Returning customers eligible for $6.95/3 month Audible deal

Audible is currently running a holiday promotion for new customers offering 3 months of Audible for $6.95 per month¬† (instead of the usual $14.95). That 53% off the regular price for first three months of the membership. The good news is that former Audible members who don’t have active memberships are also eligible for the promotion. ūüôā

In order to take advantage of this special pricing, you must have an existing and active Amazon Account. Amazon defines this as having spent at least $1 in transactions in the 6 months prior to redemption of the offer.

The offer includes:

  • 3 titles each month: 1 audiobook and 2 Audible Originals.
  • The ability to roll over any unused credits for up to 4 months.
  • Easy exchanges. Don‚Äôt like your audiobook? Swap it for free.
  • Cancel anytime, your audiobooks are yours to keep forever.

Membership to Audible includes discounted prices for additional audiobooks and access to special sales and members-only audiobook deals.

There is an audible app available for Apple, Android, Amazon and Windows devices. You can also have Alexa play your audiobook on Echo devices.

The fine print:

A paid membership renew monthly at $14.95 (after the promotional period expires), unless you cancel. The Gold plan gives you one credit each month, which you can use on any audiobook regardless of length or price. You can roll over any unused credits for up to four months. Offer limited to one per customer and account and may not be combined with other offers

This offer is available until December 31, 2018

I’d been thinking about re-joining Audible, so at this price, I definitely took advantage of the deal. What do you think?

Advertisements

Amazon releases new update for FreeTime Oops problem (But it may not work)

Here is another update on the “Oops! Something went wrong with FreeTime” problem. Prior posts on the problem are¬†here¬†and¬†here.

Amazon has released what they say is “a fix for¬†many of the issues that lead to this error.” They are asking customers to¬† update to the latest version of the FreeTime app (FreeTimeApp-fireos_v3.17_Build-1.0.210214.0.26452).

Per Amazon’s post, here are the instructions for updating:

Please follow these steps:

  • Confirm that your device is connected to a wireless network.
    • Connected devices have a Wi-Fi or 4G LTE icon with signal bars near the battery indicator.
  • Sync your device.
    • Swipe down from the top of the screen to open the quick actions menu and then tap the¬†Settings¬†(gear) icon. Tap¬†Sync Device. Large files may take time to download.

If you want to ensure FreeTime updated to FreeTimeApp-fireos_v3.17_Build-1.0.210214.0.26452, go to:

Fire OS 5 Tablets (4th – 7th Generations):

  1. Settings > Apps & Games > Manage All Applications.
  2. Find the Downloaded tab (yellow bar), then swipe the entire screen to the right (see All tap).
  3. Scroll down until you find the FreeTime app. All apps are in alphabetical order.

Fire OS6 – Fire HD 8 – 8th Generation:

  1. Settings > Apps & Notifications > Manage All Applications.
  2. Scroll down to FreeTime app.

Amazon added several troubleshooting tips, according to the post on the Kindle device forums:

If the issue continues after updating,please follow the below troubleshooting steps:

  1. Reboot/restart the impacted Fire Tablet, then check if the issue is resolved.
  2. If the issues persists after a reboot, clear the application data for FreeTime.

Please note:¬†Clearing the application data may delete customers content on customer’s FreeTime profiles.

Be aware that this fix may not work for all customers and additional improvement will be released in the next few weeks. [Emphasis added]

One person already posted on the forum that the update did not work for them.

The frustration level on this issue seems to be off the charts. Tech issues are aggravating enough, but the primary users of FreeTime are small children, who neither have the skills or the patience to deal with the issues. As a parent, seeing my kids repeatedly upset by this would make me extremely angry. Amazon needs to come up with a working fix for this, ASAP.

UPDATE: Oops! Something went wrong with FreeTime

Someone from Amazon posted an update on the Amazon Device forum on Monday to the “Oops! Something went wrong” error message problem for FreeTime. Note that this is NOT a permanent fix, but is meant to allow people to use their tablets while Amazon is working on the fix.

