Audible’s monthly subscription price is stupid

Audible is a company under Amazon that produces and sells spoken-word entertainment, specifically, unabridged audio versions of books. Why read a book when you can listen to a book?

This method of reading comes in handy when you’re driving somewhere or doing some type of manual labor. I also like to listen to a good book while going to sleep. I put my earbuds in and set the sleep timer to 30 minutes. The following day, I go back to my audio book and rewind it back 25 minutes or so to find the exact spot I left off.

I’ve tried setting the timer to a shorter timeframe, but I’m almost always still awake when the book shuts off. There’s just something special about the 30-minute sleep setting. It puts me out like an injection of Propofol.

The problem with Audible is the pricing. You’re expected to keep up a monthly subscription that provides one credit a month. Each book you buy costs one credit. A monthly subscription costs $14.95. That means every book you buy through Audible is $14.95.

I canceled my Audible membership a few months ago. When I originally joined Audible, I received three credits. This allowed me to add a number of books. I needed time to catch up and listen to all the books I acquired.

I still have a few books I haven’t listened to. The problem is Fields of Fire, the fifth book in the military science fiction Frontlines series by Marko Kloos just came out. I love this series. If I wanted to buy the audio version of the book without any Audible credits, it was going to cost $10.49. If I wanted to renew my Audible subscription, it was going to cost $14.95, the price of one audible credit.

Why would anyone choose to renew their Audible subscription over just buying the audio book?

It gets worse. If I buy the Kindle version of the book, it’s only $4.99. If I do that, I can add the Audible version for only $3.99 extra. For less than nine bucks, I would get the Kindle version and the Audible version. Plus, the two formats would sync with each other. I could read the Kindle version on my iPad and then later switch to the Audible version. It would auto sync to where I left off on my iPad.

So that’s what I did, I purchased the Kindle version with the Audible version add-on. Why would anyone do anything different? With the current pricing system, I don’t see myself ever renewing my monthly subscription with Audible. Even though my subscription has lapsed, I still have full access to the app and the books I’ve acquired. I can even add audio books I get through other means to the Audible app.

Amazon should lower the price of an Audible subscription. The current price makes no sense.

The ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ Limited Collector’s Edition

I ordered Halo 5: Guardians’ Limited Collector’s Edition from Amazon a few days ago. It originally sold for $249.99. I got it for $65.99. That’s only a few bucks more than the standard edition.

It comes with the following:

  • Full game digital download code
  • Commemorative Statue of the Master Chief and Spartan Locke by TriForce
  • Warzone REQ Bundle (14 Premium Requisition packs)
  • Halo: The Fall of Reach (Animated Series)
  • Guardian model by Metal Earth
  • Uniquely-designed Spartan themed SteelBook
  • Spartan Locke’s Classified Orders
  • Dossiers on Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris
  • Xbox Live Gold 14-day Trial

Even though it comes with a fancy SteelBook, it doesn’t come with a physical disc. I actually like that. I don’t like physical discs because I tend to lose them.

What I didn’t realize when I bought this was how massively huge the statue was. For some reason, I just assumed it was on the same scale as the tiny McFarlane Toys Halo action figures. It’s not. It’s massive.

The 'Halo 5: Guardians' Limited Collector's Edition - Bent Corner

This is a photo of the statue. I put a bottle of Coke next to it to better show how ginormous it is. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with it. It’s far too big to sit on one of the shelves I have in my home office. For now, I have it sitting on the giant box it came in.

I’ve always enjoyed Halo. I’ve just never been any good at it. The same could be said for most first-person shooters. Not that I necessarily enjoy them, that I’m just not very good at them. I enjoy Halo so much that I can totally suck at it, but still have fun playing it.

Thrasher Suit Batman Deluxe Figure by Greg Capullo

DC Collectibles released an action figure of Batman in his Thrasher Suit. The special suit first appeared in Batman vol. 2 issue #8. In the book, some Jehovah Witness folks knock on the front door of Wayne Manor and are greeted by Batman in a special armored suit.

Thrasher Suit Batman

At least, that’s the way I remember it.

The action figure is currently selling on Amazon for $44.95. It’s a limited edition (whatever that means) and stands nine inches tall. Normally I’m not the type of man who spends that much money on an action figure, but I have over $70 in available Amazon gift card money, so it would almost be like it was free. Plus, I did buy the NECA Adam West Batman 1/4 scale figure last year for $96 with Amazon gift card money.

It would not be like I was breaking new ground. Not really.

 

Verizon DSL: Life in the slow lane

About a week ago, my wife Sheri and I noticed a problem streaming to the living room TV. For some reason, we couldn’t watch Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go, or even YouTube using our Roku device without constant buffering. We have the Roku connected to the Internet via a wireless connection to our router. To help rule out the wi-fi as the problem, I tried watching a movie on my computer on the living room TV with Plex. It didn’t buffer one single time. If it were the wi-fi connection, I would expect to see buffering.

