Customers’ voracious appetite for audiobooks seems to once again be a problem for subscription platform Playster. A few months back, I wrote about Playster cancelling the accounts of customers for excessive audiobook listening (here and here). At the same time, they quickly and quietly raised the price of the audiobook portion of their subscription service from $9.95 to $14.95.
Now, Playster has announced that they are limiting the size of the collection for subscribers at the $14.95 level and adding a new unlimited premium tier at double the price: $29.95.
Playster is calling the plan at the $14.95 price point the Basic plan. The plan offers “unlimited access to 40,000+ titles from world-class authors, like Michael Crichton, Janet Evanovich and Faye Kellerman.” Playster also says they have improved the audiobook player experience.
The new Premium plan offers “unlimited access to 100,000+ of the newest titles made available on the same day they’re released”. The Premium plan includes authors like James Patterson, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Dan Brown, George R.R. Martin. Subscribers are promised “unlimited access to every major and classic title they can dream of”.
According to Playster’s support page on the plan changes, “some members may temporarily lose access to their playlists, downloaded titles and/or audiobooks they’ve started.”
The changes to the audiobook plans went into effect yesterday, December 22, 2017. As of today, the website is still showing $14.95 for the cost of the audiobook subscription.
Not surprisingly, the complaints have already started. On TrustPilot, the words bait and switch are used a lot. Most people are saying that the books they have saved to read are all in the Premium tier. Customers who recently started free trials are complaining that the trial only seems to apply to the Basic tier, not the Premium. One comment said that all the books in the basic tier were the same content available on Librivox (a service that offers free public domain audiobooks). Others are saying that, with the new, higher price, Audible is a better deal.
Subscription service Scribd made many similar choices in February and March of 2016 and it cost them a lot of subscribers. Scribd culled many of its popular genres (like the romance and comics categories) and also divided its catalog into two tiers and limited the number of books and audiobooks subscribers could access in Selects, its premium tier.
I don’t doubt that we will hear more about this from customers. As audiobooks continue to soar in popularity, affordable access for avid listeners is going to be an even more important issue. Subscription services seem to continue to underestimate the demand for audiobooks.
The public library is looking better and better for audiobook aficionados.
Are you a Playster subscriber? What do you think?
(Thanks to Angel for the tip!)
(Note: You can read my original review of the Playster service here.)
Hello, thank you for this article as it finally lets me know what the heck Playster is doing to our audiobook access. I am a subscriber to both Audible and Playster (along with using free library services) to listen to all my audiobooks. I use Audible for long, expensive books from authors such as Brandon Sanderson, while I blow through about 4-5 books a month from Playster on shorter books by authors such as Janet Evanovich (most of which are now labeled as Premium, not Basic). Thus a few months ago I felt $10 a month was worth it for Playster’s unlimited audiobook access, and I only got a little upset when they raised the price (with no notification) to $15, but decided to stick with it due to the unlimited selection.
HOWEVER, suddenly on Dec 21 NONE of the books I had ALREADY downloaded and saved on Playster were available to me, as they were all labeled as “Premium” and required me to upgrade to the $60 all included Playster access account. I can’t even continue the book I was in the middle of listening to. I had NO notification of any changes to my subscription plan. I immediately emailed Playster, and now, 48 hours later, even after a second email, I have still had no response. I had to Google this problem, which led me to your article, which explains in much more detail about what they are trying to do. I couldn’t even find the “Basic” vs. “Premium” audiobook accounts for $30 that you write of. They tried to immediately make me pay $60 to get access, so I don’t even know how to choose the $30 option. Regardless, I will cancel my subscription altogether because this is absolutely not worth it, and terrible customer service as well. I paid for my month on Dec 12, so I only had 10 days of access, thus I will also be requesting my money back for this month. I feel completely scammed.
I hope my experience with Playster convinces others to use Audible instead. I have never ever had any problems with Audible, and will continue to use it and my public library for all my audiobooks.
Liz, thanks for sharing your experience. Some of the complaints I’ve been reading mention Playster trying to push them into a $60 a month plan as well. Is there another, higher, audiobook tier no one knows about. I think that they are going to loose customers in droves over this.
Doing this right before Christmas when no customer support is available is really kind of a low blow….
Liz, are you trying to upgrade via the iOS app? Because of Apple’s 30% commission, the price is higher through the app. You may want to check on the actual website to see if you can get the $29.95 rate for audiobooks only. According to their support page, the $46.95 rate should be for Playster Unlimited Premium which includes books, music, movies and audiobooks.
The same thing happened to me. EVERY book I had previously selected is now considered Premium and I am unable to finish listening to any of them while my subscription is still active until January 3. So they not only raised prices, but also broke our original contract. Many of the books available under the cheaper tier are also available through Hoopla at my local library, so why would I ever subscribe to this scam website again? In addition, NOBODY responds to address these very real complaints. Bye-Bye Playster.
I found out about the change today as I tried to finish the audiobook I was in the middle of, I called them (they try really hard to keep their customer service number hidden, it’s +18448256276) and they said that they emailed their customers about the changes (which was total BS as a lot of customers have complained that they did not receive notification and neither did I) and could not explain to me why it was done. They did not offer a refund, just offered to cancel my account. Had they offered a credit or given me a chance to finish my book/series I may have stayed, but now I am fuming.
I immediately called my bank and initiated a dispute under “services not rendered as agreed” and I am suggesting to everyone who wants a refund to do it like this because it will cost them a charge back fee of minimum $20 per transaction charged back (if not more). And since they are being so petty and shady, I also disputed the 0.45 cent international transfer fee as well, let them pay $20 for a dispute amount of 0.45 cents. I can be just as petty as them. 😂
J, thanks for sharing. Some of the complaints on TrustPilot mentioned getting an email but by the complaints, it is very apparent that most users didn’t get it and were blindsided by this. I get the impression that Playster definitely has a customer retention problem.
I have heard before that the service does not like to give refunds, so your chargeback strategy may be helpful to others. 🙂
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