If Audible listened

audible iphone app

Solving your users problems vs. your problems

I often keep some notes on what I don’t like about a product. I really appreciated what Elon Musk said about this in an interview. He talked about how he goes out of his way to ask for negative feedback. People (especially friends or people sucking up to you) can tend to not be 100% candid with you, and you actually want that.


I recently really enjoyed Aral Balkan’s talk on design where he also discussed the critical look among much much more. So, I thought I would start to writeup small thoughts on product improvements. This isn’t to be snarky and make fun of other peoples work. It is much easier to sit with a beer and talk about what someone else should do than actually do it, and I am more and more aware that generally people are trying to do the best job they can.

I am trying to learn.


Audible is a product that I use as I listen to books on tape primarily when driving in the car. I have a couple of use cases:

#1 Listening to my own books (I try to rotate between different genres, to make sure that I am learning and also having some fun)

#2 Listening to books for the kids. I really have enjoyed this recently. The current kid favorite is the Magic Tree set.

There are many issues that I have had with the service, and a large chunk of them have the theme of “the user shouldn’t care about your implementation challenges!”

Download Limitations (Cell vs. WiFi)

When you download a book it can only grab 50MB without getting the rest from WiFi. This has been really frustrating when you get to the end of that chunk and can’t listen to any more. The average user doesn’t get why this is a limitation at all. I can switch to other content just fine but for some reason I can’t download a book chunk????

The app is poor at detecting when you are on WiFi and going ahead and grabbing the rest for you, again frustrating.

Argh, I was on WiFi all day and now back in the car but it didn’t download!

I find myself setting reminders. The user shouldn’t have to do that.

Audio Sync

A large percentage of the time when I go back to the app to listen to more I get a modal popup telling me that “last time you were at minute 4:41, resume from there?” and it is normally only off by a few seconds. Don’t bother me with this. Work out your timing issues, and at least give me smarter info (telling me “hey, probably not a big deal mate, the resume time is just 1 second behind now” and not making it modal would be a nice start!)

ERROR CAN’T PLAY

In about one in every 3 books I will get an error where the playback will stop and I will be told that the audio is corrupt. The “suggestion” is that I:

  • Delete the recording
  • Re-download at a different quality setting (e.g. set to high quality)

Argh! Remember the fact that you can’t often can’t download the entire book without WiFi? Screwed again.

Audio Quality

Give me an automatic option. Give me the quality that you think I can handle, and be adaptive. Don’t be static.

Audio Parts

You split up the book into multiple parts as an implementation detail. Hide this with the other points. I am listening to a book, I don’t think of it as something that is “in parts”.

Why am I thinking about “should I download all the parts now? If I don’t, I may get into the situation where I am done with Part 1 but didn’t download Part 2 yet. Hmm”.

Per Book Settings

I talked about my split use cases of listening to a book for me vs. my children. When I listen to books I setup a speed that makes sense for my consumption. With the kids I stick with 1x.

The app remembers the speed as a global setting when I would love for it to remember it based on the content, as that is what I am matching it too.

The Store

I know that this is an Apple issue, but not having the store in the app is a royal pain in the arse and sad to see. The audible site is pretty meh too which adds to the pain.

Help me find the next book

I hate it when I get to the end of a book and haven’t gotten the next one ready. Up-sell anyone? Help me.

Give me feelers. Audio books are bloody expensive, so a tease can really help.

Since the cost is high I sometimes grab a book for Kindle first to see if I like it enough to get it as an audio book. This can be great with WhisperSync, but not the cost is even MORE.


In general, so much of the implementation details shine through that shouldn’t. Is there anything you would like to see?

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