Home / Simply Audiobooks Uses Netflix Business Model

Simply Audiobooks Uses Netflix Business Model

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If you spend a lot of time in your car, chances are you’ve tried audiobooks. These used to be available on cassette&#8212I remember juggling a multi-cassette version of Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol, and discovering in mid-tape (300 miles from the dealer in the middle of the desert) that the third cassette was non-functional. Frustrating doesn’t begin to cover it.

But audio-tape rental places were everywhere in the 90s, and it was easy enough to get your fix of books by listening to someone else read them.

The deal now is CDs, mp3 versions of those old tapes. The business model that works is the Netflix model, in which users receive the CDs in a mailer, and return them when they’re finished, paying a flat fee for the privilege of picking 2, 3 or 4 titles at a time. And Simply Audiobooks has a free trial offer that lets first-time users test the service for 15 days by picking from among nearly 6,000 titles. (That almost rivals my own library!)

For users who are concerned about the use of their information, the company offers a promise on the sign-up screen that states, “Simply Audiobooks will not sell, rent or disclose your email address to anyone, ever. You may easily unsubscribe from our email list.” A Mon-Fri phone number is also provided.

The 15-day free trial does require that you submit a credit-card number (like Netflix), and they accept only MasterCard and Visa at this time. Still, if you spend more time behind the wheel than you can in front of the DVD player, Simply Audiobooks is worth a try.

NOTE: I have no account or association with the company Simply Audiobooks.

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About DrPat

  • Marty

    This sounds like an advertisement placed by Simply Audiobooks if I’ve ever heard one. I especially like the:

    “NOTE: I have no account or association with the company Simply Audiobooks.”

    I’ve never seen writers for the Times, The Wall Street Journal or any unbiased writers feel the need to put that type of disclaimer.

  • Marty, the disclaimer is simple truth. I’m not associated with Simply Audiobooks, and as I noted, they have brought the Netflix model to a new niche.

    So, no, it’s not an ad, nor is it a PR piece. It’s my opinion about a service I noticed that provides a rental product I don’t use — but might have if it had been around in th ’90s when I spent roughly 20 hours a week in the road…

  • I like Jiggerbug.com, which is the only audio book rental subscription service that offers downloads for rent as opposed to the other services that make you buy them. If you thought you liked Simply Audio Books, you should take a look at Jiggerbug.com.

  • Scandalous

    Wy reed or listun two books wen you can just wach TV?? thats how i lerned all i no an i’m dooing find. I just got a promoshun two! Two much nolege is danjerus!!!

  • There’s not much of a market for audiobooks. I’m sure it’s an awesome thing for senior citizens or the blind maybe, but I’m not sure they can copy the Netflix model, which is predicated on mailing centers throughout the country and high volume, rapid exchanges. There just isn’t the same demand for audio books.

    That is all.

  • Not much of a commuter, are you, BAB?

    I can tell you that audiobooks kept me sane in that time of my life when I had to sacrifice reading time to driving time. So suffice it that YOU are not a customer, and leave it be.

  • Great job on this DrPat — on a great idea. The thing about audiobooks is that they are VERY expensive in comparison to other forms of media, particularly CD versions of popular and current titles.

  • That cost differential may give an extra boost to this rental service.

    I remember when the first DVDs came out, and folks said “It’ll be just like laserdisks, nobody will buy them, when they can just record VHS off the TV.”

  • Weezr

    NO FREE TRIAL AT SIMPLY AUIOBOOKS- It looks like simply audiobooks no longer offer a free trial. I wonder why?

  • Scott Butki

    I use this thing called a library, which has a good books on cd section where I can get things for free.
    Very ingenious.

  • Funnily enough, here I’m trolling the net looking for non-commercial references to our using the Netflix model, and I find Dr. Pat has written about us. Thanks! And just in case anyone’s curious, yes we still have a free trial, we just don’t advertise it. You can get it by clicking on the flash video ad (it’s an old style radio) near the bottom of the home page, or on the video link right beside it.

    Unlike Dr. Pat, I have both an account and a strong affiliation with Simply Audiobooks 🙂

    Sanjay Singhal – Chief Marketing Officer

  • Scott Butki

    Hey, that’s kind of a cool drive-by comment.

  • Jo-Anne

    I bought a 1 month subscription to Simply Audiobooks for a gift for my boyfriend. After registering his gift certificate and picking a long list of books to be sent to him, we waited and waited. Everyday we checked the mail, and nothing. A week went by–we thought maybe it just would take longer, so we waited another few days. Finally two weeks had passed and we still hadn’t received anything, so I called to cancel the account and figured I would just take my losses. The person I spoke with was very nice–she apologized for the problems we’d been having (they had taken over a week to ship the first titles, even though there were a bunch to choose from, and then both of them got lost in the mail). She actually offered to give us a month of free service to make up for the problems. I clearly expressed to her that I did NOT want to renew my service at all beyond the freebie month, and she said she understood but didn’t give me the option to have my account automatically close out at the end of the month or anything like that.

    I wrote in my calendar that I needed to cancel before March 8 however I was billed today so I must have miscalculated when the extra-month ended. Anyway, we hardly used the account because they took so long to ship stuff and when I saw I had been billed for it I called to explain what had happened and ask for a refund and the person I spoke with was not only rude (her name is Jill and she’s a manager in member services), she was also totally unbending and unwilling to help me. She said that because the titles had already been shipped she couldn’t do anything (Note that I sent back the last titles almost 2 weeks ago and they only JUST sent out new ones this week, RIGHT before my billing cycle ended. How convenient.) Then she gave me the option to have a note put on my account so it would automatically close out at the end of the billing cycle!!!! Why wasn’t this offered to me when I called to cancel the first time? It’s such a ploy to get people’s money, it’s unbelievable. When I pointed this out to her she fumbled for an excuse for why the other customer service person wouldn’t have offered me this same option, but refused to do anything to actually fix the mistake. I even asked for just a half-refund, ANYthing, but she adamantly refused in her rude and impolite manner.

    So I would not recommend Simply Audiobooks to anyone. I have had a pretty terrible experience not only with receiving books and the actual service, but also with their customer service. They did nothing to satisfy me as a customer–I have a friend that was in this exact same situation with Netflix and they refunded her account with no questions. That they were so unwilling to do ANYTHING at all to rectify this situation indicates to me that this is a ruthless company that does not invest enough in pleasing its client-base. They get 1 star for their selection.

  • beebee

    hey jo-anne.. sorry that you had such a negative experience.. BUT it’s not quite try that they were unwilling to do “ANYTHING”. As I understand it, it all ships through regular post, so it’s not really their fault if there’s delay or you never got the parcels. However, I’d expect them to come to the table with something anyways, and they did! They gave you a free month. So they’re out of pocket 2 books and a month of service. It’s not their fault that you mixed up the dates when your account renews and called in late. I can’t speak to the tone/context of your conversation with their manager, but I think you should cut them a bit of slack… it appears they were trying to do right.