Unfortunately, this is a very accurate analogy.
I like listening to audio books and Audible is definitely very convenient, but I am 100% sure that in the not so distant future Amazon will completely destroy the whole publishing ecosystem in US and that will have horrendous effect on the quality of what is being written and on the availability of things to read.
Audible is good, because it's not sustainable. It's good, because it benefits from the infrastructure that would not exist if books were created for audio instead of paper.
If Audible get really popular, it will just become a centralized long-form podcast service. They're already edging that way with "originals".
It's amazing that after seeing this process repeated again and again in the lat couple decades, people still can't predict when it starts to take pace in yet another industry.
Technically, no one stops any book author from hiring a voice actor and then selling the result from their website directly. This doesn't require a middleman. Yet, how many authors do you know that actually do it?
A different model than someone actually knowing the author, waiting for the release and then buying it directly from them. It's essentially free money for author/publisher so they are all rushing to the platform.
Why would someone feel pressure to use a credit? A person can have several extra credits at time. The credit system has a lot of advantages for Amazon, but time pressure isn't one of them.
Esepcially the part that canceling would lose all my credits. Didn't know what to spend them on either, so just bought random stuff to use them.
I do like to re-listen to some really good classics so I'd rather not cancel my Audible sub.
I really don't think this is accurate. People that love reading will not all of a sudden stop reading because of audiobooks in the same way that people who loved music did not stop going to concerts when records became available. I have no real arguments other than to say that even though I know there are audio versions of the books I like to read I still prefer to consume them in print form. It is just a much more enjoyable experience.
Besides, turning a book into an audio format is the easy part [laughably easy when you compare it to the art of writing a really good book] Writing the book is the hard part. Really, really hard. That is not going away.
I have been listening, and loving, audiobook for a very long time audible was, and still is, a breath of fresh air.
Combined with the similarly lax attitude to drm as the amazom kindle, removing drm is simple.
Audible has created a market that publishers were either ignoring completely or extreme price gouging (or some of both) .
The San Francisco Public Library uses an app called "Libby." (I think most major US libraries support it.) It's free and convenient. No complaints.
Although OverDrive has published multiple open letters proclaiming their dedication to accessibility, they have done relatively little in this space. In one disappointing conversation with a senior executive, I was told that if they can’t charge libraries more for a feature, they won’t add it. To my mind, the definition of accessibility is making decisions that make a product more accessible even if doing so does not make more money.
Given that OverDrive has 90% market share in the US, it’s a pity that this is their attitude toward accessibility.
Their clients (libraries) are the ones providing a service to end users. It's up to the libraries to determine what's important when selecting a supplier or developing a custom solution.
Imagine I download an app on my phone. And I find it can't be used with a screen reader for some reason. Who is responsible here? Me? Google Play? The app publisher? The outsourced developer who did the coding for hire?
Now imagine the same situation, but:
- the app publisher being a US entity which takes federal funds
- the app being assembled wholly from existing community-maintained open source projects
It seems obvious to me that the party providing the service, and not the developer of the underlying software, is responsible.
Even with this supporting information and the backing of hundreds of libraries, OverDrive was not interested because they didn't think they could profit off the feature.
A) Must-have (e.g. if we don't have it, we'll be breaking the law, and so can't/won't renew the contract to use Libby), or
If A, then I'm surprised at OverDrive's response.
If B, then I'm curious to know how much the librarians offered to pay.
If OverDrive can't make a profit from a feature, then either it's not that important to the people who hold the purse strings, or the feature is too expensive/complicated to build/deploy/maintain.
Is there something stopping the libraries from using a different vendor, or developing a solution that meets their needs? (As far as consumer software goes, Libby doesn't seem that complicated at the front end, but perhaps there are lots of complex third party integrations at the backend, to support licensing/DRM/whatever?)
I wish I would just pirate ebooks and audiobooks because that is the simplest and lowest effort way to see the content. It would work on all my devices and I would not have to worry about signing in or swapping apps to find which service has that book I want to read this month only.
The reason there isn't much competition in the space is that OverDrive has a huge lead, and it is very complex on the back end. NYPL is doing good stuff with the SimplyE project, which they are offering to other libraries as well. Hopefully this will spur innovation in the space, in many regards!
