Nero is the best burning software around. It cannot be unreliable, may be not burning software's faults, maybe problem with burner, or dvd media etc. If you use Nero, it is better to turn off XP's CD writeing function.
As for easy or difficult, it is personal choice. I found Nero easy to use. You can try others to find the one you like most.
You can try DropToCD click here.
One suggestion: Mp3 is not the best format for archiving your CD collection because it is a lossy compression format. Even you use highest bit rate, you still loss some information. It is better to use a lossless format for archiving purpose. Wav is a lossless format, but no compression, two good loss less formats (FALC click here and Monkey's Audio click here) can compress one CD (700MB) into about 360MB.