Less than the Sum of its Parts?

In its grasping attempt to move from ubiquitous to monopolizing, Audible’s new come-on for romance genre consumers apparently leaves the concept of audiobook—as in book—behind. Having sliced and diced the genre’s presentation for paying consumers in more ways than the Kama Sutra suggests positions, they’ve just gone to a level of servicing that might leave both authors and narrators—to say nothing of narrating authors—with the frank understanding that it’s not the books that Audible is moving here, just what the company coyly calls the “good parts.”

Audible Romance already has allowed the fans of this one genre to dine freely at their subscription rate while listeners with interests in other genres or topics are kept to a single subscription “free listen” per month. Beyond that, Audible has parsed its romance genre fare and labeled titles for consumers by every imaginable plotting and character trait. In short, Audible makes sure those romance consumers don’t have to make too many discoveries by actually listening to entire audiobooks, eros forbid they might be confronted by unanticipated kinks, lack of kinks, or casting that wanders outside their comfort zones.

This latest machine massaging of content, however, seems to eschew the very idea that those “good parts” (as both Audible Romance and erotica fans coyly term them) are part of any story arc, any character development, or any use of language other than as a descriptive transit system from ears to erogenous zones. Does such treatment strip the audiobooks so disrobed of so much that makes either a book or an audiobook a kind of narrative fullness that what Audible Romance now offers is instead of audiobooks the aural equipment of choices among high end, low end, and any end strip clubs?

For sure the move emphasizes the consumerist—rather than book access—nature of the Audible game. Someone in their towers must be wondering how to game genre fans of mysteries (well, giving the solution away won’t work) or histories (“in the end, everybody dies”).

Happily, for listening readers—of romance, erotica, fantasy, thrillers, business coaching, and anything else in the great big spectrum of audiobook genre and subject possibilities—other services still provide access to audiobooks, as opposed to pages ripped from where they were intended to be but a part. Here’s to Libro.fm, Kobo, Playster, and on and on, if you still are bent on spending your own money for your own listens. Although the library platforms market is imperfect, as yet, throwing your listening after the tax dollars you already have spent still makes more sense: get your audiobooks with your library card and the digital audiobook service(s) your local public library has selected. Some are presenting their communities with OverDrive, Hoopla, RBdigital, and others together. You could have an audiobook orgy, avoid falling into the hands of pirates, and keep the books intact all the while.