My point isn't that OverDrive should itemise their pricing, it's that market participants generally only invest money in R&D when it is expected to make them more money. And if customers signal that they value a feature at $0, then that feature is likely to go to the bottom of the list.
If I buy a licence to a platform, that enables me to provide services to my users, then of course I can only use the features that come with that platform. If I want additional features, of course I can ask for them. But the platform provider will prioritise things based on what will make them money (get more new customers, reduce existing customer churn, or increase revenue per customer).
From what you've said, it sounds like OverDrive has no competition, so the impact of accessibility features on customer retention and acquisition is zero.
If so, then OverDrive needs to be incentivised by either:
A) More money from existing libraries (what I asked about above), or
B) Threat of competition, which would affect future customer acquisition+retention (which the SimplyE project you mention may provide).
This wasn't based on difficulty of implementation (it was easy), and OverDrive never asked how much it would cost or whether libraries would pay extra to have the feature. They did not care enough to even have a conversation with the librarians about it.
That's the nature of conversations :)
Sometimes you make a point, and people say "That's a great point. I'd never thought of it like that before."
And sometimes people have different opinions. Sometimes what is 'the point' for one person, 'misses the point' from another person's perspective.
Unfortunately Hoopla charges the library for every item checked out and since it has gotten popular they reduced the monthly limit from 15 to 10 to 5.
My main concern is that audible is missing the long tail which naturally forms in any price sensitive market, where older products tend to depreciate to the point where they find a buyer. With paper books I can find an old book for cheap and that is great for a lover of words.
Audible distorts the audio-book market with its credit system: as far as I can tell they never discount older or less popular works, cutting off the long tail of potential readers. Why waste a precious credit on an audiobook who's physical cost is now fraction of its cover price?
More marketplace competition, and price / demand sensitive business models would be welcome.
Very popular audiobooks don't go on sale as often, but even the complete set of Stephen Fry read Harry potter 7-book-series, hundreds of hours, can be had for as little as 20 bucks sometimes.
* Chirp, from Bookbub: https://www.chirpbooks.com
* Authors Direct: https://authors-direct.com (from Findaway Voices, which helps indies produce audiobooks)
* Overdrive and Hoopla are bringing library-purchased audiobooks to people: https://www.overdrive.com https://www.hoopladigital.com
Audible tries to get people locked into multi-year exclusive distribution contracts, and a lot of people go for it given their current hold on the market. Hopefully, demand will start rising for these other distribution channels.
Down sides? Choice. (You want a different translation of The Brother's Karamazov? Ha!) You still need a hand, or at least a finger, to pause or go back, like when your mind inevitably wanders. You can't share an audio book with a friend, a downside of e-books too. And then there's the whole mind-wandering thing. I can't multitask. I can't listen to an audio book at just any time I need my hands for something else. The context switch is a buzzkill.
The key to a good audio book, in addition to the book itself being good, is a good reader, so here are some of my current faves with splendid readers: A Clockwork Orange narrated by Tom Hollander; Lincoln in the Bardo, Nick Offerman; Mrs Dalloway, Juliet Stevenson; Lolita, Jeremy Irons; and Milkman, Brid Brennan.
Sure you can, DRM-breakers are easy to find.
Audible gives me an opportunity to read other types of books.
If you just want to read books without the effort of reading, and have "audio books" be cheap, text to speech is totally there. You'll miss some intonation, but modern speech engines are beyond understandable. If it would be just about understandability, try espeak (apt install espeak). An absolutely awful voice, but copy any decently sized text (maybe a pg essay) and listen to it. I find that after 30 seconds to a minute, I've adjusted enough to perfectly understand it, and after 4+ minutes I forget that I'm listening to the most horrendous voice known to mankind. And if you want to nerd out some more about our brain's capacity to understand speech and adapt to things that don't even resemble speech anymore, try whistling languages. I'm always amazed how understandable they can be.
I've been a member since 2005/6 (pre-amazon ownership) and I think my longest recurrent monthly thing.
Audiobooks were historically insanely expensive - I used to borrow massive folders of cassette taps from my library of 'unabridged books' back in the 90s. Staple of my family holidays trapped in a car.
Audible the company was the first/only as far as I'm aware company to work out that audiobooks were the 'premium podcast' and actually bother to sell them at a reasonable rate.
