The new Google Play audiobooks and the university library

Great news that Google is entering the audiobook business.

As of this week, audiobooks are available on Google Play. The online store has a decent selection of recently released audiobooks for under $ 10. Best of all, your first audiobook purchase is 50% off.

By entering the audiobook world, Google is giving Amazon (which owns Audible) some well-deserved competition. Google seems to differentiate its service on price. Rather than requiring a subscription with credits, like Audible does, Google Books can be purchased one at a time.

I took advantage of the low prices and the 50% discount to buy Hillbilly elegy. The purchase ($ 3.49 after discount) and download went smoothly. I’ll tell you how the listening experience goes with the iOS app from Google Play Books.

Why should those of us in higher education care that Google is getting into audiobooks?

Some of us fantasize that everyone on campus will start listening to audiobooks. Everyone. We dream of students listening to audiobooks while walking on campus, standing in line for coffee, and running on the treadmill. We fantasize that our colleagues will stop tweeting, slacking, and blogging, and instead invest their hours listening to audiobooks.

Maybe having a simple solution to find and buy Google audiobooks will encourage higher audiobook listening. God knows Audible needs to be completed. Audible’s subscription requirements with credits are intimidating, confusing, and off-putting for all but the most dedicated audiobook enthusiasts.

Having a better audiobook pricing model than Audible will only lead Google so far. The reason I’m unlikely to switch from Audible to Google Play is because Amazon not only offers audiobooks, but an e-book ecosystem.

Amazon has developed a digital book environment that integrates audiobooks with e-books. The Audible / Kindle integration via Whispersync is great. Google doesn’t offer anything like the e-ink Kindle reader, and no ability to allow seamless switching between reading with eyes and ears.

What could Google do to differentiate its audiobook service from Audible?

Two words for Google: ACADEMIC LIBRARIES

From what I can tell, audiobook options for college libraries (and maybe all libraries) are atrocious.

My feeling (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that college libraries usually don’t offer a lot of audiobook options. The reason is that the audiobook services available to libraries are offered at very high prices.

As far as I know (and again, correct me if I’m wrong), Amazon and Audible have done nothing to create a market for college library audiobooks.

Why Audible hasn’t tried to make audiobooks appealing to academic libraries is beyond me. Audiobook listeners are made, not born. The best time to develop lifelong audiobook reading habits may be in college.

Audible should hook students into audiobooks by offering generous prices and college library subscription deals. What would Audible be worth in creating a potential lifelong college graduate audiobook customer base?

Audible, because it had little competition, has not innovated in the field of higher education.

Maybe Google will be different.

The priority for whoever runs the Google Play Audiobook business – (and we’d love to meet you whoever you are) – should be building a viable college library business.

Will university librarians across the country storm the doors of the Googleplex to advocate for a college audiobook program?

Could Google’s entry into the audiobook market be a chance to change the conversation about audiobooks on campus?

How do we begin in our quest to take audiobooks from scarce to abundant in higher education?


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