It’s unfortunate that Simply Audiobooks ended up near the bottom of our list; it’s a good company, and its service is easy to use. The site sits in the number eight spot because of the audio book format it uses: Rather than allowing you to download digital files of the books you borrow, Simply Audiobooks only rents them on CD.
For $19.98 a month, you can choose one audio book from Simply Audiobook’s library, and it will ship it to you. If you like switching between books or plan to share your account with other users, the service offers a couple different membership plans. For about $10 more, you can check out two audio books at a time, and at an even higher price, you can have three. You get to keep the audio books for as long as you need to finish them – there are no late fees, and you don’t need to ship the package back by a specific time.
It makes sense that the service charges a slightly higher-than-average membership fee because you receive a tangible product that can get lost or damaged, rather than a digital file. The rental fee also accounts for the shipping costs. The company pays for return shipping, and the audio book arrives in a convenient package that’s easy to mail it back in.
You create a list of the titles you want to read on the service’s site – it recommends you keep 15 to 20 books on your list at all times and sends an email to let you know if it gets low. Simply Audiobooks sends you books from your list in no particular order, which may not appeal to some people, and keeping your list full ensures it will have something you want to read in stock each month.
Simply Audiobook’s nifty list feature fixed a problem I had with the other audio book sites we researched. Because the company automatically ships the next book in your queue, you spend less time on the site deciding what to rent or buy. We think time saving features like Simply Audiobooks list, are one of the reasons to enroll in a membership in the first place.
Simply Audiobooks has a library of 50,000 books, which is one-third fewer titles than our top pick, Audible. Still, it has more popular titles than we expected with such a small library – the service carries 76 percent of the titles we looked for from our list of the most popular books of 2016.
As I tested the service, the main problem I had was finding somewhere to play the CDs. Like most newer laptops, mine doesn’t have a disc drive, so I had to borrow one from our testing lab. I do have a CD player in my car, but carting so many discs around was tough. Not to mention that if you finish a CD while driving, it’s not safe to switch to the next disc unless you park or pull over. Another concern with the older, CD format is the potential risk – you have to be careful and keep the CDs protected to avoid damaging them.
Simply Audiobook’s site is easy to navigate, and adding titles to your list is simple. Each book’s product page has a summary and reviews by other readers. The site isn’t sophisticated enough to offer recommendations based on your interests or other books you’ve listened to, a feature on some of the other sites we tested, which can be very helpful while browsing for new titles.
I did encounter one problem with the site: As I added books to my queue, I accidentally selected an abridged version, and it immediately showed up on my list. Because it was in stock, the book jumped up to the top of my queue, and by the time I realized I didn’t want that version, the company had already shipped it. There aren’t any options on the website that make it easy to fix this kind of problem. Luckily, customer service was very helpful in fixing the error, but it would be nice to fix your queue directly from your account rather than relying on the company’s support team.
The site offers phone support from at least 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. It also has a very responsive email system in place.
You can’t beat the immediacy and ease of downloading audio books as digital files, and Simply Audiobooks only rents books on CD. Still, the service was great to work with. The site doesn’t have any hidden fees, is easy to use and keeps you from wasting a ton of time browsing for new titles with its convenient list system. I didn’t have any problems getting my book, and it shipped in about six days. If I primarily listened to audiobooks on CD, I’d use Simply Audiobooks again.