1) Opposite my office there used to be an audiobook company. Whole office of people built around a sound-booth where an actor would spend a week or so recording a book. I used to see the famousish coming out for smoke-breaks day-after-day. Maybe a dozen people, for a fortnight, to make 'an audiobook'
2) My wife used to work for a publishing company for hire (used to knock out Disney branded books for supermarkets and the like). Books cost practically nothing to print in China. Then could be shipped around and sold at the lowest of rates/margins.
Saying an audiobook costs nothing to record, is like saying a band could just publish their sheet-music.
> An average audiobook created with Findaway Voices has about 50,000 words and costs between $1,000 and $2,000. We can estimate the cost of your audiobook by multiplying a per finished hour narrator rate with the estimated length of your finished recording. The longer the book, the higher the estimate will be.
Playing with the sliders, they seem to estimate that a 50K-word book will be 200 finished hours. Their narrators charge a $250-$500 rate per finished hour. ("Narrators charge by the length of the delivered audio, not how many hours go into preparing, recording, editing, mastering, proofing, etc.")
Famous actors can cost arbitrarily more, of course.
Titus Welliver has started performing the Harry Bosch novels from Michael Connelly. The first half of his first performance was pretty rough and sounded like an in-store reading. Over the course of that book and the first bit of the second he really found his groove.
With this in mind, I never would have guessed that it took this long for the full process, but once its broken down into pieces, it makes sense and doesn't seem like a lot of time at all.
A little off-topic -- years ago This American Life had a short piece about an audiobook performer who used a closet in her hotel with a bunch of pillows as a booth... and she found herself locked in.. alone.
>Carin Gilfry explains how she once accidentally locked herself in a hotel closet, and because today’s show is being broadcast from an opera house stage, Ira is able to take the story to a place he never usually can. (18 minutes)
- often multiple hours in the studio because people make mistakes, they get tired, they want to re-do passages etc.
- during recording you want at the very least a sound technician, the voice talent, and a director/author/producer to listen in and give direction/corrections/adjustments on the reading
- after recording you need at least an editor, a director/producer to make sure the recording is cut correctly.
And then off to the presses (that is, converting RAW audio to whatever digital formats).
A designer may also be involved if the book requires a different cover.
Disclosure: I work at Storytel though not anywhere near (other than physically) audiobook recordings.
Even if half the volunteering recorders and their gear were as good as those of the commercial offerings, just sitting and selecting those that are not good enough for publishing and those that require some re-recording is a massive extra work.
I've listened to a few Librevox recordings. They're usually (though not always) tolerable. Occaisionlly good, but that's exceeding rare.
Good audiobooks -- and a friend listens to many -- are far more often vastly superior. Even then, a poor reader is exceedingly grating.
Libravox may improve with time. History of volunteer efforts has been compeling. But not yet.
I'm impressed by what librivox has achieved with just volunteers, but the production values are nowhere near as high as most books on audible.
IMHO they are just doing injustice to a number of good readers in their catalogue who put real effort into their recordings, but get buried under those one can barely listen to.
There were even these incidents with people ripping the best recordings off LibriVox and selling them on Audible where they ended up achieving high ratings..
However, bad LibriVox experiences were one reason why I didn't truly "get" how superior audiobooks can be for years. Enduring their endless copyright and chapter announcements also hampered the experience a bit.
LibriVox derivatives have now fixed the problem of finding good readers in some of the apps with simple user ratings. I believe a similar project based on WaveNet will make much of LibriVox obsolete soon by being better than many readers there, which saddens me a bit since in principle LibriVox is a good project that simply promoted free sharing of information and knowledge.
Both AI and most of LibriVox have a lot to learn to even come close to the quality of the professional Gert Westphal reading of "The Magic Mountain", or to anything Stephen Fry has read.
No. They are not. I tried listening to Don Quixote Librivox. While a couple of readers are tolerable, several are terrible, and none are close to professional voice actor level. Which makes it really hard to get through. Check out the comments here too if you don't want to subject yourself to listening to the reading itself:
Audible recordings in general are vastly superior.
Plus all their text is on the public domain.
I've done a little voice work before. It is insanely tedious, even for a book I loved.
I definitely wouldn't have bought as many as I have if it wasn't so cheap. I just recently passed my 400th book, which is pretty insane because there's still TONS of stuff for me to work through. Assuming each book was priced at $9.56, my library would be worth around ~$3,800. That's an amazing price! That's less money than I paid for my car, and the audiobooks have greatly enriched my life in all sorts of ways.
