Audible.com offers an extensive collection of audio content, including the same books on tape that you'd find at your local book superstore. There's also NPR radio programs, the New York Times, and exclusive spoken content from people such as comedian Robin Williams and "sexpert" Susie Bright. First, you download the Audible content to your PC, where you can listen to and organize it using the bundled AudibleManager software. Then you transfer the Audible files--as well as any MP3s that you want to bring with you--to the Otis. The player supports Audible formats 2 and 3, both of which offer an excellent compromise between sound quality and storage. The player ships with 64MB of built-in memory, which translates to 1 hour of MP3 music, 20 hours of Audible format 2 content, or 8.5 hours of Audible format 3 content. In addition, the onboard memory is expandable to 128MB with the purchase of a 64MB MultiMedia Card.
With its boxy, blue-and-silver case, the Otis resembles a smaller version of the discontinued Sonicblue Rio 500, which Audible.com used to hawk to its listeners. The design won't win any awards for style, but it is very functional. Raised front-mounted buttons control basic playback, while a pair of toggle buttons on the side let you adjust volume and navigate an audiobook's chapters. With advanced functions limited to an equalizer, Repeat/Random modes, and bookmarking, you won't spend much time tweaking settings. The Otis ships with a case, a belt clip, two AAA batteries, a cassette adapter for automobile use, and the mediocre ear buds that typically come with most portable audio devices. However, you can substitute a pair of your own headphones.
An orator, not a singer
The Otis has an easier time with audiobooks than most MP3 players do, having been specifically designed for that purpose. It remembers where you left off in each of the audiobooks in its memory and lets you navigate back and forth between sections of a book. Music navigation is less elaborate; the Otis doesn't support folders or playlists, and the Random mode is automatically disabled if the player contains any Audible files. And if you feel the need to work through a massive tome of an audiobook, the AudibleManager application lets you know that you can download only a portion at a time.
For audiobook lovers only
If you regularly listen to audiobooks during commutes or other travel, you'll fall in love with the Otis immediately, but listeners primarily interested in hearing tunes would be better served by a full-blooded MP3 player. Audible.com offers two different one-year plans to accompany the Otis. For $12.95 per month, you get one audiobook and a one-month subscription to the program of your choice; for $15.95 per month, you receive two audiobooks. Spoken-word content can also be purchased à la carte from Audible.com. With either plan, you can buy the player for $50--a great deal on any device with 64MB of flash memory, let alone something that plays audiobooks and MP3s. You can forgo the subscription and buy the standalone player for $120, but without the Audible content, the Otis loses its strongest feature. If you like audiobooks and use a PC (this player doesn't work with Macs), the Audible/Otis combo is hard to resist.