First Measure: Device Reboot

  1. Press and hold the power button for 15 seconds
  2. Turn back on the device

Second Measure: Clearing FreeTime App Data

  1. Switch to adult profile on the tablet

  2. Tap on the Settings icon

  3. Tap on Apps & Games row

  4. Tap on Manage All Applications

  5. Swipe right to see all applications (ALL will be underlined in orange)

  6. Scroll down and select FreeTime

  7. Tap CLEAR CACHE

  8. Tap MANAGE SPACE

  9. Tap OK on the Are you sure you want to clear data from Amazon FreeTime popup window that appears

More to come on this story!

You can no longer give the gift of Kindle Unlimited

Each year for the last couple of years, my husband has given me a 12-month subscription to Kindle Unlimited as part of my Christmas gift. This year, however, it seems that particular gift will be missing from under the tree: On Saturday, I noticed that Amazon is no longer offering ANY pre-paid or gift subscriptions to the service.

In the past, you used to be able to pre-pay your Kindle Unlimited subscription in increments of 6, 12 and 24 months. Or, you could buy a gift subscription for someone by going to a special gift landing page. Now, that page shows a message stating that gifting is unavailable.

Is this a permanent change in the way Kindle Unlimited subscriptions are handled? The Amazon page says that they are “working on getting it back as soon as possible.”

The Purchase a Kindle Uimited Pre-Paid Subscription help page still indicates that you can buy pre-paid and gift subscriptions for terms of up to  24 months. The Manage or Cancel Your Kindle Unlimited Membership page still refers to pre-paid gift and bundles. There is just no longer a link to purchase those subscriptions. Now, the only option on the sign up page for Kindle Unlimited is to pay $9.99 per month for the service.

I was going to try to contact Amazon today to ask about the pre-paid plans and, as the picture below shows, found that there is no option for any kind of support for Kindle Unlimited, even under the digital services tab.

It seems odd the that there is no help available for gifting options for KU, especially during the holiday season.

Amazon has gone back and forth on the idea of gifting some of its services: There was a time when you could not gift Amazon Prime, and Amazon Music Unlimited still cannot be purchased as a gift.

I can also understand that Amazon might not want the hassle of customer service support for Kindle Unlimited during the busy holiday season. Amazon’s servers already tend to be swamped with people registering their new devices and buying content with their gift cards.

It may also be the case that the no refunds policy for gifts and pre-paid subscriptions may be a factor. While the service boasts over a million titles, most are by indie and Amazon’s own publishing imprint authors. People looking to read the latest bestsellers may prefer a different gift after sampling the service.

It will be interesting to see if the gift and pre-paid options return after the holidays. (I, for one, liked the convenience of the option.)

What do you think?

Throttled: Trying to figure out how Scribd defines unlimited* reading

For the last two months, my access to certain audiobooks on Scribd has been throttled at three audiobooks. After that point, most titles show an “Available on [date] message. For me,that date is right after my monthly membership renews. While I’m still seeing both audiobook and ebook content offered, the titles are extremely limited.

I am not alone in having this problem. I’ve received a number of emails from people letting me know of problems accessing content on the service. Posts on the topic on sites like Reddit and Mobileread confirm the problems. Most people complain of being only allowed unlimited access to only three to five books per month and some have even had downloaded content removed from their devices.

Scribd’s history of issues providing content:

How many books to offer as part of its subscription has been an issue for Scribd for some time. Back in February 2018, I wrote:

Originally, Scribd started off as an unlimited subscription service.  Upon finding that some users were actually voracious readers, in February 2016, the service removed a large number of romance books (a hugely popular category) and instituted content limits of 3 ebooks and 1 audiobook for the rest of its users. A few months later in March 2016, Scribd modified the limits again by introducing Selects, which made some books unlimited and others subject to the 3 ebook/1 audiobook limit. And finally, comics were removed the service’s catalog in January 2017.