Also getting longer books is a really good value, since they cost the same. Just get Infinite Jest instead of 5 separate books.
But I was taught to buy books by weight. Which has turned out to be good advice.
People buying audiobooks aren't suckers, and most of them are spending much less than $2/hr.
As for a limited selection, that depends entirely on how many licences your library buys. My local library has a very good selection. Alas, it also has a lot of users, so some of the more popular books will have long hold lines.
I've been working on writing a book and want to sell an audio book alongside it. Could you go ahead and record it for free for me so I can sell it to recoup my own costs?
No? Why not?
I'm glad there are volunteer projects out there, especially keeping public domain works available and accessible to more people. I'm even more glad that you feel that the quality of your work stands up to the quality of commercial work, as mentioned in other comments in this thread. I've not heard your audiobook recordings, so I'll abstain from comment on that front.
But why are you in here claiming that your volunteer work diminishes the paid work of others? Is that something to be proud of?
I suspect it has something to do with licensing, but I don't know for sure.
You may want to live in a world where a publisher sells a twenty Euro book exactly once, but that's not sustainable.
If you want more concurrent users, pay for it. The library has decided which level of concurrent users to buy.
I can't skip boring parts, like long descriptions or other annoying parts.
I zone out from time to time when doing other things, and I have to skip back and try to find where I lost track.
Sometimes I have to go back and reread numbers, names, and other important info, but that's much harder with audio.
Of course you can skip those parts in text but if you half listen to them you get to say you heard the whole thing and you begin to appreciate the role they played in the work and the influence they had on later authors and politicians.
That said, I've read / heard that if you want to increase listening comprehension, speed up the play back. The novelty + speed forces the brain to focus more and listen closer.
Moi? For listening, I listen to music. I still read paper books because I already spend too much time gazing into a screen (writing code).
In general I usually have 10-15 mins in free time increments. Audio books don't work for me for that reason. Narrated articles do.
I hate to jump in and jump off topic but statements like that really annoy me. First, when a market is tiny but growing even small increases look amazing as a percentage.
And then there's the maturity of the publishing market itself. Anything new that's growing is going to be growing more than the otherwise mature no-growth market.
The question here is: How much new incremental business is this actually creating? Or, much like music CDs years ago, are most people simple trading one format for another newer one?
Yes, those re-sales still count but it also creates a false sense that the market itself is actually growing; that new buyers are coming on board. Again, ask the music industry if they regret getting hooked on the "bonus" revenue from CDs. And how that not only drove people to downloads, but that false growth created a false peak that made the digital crash hurt even more.
Again, please pardon the somewhat off-topic-ness.
"Major publishers have confirmed to Good e-Reader that 1 out of every 10 books sold is in the audio format ...
HarperCollins stated that downloadable audio accounted for about 25% of all digital revenue in the recent first three months of 201"
I prefer buying things to renting them, but of course with modern digital distribution you often end up renting them even when you “buy” because of DRMs.
Maybe I’m old, but I just don’t get modern media consumption. I mean, if we look beyond DRMs (and maybe you can crack Amazon’s), then you’ll own 120 books in 10 years as opposed to the Netflix model where in 10 years and the same amount of money, you’ll own 0 books.
I subscribe to Storytel and use it mostly as background listening. It is not worth it to pay by the book.
The best "all you can eat" plan I've seen is from Playster. A very decent selection around the same price as Audible.
I've been using Spokn, which provides narration of high quality articles from HBR, NYT, etc. Works a lot better for my schedule.
There are, fortunately, some authors that publish their audiobooks direct, and others that put their work free on archive.org. However, the vast majority are Audible-exclusive, and it keeps me locked in.
While the author of this post is really distraught about Amazons dominance with Audible I do think in some ways non music audio is much bigger than just Audibooks for example Podcasts are on the rise and at least for the moment they are totally open. I also think Amazons hold with audio books will be difficult to maintain especially as technology and AI gets better. Why pay them when a great sounding AI could read your book to you.
As a little shameless self promotion I have been working on a side project that does exactly this, it takes any Article or PDF from the web and converts it to great sounding audio so you can listen to it on the go. It sounds pretty good, and it’s a great way to maximize your dead time and stay informed on the go.
