Downpour’s membership is easy to use, and in some ways, it beats Amazon's Audible. Both services use the credit system – you pay $12.99 per month for Downpour, and with your membership, you get one credit to spend each month. Unlike Audible, you can buy more credits whenever you like, which makes Downpour the more flexible option. The service also takes off some of the pressure of choosing a new book because all its offerings cost about the same.
This audio book service only has around 70,000 titles available for download, which is less than half of what Audible carries. As part of our research, we made a list of some of the most popular books in 2016 and browsed each site to see how many of the titles it offers. We found that Downpour had the titles we looked for about 80 percent of the time, so it does a pretty good job of stocking new and popular titles.
While browsing, you can look at reader reviews to help you decide whether to purchase a book, but Downpour doesn’t generate recommendations based on your library or other items you’ve viewed, something both Audible and Audiobooks.com do.
Browsing for new titles on Downpour is easy. All the books’ covers are large, and they are organized as you would find them if you were browsing in a bookstore. You get to keep the books you download, and the service makes it easy to see how long each one is so you know how much you’re getting for your credit upfront.
This site sells audio books in different formats – you can buy CDs and MP3-CDs or digitally download the files. When you pay for the book, you only get the version you select. You can set your download preference to make it easy to purchase the correct format once you figure out which you like best.
You can also rent some titles instead of buying them. The rental periods are 30 or 60 days. If you don’t finish the book in that time, you can extend the rental. If you want to buy the book after you finish listening to it, you still have to pay full price – there isn’t a discount for renting and then buying.
Downpour uses symbols to show what formats each book is available in and which one you’ve selected for purchase. I initially thought the symbols were more trouble than they were worth, but after I got used to them, I found they made browsing on the site simple.
On Downpour, an audio book’s price varies based on the format you choose, and occasionally, the service sells the digital download option for less than $12.99, which is the cost of a credit. Pay close attention to a book’s price before you buy it to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. For example, when we tested, the digital download of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” was on sale for $11.16. In this case, you would be money ahead if you just purchased it and saved your credit for something that costs more than $12.99.
Occasionally, the audio books on this site cost two credits, so the average cost of Downpour’s books is higher than some other services we tested. It can be frustrating to learn that a book you want costs double what you’d planned to spend. Still, the two-credit cost can be cheaper than buying the book without a membership or on a more expensive site like iTunes or Nook Audiobooks. Again, you want to pay attention to how much each format costs on the site.
The service’s app is a bit more simplistic than others we compared it to, and you can’t use it to browse for new titles, which is a bit of a letdown – it’s nice to be able to shop after finishing a book on your device. Downpour’s app has many of the standard playback features like a sleep timer, adjustable jump time and variable playback speed.
Many of Downpour’s books are DRM-free (Digital Rights Management-free), which makes them easy to share. There are a few titles that are protected by DRM, but when you click on one to make a purchase, the site lets you know you can only download it to a few devices.
Downpour offers customer support over the phone from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST. You can also email customer service reps, and they are very responsive. The FAQs page on the company’s website has a search bar, which makes finding answers to your questions easy, and you can also watch video tutorials. Downpour won’t return a book just because you didn’t like it – it considers purchases to be final. If there is an error with your download, you can contact support for help. Unlike with Scribd’s service, you don’t lose your credits when you cancel your membership, but they expire one year after you purchase them.
Downpour is a solid option for an audio book library. The site is clean and easy to use, though it can take time to familiarize yourself with the symbols it uses. Each book’s product page is well designed, so you know what you’re getting when you make a purchase. If Downpour had a larger library and in-app browsing, its membership would be competitive with our top pick’s.