Scribd’s current limits date back to the last change made in February 2018, where the service promised “to give you access to an unlimited* number of books and audiobooks each and every month!”¬†Note the asterisk behind the word “unlimited”. That asterisk relates to a couple of clauses in the TOS that allows Scribd to throttle its users.

The first relevant clause is number 6 under restrictions:

You may not exceed usage limitations set by content providers (participating publisher or User);

The second relevant clause is in the same section:

Your subscription entitles you to access an unlimited number of books and audiobooks in the Scribd library during the subscription period. For a small percentage of Scribd users who consume an unusual volume of materials, not every book or audiobook in the library will be immediately available. Scribd reserves and shall have the right in its sole discretion to add, modify, withdraw or delay at any time any particular Scribd Commercial Content from access by you for any reason including, without limitation, based on the costs generated to Scribd by such content or the nature of your use of the Scribd.com website. Scribd makes no guarantee as to the availability of specific titles or the timing of their availability. [Emphasis added]

The terms “publisher limits” and “unusual volume of materials” does not seem to be defined anywhere in either its terms and condition or its help pages.

When unlimited means something else:

One of the biggest issues for users seems to be trying to understand what “unlimited” with an asterisk really means.

Scribd’s terms make it it crystal clear that they can limit a user’s access and even remove downloaded¬†content for a device. What’s not transparent is how those limits actually work in practice, especially as users report widely¬†different circumstances regarding how much content they can access before hitting limits. In a comment on a Mobileread thread on the topic, one user wrote:

I’ve given up trying to figure out how many books I get to hear before I end up getting throttled each month. Some months I get two books, sometimes three.

Read any online discussion on the subject and you will see a variety of limits users have encountered, as well as a number of reason for the limits, most suggesting the cause is either publisher limits, location or price. Which titles are read also seems to be a factor, with some suggesting there’s a secret list of titles that you can’t read too many books from. A number of users have said that they can read three audiobooks and one ebook before they are throttled.That’s ironic, as it sounds pretty similar to Scribd’s old three book/one audiobook system, only in reverse.

The biggest beef for users? Nobody knows for sure what the rules are. At least with Scribd’s previous rules, it was (somewhat) clearer what the limits were. Under the current system, there’s not a lot of transparency and that tends to be annoying for users of the service.

The question of value:

For many, this may make it difficult to truly assess the value of the service they are paying for.¬†I don’t think anyone really expects truly an unlimited service for $8.99 a month (the same scenario has played out with Playster, the other “unlimited” subscription service). But depending on what you read and how much you read, the value of a Scribd subscription shakes out differently for different people and how many books are included monthly is a big part of determining that.¬†With each of the changes Scribd makes limiting the content offered (such as removing romance books) triggers an exodus of people claiming they will leave the service. It seems that currently, many of the those who the most frustrated with being throttled are avid listeners to audiobooks.

For me personally, I still find value in the service. Since I boycott books priced over $9.99, even by reading one higher-priced book a month, the service saves me money.¬† I’d like to see more bestsellers as ebooks (lately audiobooks seem to be the predominant format), but I still find content that is of value to me.

However, if Scribd was my only (or even my main) source of content, I don’t know that I would be as satisfied. Some people might find themselves better served by a subscription to Kindle Unlimited (which includes both ebooks and audiobooks) or by investing in a paid, out-of-area fee card to a public library that loans digital materials (I talk about fee cards¬†in this post).

The bottom line is that it is just too difficult for figure out exactly how much content Scribd is offering with its subscription service. It would just be nice to know what the rules are so we could plan our reading accordingly.

What do you think? Current subscribers, have you been throttled by Scribd? Former subscribers, why did you leave?