I then connected a CAT-5 cable from the router to the Roku in the living room and tried watching something on Hulu. It continually buffered, just like it did with the wi-fi.

That made me think the problem was with the Internet connection. We have DSL through Verizon. It’s supposed to have download speeds of anywhere from 3.1 to 7 Mbps. At least that’s what we’re paying for. To be honest, I don’t know what it was when everything was working. I never had a reason to go test it. When I went to Ookl Speed Test, it showed I was getting less than 1.5 Mbps. In fact, the later in the day, the slower the connection. In the evening, it was showing less than 1 Mbps.

I needed to contact Verison. I was dreading it. I’ve talked to them before, and I remember spending hours and hours on the phone talking to a guy in India named “Bob” who was obviously working from a script. It was not only frustrating, I never got the issue resolved.

When I went to the Verizon website to get their phone number, I noticed they now have the option of speaking to support through chat. I jumped on that, thinking it would be better than actually talking to someone.

I was right, it was better than talking to someone. At the end of the chat, after answering questions and the person from Verizon running tests, I was told my router was bad. They said it was old and had “lived out its usefulness.” I was still using the freebie Westell 7500 that I was given when I first signed up for Verizon DSL over three years ago, so this sounded more or less legit. The person told me they could sell me a new router for $29.99. I asked if I could get my own and use it with Verizon. They said I could, but they would not be able to provide expert support on 3rd party routers.

I had a good laugh over that.

I checked out Best Buy’s website and saw that they had DSL routers in stock at the Hagerstown store. I focused on a Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600 DSL Router for $99.99. I looked at Amazon for the same model, and it was $15 more than Best Buy. I would have paid the higher price for the pleasure of not having to deal with Best Buy, but I didn’t want to wait two days to get it.

Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600I paid for it online and got an email telling me it was ready to be picked up. We went to Best Buy, got it, and took it home. Then, when I began opening it, I noticed it wasn’t the router I needed. It was the same router, but this one was for cable, not DSL. I looked at my paperwork thinking I ordered the wrong one. No, I ordered the right one, they just gave me the wrong model.

We had to go back to Best Buy to exchange it. When we went to the return desk and explained we were given the wrong one, the Best Buy employee began looking on his computer to try to find the one I paid for. Sheri went to the back of the store where the routers are kept and grabbed the right one. The employee was trying to tell me that they didn’t have the actual model I paid for while Sheri was standing there holding the right model in her hand. I guess the Best Buy inventory computer showed they were out of stock because it thought I had already bought their last one.

We exchanged the routers and left Best Buy. It wasn’t until we were in the parking lot that I realized that the employee never apologized for the mix-up. Worse, I even said, “Thank you” at the end of our exchange and he never even reciprocated. I think he mumbled “OK” or something.

Why did I thank him? He didn’t thank me. He didn’t express even the slightest bit of sympathy for having to come back in and get what I paid for. I wish I could resind my thank you.

We got home from our second trip to Best Buy, and I installed the new router. Same thing. Our Internet connection was still slow. I had just spent $100 on a new fancy router and the download speed was hovering at around 1.3 Mbps.

What’s worse than having to go to Best Buy twice in the same day? Contacting Verizon support twice in the same day. This time, Sheri contacted them on chat. The person she got was a lot more knowledgeable then the person I had. The Verizon support rep she got even went into her computer remotely to look at the router settings. The person I chatted with didn’t even offer to do that.

The Verizon support rep decided the problem was at the Verizon central office. They opened a ticket with their tier-two support, and we are supposed to have a resolution by tomorrow night.

I checked our Internet speed this morning, and it shows we are downloading at 5.6 Mbps. That’s around where it was at yesterday at this time, with the old router. If the problem continues in its normal pattern, the download speed will drop as the day goes on.

The problem with leaving honest Amazon reviews

A few months ago, I bought a special tool on Amazon that was supposed to help with taping drywall. It’s called TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. The makers claimed it allowed you to easily apply an even amount of joint compound directly to the joint tape. In fact, they stated on their website that it was “a great DIY tool giving professional results on a DIY budget.

I’ve taped drywall before, but I’m no professional. I definitely fall squarely into the DIY side of things when it comes to home repair, especially drywall.

There were some cracked joints on our ceiling that needed to be repaired. The old tape needed to be removed and new tape applied. Doing drywall work really sucks. Doing drywall work on the ceiling especially really sucks. I thought having this tool would make re-taping the ceiling easier.

It turned out, I was wrong. This tool didn’t make it easier. It also didn’t give me professional results. In fact, it was the complete opposite. It made it harder to mud the tape and the end result looked pretty shoddy. It also made a mess. I ended up mudding the tape the old-fashioned way and got much better results. I ended up throwing the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool away. I thought about trying to sell on Craigslist or Facebook, but I didn’t want to push such a crappy tool on someone else.

