Monday, March 11, 2013

AudioGO and Big Finish even easier for audio-books than eMusic

Back in May 2008 I offered my thoughts on three services that offered Cory Doctorow's Little Brother as an audio book. Audible didn't work at all, Zipidee worked but was less than ideal, and eMusic was the best of the three.

As part of the 50'th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who I have decided to go where I've never been before, and check out some of the Doctor Who audio-books. AudioGO offers Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures that are based on TV Soundtracks, readings of novelizations, as well as original stories. Big Finish offers many original science fiction audio dramas for Doctor Who, Stargate and Sherlock Holmes.

It goes without saying that like eMusic both offer unencrypted (AKA: DRM-free) audio in vendor-neutral audio formats, which in this case included MP3. I discussed my unwillingness to access or pay for DRM-infected audio-books in the 2008 article. I suspect given these services have a focus on science fiction that they recognize that discouraging purchases from more science and technology literate customers would be strongly against their best interests.

Big Finish solves the problem of offering multiple files as part of a single title by offering ZIP files for download. After purchasing they offer a "Download MP3" and "Download Audiobook" option for each title, allowing you to download the title again if necessary. The MP3 option offers a ZIP file with a series of MP3 files (multiple tracks for a given title), a JPEG cover image, and a PDF of the current issue of Big Finish' Vortex magazine. The Audiobook option replaces the series of MP3 files within the ZIP file with a single m4b file (Note: for listening on my Android phone I rename the file to .m4a to use the built-in audio app rather than downloading a dedicated Audiobook app).

AudioGO offers "Download with Manager", "Download in Browser" and a "Listen online" for purchased titles.

The download manager is a Java application which requires that Java be installed on the desktop, but runs well on the OpenJDK that ships standard with Ubuntu Linux. It is much simpler, cleaner and interoperable than the platform-specific binary that eMusic uses for a download manager. I hope that eMusic will consider upgrading to a Java application for this purpose.

The "Download in Browser" attempts to use JavaScript to handle multiple downloads. While this and downloading each file separately works, it didn't work as well as the Java download manager. This option will be great for those who don't have (or don't want to have for many legitimate security reasons) a Java interpreter on their computers.

The "Listen online" makes use of HTML5 (with Flash for legacy browsers) for an audio player that lists each track/chapter to allow you to jump to a specific track.

Overall the experience with these two services have been great so far. I only finished my watching of the DVD's of the classic series a week ago, so will now be spending time checking out more of the audio adventures. Check out my Doctor Who and Me page for a list of what I've purchased/watched/etc. Always looking for Who recommendations if you have them.