Freetime Unlimited adds kid-friendly audiobooks

Amazon is releasing a new update for its Freetime Unlimited service that adds over a thousand kid-friendly audiobooks to its collection of apps, games and videos for children.. Available books will include classics like Peter Pan, Rip Van Winkle, Beauty and the Beast and more. The books will be delivered via a software update. Freetime Unlimited works on  Amazon tablets and iOS and Android devices.

According to Amazon:

Families can also use their FreeTime Unlimited subscription to access FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa, an all-new Alexa experience for kids and parents with over 1,000 Audible kids’ books; kid-friendly, ad-free radio stations and playlists; character alarms; and premium Alexa skills from Disney, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, and more. FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa is available on compatible Echo devices, including Echo Dot Kids Edition, Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus.

Freetime Unlimited is a service for children from ages 3 to 12. Parents can customize their child’s experience, set time limits and even set bedtime for the device.

Pricing begins at $2.99 per month for Prime members for a single child($4.99 for non-members). Family plans for up to four children are available and a 1-year pre-paid Family plan for Prime members is only $83 (non-members, $119). You can start a one month free trial here.

Amazon recently added Spanish language content to the service and Spanish audiobooks are planned.

Scribd brings back unlimited reading (sort of)

Once again, subscription service Scribd has changed its rules on how much content users are allowed to access. This makes at least the fourth time in the last two years that the service has changed the rules on its paying subscribers.

Originally, Scribd started off as an unlimited subscription service.¬† Upon finding that some users were actually voracious readers, in February 2016, the service removed a large number of romance books (a hugely popular category) and instituted content limits of 3 ebooks and 1 audiobook for the rest of its users. A few months later in March 2016, Scribd modified the limits again by introducing Selects, which made some books unlimited and others subject to the 3 ebook/1 audiobook limit. And finally, comics were removed the service’s catalog in January 2017.

Needless to say, if social media comments are anything to go by, a lot of subscribers have bailed on the service since 2016.

Scribd’s latest app update was released yesterday and as of today, the service will again be offering access to unlimited* access to books and audiobooks. (Please note the asterisk behind the word unlimited.)

The facts behind the asterisk can be found on the page with the EULA:

Your subscription entitles you to access an unlimited number of books and audiobooks in the Scribd library during the subscription period. For a small percentage of Scribd users who consume an unusual volume of materials, not every book or audiobook in the library will be immediately available. Scribd reserves and shall have the right in its sole discretion to add, modify, withdraw or delay at any time any particular Scribd Commercial Content from access by you for any reason including, without limitation, based on the costs generated to Scribd by such content or the nature of your use of the Scribd.com website. Scribd makes no guarantee as to the availability of specific titles or the timing of their availability. [Emphasis added]

In plain English, that means that if you consume too much content, Scribd can, and will, throttle you.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, the company’s¬†CEO Trip Adler, the service has mechanisms in place “to limit particularly heavy consumption by a small percentage of its subscribers.” When overuse is detected, “controls will kick in to limit power readers‚Äô access to the most expensive and popular titles.”¬† The service claims that even heavy users will still have access to a wide variety of content.¬†There is no way of knowing how many books or audiobooks will be enough to kick in the controls.

It is that lack of transparency about how many is too many that is a real issue when evaluating their service.¬†How does a consumer decide between subscribing to Audible or Scribd for audiobooks if one has a concrete limit and the other is unknown? And¬†if Scribd want’s to woo back some of those former subscribers who felt betrayed over previous changes. This is particularly true for romance reader and audiobook listeners who tend to be heavy users of content and were really upset when they found out unlimited didn’t really mean unlimited. Even though Scribd is saying that upfront now, the lack of a solid number of allowable reads will make it a hard sell for many. Can subscribers trust that the service will be able to maintain this level of use (whatever that may be) at this price point?

Given Scribd’s own history and the fact that Playster (the other “unlimited” reading service) has recently deleted customers’ accounts for using too much content and raised prices and placed content limits on their subscribers, trusting a subscription service may be hard sell right now.

So what do you think? Are you a former Scribd subscriber? Will this make you go back?