Back on February 6, coincidentally my brother’s birthday, I wrote a fairly long piece about my love/hate relationship with audible.com. I wrote it in the typical BlindChristian voice as I hadn’t hired Gonz yet so, rather than a real “fear and loathing” pseudo-comical romp through one of my favorite and least favorite web site/ services, it came more as a rant.
I talked to Gonz last night and he told me he had started working on a piece about the closure of CBGB and its planned resurrection in Las Vegas so, rather than disturbing him with an assignment about audible.com, I felt I should write it myself.
So, if you want to read about the long love hate relationship between me and audible.com, look back at the February 6, 2006 post which gives a fair amount of history.
In the 8 months that have passed since I wrote that item, a few things have come to pass. On the good side, the JAWS scripts for the current Audible Manager/Player work great. I don’t know if Ken Gould worked with Sasha directly on this project as he had in the past but FS did a terrific job with the desktop application support. It also seems that audible.com did some fixes to its web site to make it a little more usable with a screen reader (or at least with JAWS, I haven’t tried it with Window-Eyes or anything else in many months) but, as usual, the audible.com proprietary software leaves one wondering if they have any testers on their staff.
Yesterday, after getting my iPAQ 6515 WM 2003 device back from HP who repaired it nicely, I installed Mobile Speak Pocket (MSP) 1.08 (those Europeans are super stingy with version numbers as this upgrade is really worthy of a 2.0) and tried to install the Audible Player for Windows Mobile devices. Alas, everything gets weird again.
My desktop player thought the WM player must already be on my iPAQ as it had some items in its records that said it had sent files to it. Meanwhile, my iPAQ, having had its memory entirely cleaned out, had no idea that it had ever had an Audible Player installed. My desktop player, the audible web site and my iPAQ all started to quarrel terribly. The desktop player said it couldn’t move files to my iPAQ because my Windows Mobile device had no available storage due to its 350 hours of unnamed audible content. The web site told me that my Windows Mobile Player was up to date and my iPAQ just screamed for mercy. Thus, I couldn’t read my new book because the entire system went a bit funky.
My question to the people at audible.com is why do they have to do everything in such non-standard but terribly “cool” ways? If they let good old ActiveSync move files back and forth and install their program on a Windows Mobile device, it would probably work like a charm. Instead, they need to create some super cool web services that, when working properly (a blue moon situation) works great but, more often than not, everything works very strangely.
I fixed my problems this morning by uninstalling the bits of the Windows Mobile player it put on yesterday, uninstalling the desktop player entirely and reinstalling everything from scratch. I have other online subscriptions which never cause me any trouble. The emusic site, from which I download about 90 songs per month, never causes me any hassles but, alas, audible.com is very, very cool and, therefore, unstable as all hell.
I hadn’t planned on writing this morning and, as I said in the opening paragraph, tried to pawn this job off onto Gonz but, alas, when I went to audible.com to download some content, I discovered that their “jump passed navigation” link – typically considered an accessibility feature, used a graphic without a alt-tag to describe it so JAWS, instead of saying something nice like, “Jump past navigation,” instead says, “this page link #skipnav.” What nimrod is responsible for this? Does he or she still have a job? Didn’t the Target case do any good or are people in New Jersey to busy worrying about whether Tom Kean Jr. insulted the Italian American population with his Sopranos” attack ad in the senatorial campaign.
Most of audible.com follows the WAI rules for labels and such but it has its share of dings. It uses headings poorly and does some pretty mysterious stuff now and then. As I know dozens of blinks who enjoy the service, myself included, one would think that audible would consider us in their design decisions and do a little to make the site more than “accessible” but, rather, “usable” in a meaningful sense. I love their content but their technology rates only a poor to fair in my book and I recommend that all of our blind readers send them a note asking them to make a reasonable attempt at usability.