If they're going to go about them in such a fucked up manner, they shouldn't even bother making them in the first place =P
I bought a unabriged copy of Wizard of Earthsea by Usula K. LeGuin, read by Harlan Ellison. Normally i far prefer reading a book myself to hearing it read, but i spend at least six hours a week in my car commuting, and i wondered if an audiobook might help pass the time better than listening to music.
So anyways, i bought it and spent about a week listening to it in the car, and thought it was fairly good. It was more interesting than listening to music, and made the commute seem to go a bit easier.
So now comes the complications.
First, the availability. What does and does not get ported to audiobook format seems to be completly haphazard. What's even more random is what format it gets ported to. There are quite a lot of books that only get done on tape, a much smaller number that are done on both formats, and an even smaller number that are done just on CD. I've had a bad history of tapes in cars, so even if i had a tape-player i still wouldn't want to get anything other than CDs, so i'm SOL on that aspect.
Then there's the price. They're really fucking expensive. The Wizard of Earthsea was $35, and that was for five or six CDs, for a story that in paperback form was about a centimeter thick. The larger unabriged books (and i wouldn't consider getting the abridged, yet another strike against me) run to a dozen or more tapes or CDs, and the tape version are frequently $50 or more.
And guess what? The CD version almost invariably costs _more_, _significantly_ more than the tape version.
Why? CDs are cheap to press, far less than $1 each at the moment. The first book for which i could find an exact comparison on Amazon was Starship Troopers, and for that an unabridged tape set is $50, and an unabridged CD set is $72. Even if tapes were _free_ to produce there would have to be more than 22 CDs in the set, probably a lot more, to justify that increase in cost.
And why are they so bloody expensive in the first place? Yes they have to pay the readers, and CDs might cost more to make than printing an dbinding a book (i don't really know) however hardback books are _already_ rediculously overpriced! Why do they need to charge _double_ the already insane price?
If they just got the prices down to the same range as a hardback, about $25, i'd probably already have bought two or three more, so they'd have made $100 instead of the $35 they've currently got. At that price i'd be more willing to buy things that i wasn't already sure i would like. For the price they're at now, i'd want to get something i knew i could listen to multiple times, but i haven't found anything like that yet. Maybe if there were some Mercedes Lackey or Vernor Vinge or something like that, but no such luck yet.
And in the course of trying to find them and compare prices, i've come to realize how badly they're handled by Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Searching for them is difficult, BarnesAndNoble has a checkbox you can set to restrict it to CDs only, but you can't _search_ with that, you can only browse. Both of them are very spotty about the information they tell you. Sometimes they won't say if it's a CD or tape. Sometimes they'll say, but they won't say how many CDs or tapes are in it. Occasionaly they won't even say if it's abridged or unabridged. One of the searches i did was for Laurell K. Hamilton, and five of the results were Cerullean Sins. Four of those are listed as unabridged, all coming out in April 2003. There's on tape set for $37, no list price, one CD set for $38, $50 list, one tape set for $82, $102 list, and one CD set for $98, $122 list. There is nothing to indicate what the difference between any of them are, despite a phenomenal difference in price. Maybe they mislabed the abridged set as unabridged? But if so, then what is the 5th set of abridged tapes for $25?
While looking though the sites i found that Amazon has links to Audible.com where you can download the audio files. Ah-ha! I thought, i can just download them for cheaper and burn them to cd myself! Well guess, what, "cheaper" is a relative term. Apparently they agree with the suposition that tapes cost nothing to produce, because although the audio files are usually discounted more, they always seem to have the same list price as the physical tapes! What a rip-off!
So all in all, you can't find what you want, you don't know what you're getting, but in any case you know you're paying too much for whatever it is.
I've actually considered getting one of those cheap computer dictation things and recording some novels myself, except that seems like a lot of work and i can't stand the sound of my own voice played back anyways =P