people who listen to them. They'll catch on, though.

Personally, I'd rather read on the internet than listen to a podcast because I'm a skipper and skimmer. Why spend twenty minutes listening to a podcast when I can read the same material in five? I don't watch TV news shows for the same reason. It's just easier to skim the newspaper headlines, then read the stories I want to know more about.

Anonymous said...

I really liked audible's old subscription plan. I was getting two books for $14.95 month. I always chose unabridged and the audio samples are often around 15 minutes long---more than enough time to gauge if the narrator is right for you.

I see the new plans are more restrictive and may not join again, but I've amassed a beefy library of classics and new releases alike.

The appeal of a 60gb device would be having all of my music and books on a single device. Right now I keep a small collection of music and books on an sd card that's used with my palm and pocket pcs.

Carolyn B. said...

One follow-up comment: I too am grateful for the various links people provided -- several are ones I will follow up on myself. And I particularly like the idea of Librivox. Did you know that anyone can volunteer to be a reader for their recordings? What a cool idea. Thank you!

Re the discussion about podcasts: I prefer reading most of the time, too -- probably why I subscribe to 130+ different blogs. (What a goober I am, huh -- but I do love all my blog subscriptions!) The reason I also love podcasts is that they're a handsfree option for when I'm doing crafts, housework or knitting -- it's sort of like telling myself that I never have to stop reading. (Removing my last self-indulgent excuse for postponing housework.) And it's not like radio or TV where I'd have to listen to tons of jarring, noisy ads -- podcasts are just basically self-selected "talk radio" -- usually done by non-professionals on narrow-interest topics. ;o) Just a thought!

FYI, on a non-audiobook note: Here's a link to my Bloglines folder, with URLs of some good blogs on writing, literary agents, and other fiction-writing blogs:

This blog is in that list, of course! ;o)

Cheers - Carolyn

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm honored to be on your list, Carolyn.

Robert Nagle said...

I'm just surfing around, and I couldn't find out where you live.

but did you know that many city libraries give free access to audio books to patrons via netlibrary.

Look at the Houston Public Library for example (I live in Houston)

It's free, it's great, and almost nobody is using it! I'm pretty sure netlibrary audio books work on ipod.

You get to check the audio books for 4 weeks (I think), and then the mp3 file (or whatever it is) self-destructs. What a great system! No more having to return library books!

Brenda Coulter said...

I live in the midwest, Robert, but I used to live in Houston and still have relatives there. (In fact, I just got back from Houston on Sunday night.)

Many thanks for the tip. I'll look into that.

jeneath said...

audible is a really good store for audio books,it contain 16,000 audio books and book-related content. is a project to create audiobooks,and it's all based on volunteer work. Anyone can go to the site and volunteer to record a book. Other volunteers listen to recorded chapters while reading the same pages of a book.
so many free audio books available on th net.
Child Audio books