I’d been meaning to check out Downpour.com’s digital audiobook rental program for a while; there’s a recent flurry of titles out that I really want to get to soon — most recently Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion and Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings — and there’s only so much money in the audiobook slush fund for them. I’ve noticed the $5.95/$6.95 rental program for a while, but was never really quite that tempted. I like the idea of being able to go back and listen to a title again in a year or two years, even though it’s something I very rarely do. (Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series, I’m looking at you. 4? 5? times now, in 6 years. You complete me.)
Anyway. So just as I was resolving to maybe, finally dip my toes into this rental business, along comes an email offer from Downpour.com advertising a free rental, of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, book one of his Aubrey-Maturin series, read by Simon Vance.
Well, I’ve heard quite a lot about this book and series over the years — most notably for me, David Drake openly and proudly points to it as direct inspiration behind his own Lt. Leary space adventure series — and if you wouldn’t listen to Simon Vance read pretty much anything (random Wikipedia pages? without a doubt!) then I wonder if you’ve ever heard him at all.
So, free without any strings attached being an attractive offer, I went ahead and added the rental to my cart like I would any other title and checked out, the primary differences being (1) the $0 price, natch and (2) an additional page warning the use that rentals are only currently supported on the Android and iOS applications, not from the website or for download to one’s PC.
Once checked out, I returned to my phone and refreshed my library, where the only thing to distinguish the rental title from others is a small triangular badge showing the days remaining, and a slight change of text when beginning the download:
From there it downloads like any other title into your device’s library, where you can download tracks individually, delete them, and so on. (Note: the “begin rental” starts the 60-day term of the rental; if you wait and do nothing, the rental period begins in 10 days.)
Getting to the title in question, I’m not planning a full review, at least not at this time for this column. I will say that there’s a nice introductory symphonic score of about 30 seconds to set the pomp and stage, before the story begins with, appropriately, a concerto performance, where one Jack Aubrey, Naval officer, is taking in a performance, and meets one Stephen Maturin, and immediately they have reason to dislike one another. It’s also immediately easy to see why these books (and audiobooks) have such a high reputation. The writing and narration are superb.
In summary: I think I, and my wallet, will be pretty happy with this rental business, at least for titles I will likely not be listening to again. It’s hard to let that digital hoarding instinct go, to be sure. Lastly, at least for now, there is not an “upgrade” path from the rental edition to a full purchase. Time will tell if that changes, as well as how the “end of rental” process is handled — I’m not going to wait 60 days from now for that to happen. But I will come back for an edit and update, if anything “interesting” occurs at that end of the exchange. For now, I think I can safely and highly recommend this, with an eye on the rental duration (some terms are 90 days, others 30) just to make sure I’ll have plenty of time to listen, and the price ($5.95 or $6.95 for most titles, with a few outliers like $12.95 for the 52-hour The Count of Monte Cristo or $2.95 for a M.C. Beaton short). Happy renting! And don’t wait too long, as the free rental offer on Master and Commander only goes through August 25.