Last month, I went on Amazon and began writing short reviews for some of the stuff I’ve purchased lately, including the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I gave it one star, only because that’s the lowest Amazon’s review system goes. In reality, the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool deserves no stars.

This is the review I left on Amazon:

Complete waste of money. I don’t know why I fall for these tools that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. I threw it away a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t think much about it after that. Then, a few weeks ago, I got an email notification from Amazon informing me there was a comment about my review. This is the comment, left by someone named Ron:

Rick, these tools work as described so what seemed to be the problem? The mud coating of the tape? The set up? Did you read the instructions and have the compound thinned correctly? Did you remove the insert from the end of the tool and insert it properly? This controls the amount of compound applied to the tape. This tool is so simple to use but the correct thinned compound is much of the secret to proper use. I’d like to hear from you to know why you didn’t think the tool worked for you. You can leave your comment on this site or on our website comment page at TapeBuddy.net

It was obvious Ron worked for Buddy Tools, the maker of TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I didn’t respond to the comment because I really didn’t see the point. My review was left because I wanted to let people like me, DIYers who buy stuff on Amazon, know that it didn’t work as described. If other DIYers decided to ignore my advice and buy it anyway, then that’s on them.

If I were to reply to Ron, I’d say that yes, I did read the instructions. I also watched every instructional YouTube video available for the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I thought I was well informed before using it. It just didn’t work like it was supposed to. My guess is that to get professional results from the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool, you either need to be a professional, or practice with it a lot. 

Then, on July 11, I got the following email from Ron, the person who left a comment on Amazon:

Rick,
You recently posted some comments on Amazon.com about the TapeBuddy drywall taping tool we manufacture. I placed a note on there as well but not sure you were aware of this. Because the note is very brief it is hard to know what or why this tool didn’t work for you or what problems you had with it. I’d like to chat some time to talk about this.

I did notice on your blog you live in Hagerstown MD. Our printing is done in Greencastle PA so I have been in the area many times. Beautiful area you live in. My office number is listed below and rings into my cell when I’m traveling. Right now we are in upstate NY for the next few weeks. Also noticed you severed in the US Air Force. My dad did as well and was stationed in Del Rio TX where I was born. Thanks for serving our country and for the call.

Serving you,
Ron Morton
President Buddy Tools LLC

I thought the email was kind of pushy and bordering on the cusp of being… creepy. I’m not really sure why President Ron felt the need to come to my blog and read my About Me page. It’s not like I’m the first person to leave a one-star review.

Something tells me I won’t be the last.

Not only does Ron work for Buddy Tools, he’s the president of the company. I’m not sure what responsibilities being the president of Buddy Tools entails,  but I don’t think it includes going to the personal blog of people who’ve left one-star reviews on Amazon to find out where they live and what branch of the military they served in.

President Ron wasn’t done. On July 25, he posted another comment on Amazon:

Rick, I still haven’t heard from you on your comment and would like to help resolve the problems you had with it. It’s too bad you tossed this tool before figuring out how it works. Give me a call some time.

My problem is that the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool just didn’t work for me. I read the instructions. I watched all the videos. Instead of getting professional results, I got the complete opposite. I paid $30 for this useless tool and when I left an honest and accurate review on Amazon, I then got pestered by the president of the company.

That’s not how the review system on Amazon should work.

Amazon members don't like Dreamweaver CC

I’ve been playing around with the trial version of Adobe Dreamweaver CC, a powerful cloud-based website creation and development software. Dreamweaver switched to a cloud-based system in 2013. Before that, Dreamweaver was distributed only physically on the disc along with a perpetual license assigned to a specific user. The price for Dreamweaver CS6, the last version on disc and not the cloud, retails for $399.

Dreamweaver CC is priced with a whole different pricing model. Instead of purchasing a one-time license, users pay a monthly fee to use the program via the cloud. The price for access is $29.99 a month with no long-term commitment, or $19.99 a month if you are willing to commit to one-year.

To say the pricing model has been controversial with some users is an understatement.

For example, I noticed that you can buy a Dreamweaver CC digital membership on Amazon via their Amazon Digital Services. The pricing is the same as what Adobe charges, but if you have gift card credit on Amazon like I do, it makes sense to buy a digital membership through Amazon.

What I find amazing are the negative Amazon reviews for Dreamweaver CC. Currently there are 23 reviews on Amazon and all of them are one star, the lowest rating a product can get on Amazon.

People don’t seem to have a problem with the product, but with the pricing model. For example:

pure_greed_4

I could post more examples, but the above screenshot pretty much captures the gist of the other 22 one-star reviews.

I’m using the trial version of Dreamweaver CC, but unless something dramatically changes between now and when my 30-day trial expires, I plan on purchasing a one-year digital membership.

I don’t mind paying for software if it works. Dreamweaver CC seems to work.