If you want to check out my project you can find it here:
The site dailymaverick.co.za which I frequent has built in AI-read voice for articles provided by a third party service. For some reason, Articulu fails to convert some of the articles, which curiously also do not have a converted audio for their third party service. The failure state is not very graceful.
There’s a couple issues with organising my recordings (there’s just a queue at the moment), the seek bar, continuing where you left off and renaming recordings.
Also why do I use up credits in the free plan when I listen to the same article more than once?
Any chance you can shot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can see the account, and let us know if your on iOS or Android. Any of the Failed URLs will also be really helpful so we can make the scraping more resilient. We are working hard to add features that help organize articles better.
Articles unlike books are being produced in the millions everyday and so it’s really hard to find the best pieces to read over.. which is what they have to do.
I think there is room for letting people listen to anything and AI/ML advancements allow us to get pretty damn close.
Then I wrote a script.
With promos and everything else, my average cost per Audible book is about $5. I guess I spend about $1k/yr on books, maybe a little more. Some people spend about that much for cable tv. I feel like I get a lot more value out of books.
In fact I can't stand podcasts or similars for the most part as I can't do some things while listening to it. Maybe driving but that's it.
As much as it's nice to learn stuff, at some point it is just shallow edutainment (as much as I like some of the science yt channels)
Audiobooks and podcasts are one of my favourite things.
If I need to concentrate there's music - if I have to do some mundane physical task that used to bore the bejeezus out of me, I now have them.
I even enjoy the mundane tasks - as gives me time to enjoy the information pumped into my ears, and actually get something useful done at the same time.
(Today I decided as spring was hear, I'd spend an hour removing the worst offending weeds from my garden).
No excuse now :-)
Take this one stage further, imagine finding that companies listed of the NYSE had NYSE directors on their board? Imagine finding that this year's hot IPO is a company owned by NYSE. This is what happens when Amazon become the publisher.
It is time to break up Amazon
1. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People
2. Getting to Yes
Great book on negotiation in life and business
3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The psychology of persuasion
1. River of Doubt
True story of Teddy Roosevelt's exploration of a previously unchartered region of the Amazon River where he and his team almost perished.
True story of Sir Ernest Shackelton's journey to be the first to reach the south pole. Arguably one of the greatest survival stories of all time.
3. The Disappearing Spoon
Story behind the periodic table, the elements, the people who discovered them and the context under which they were discovered. Learn a lot about day to day things you don't put much thought into.
4. Business Adventures
Bill Gates was interviewed and asked what his favorite business book is - this was it (out of print for 40 years until 5 months ago). It's a collection of about a dozen 1-1.5 hour true business case studies (20th century). A lot of them were seminal events in corporate America (for example, the event that resulted in modern day insider trading laws, the creation of the income tax, etc). You'll enjoy this if you like business books.
5. Creativity Inc
by the cofounder of Pixar. Good story.
6. Alchemy of Air
Story of the investors of the Haber-Bauche process to convert nitrogen in the air to ammonia (the key component of artificial fertilizer, gas and gunpowder). Arguably the greatest discovery of the 20th century if you take into account the fact without this process, Earth's arable land mass can only sustain 2bn people. It also has resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths by allowing wars to wage on indefinitely
7. A Short History of Nearly Everything
A fast pace, well written science book by Bill Bryson that covers what we know about the creation of the world thus far. You'll enjoy it.
8. The Boys in the Boat
Very inspiring story about the men's 1936 olympic gold metal rowing team
9. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Very inspiring story by the creator of Nike. One of the best memoirs I've ever read.
10. Lessons of History by Will Durant
Short and extremely thought provoking. Stylistically tough to get into but once you do it is quite good.
11. Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
The first half of this is better than the second but overall a very enlightening book about the impact of the Mongols, broadly considered to be Barbarians but in actuality far ahead of their time (first to broadly use printed currency, a postal system, a judicial system, military engineers, etc).
Fiction / Fantasy Recommendations
1. The Martian
Awesome story and as realistic as fiction can get. Was a great listen.
2. Theft of Swords
great story about two lovable characters. It is part of a trilogy
3. Red Rising
Part of a trilogy, great listen but worth caveating it is an extreme hunger games like story that is quite violent
4. Name of the Wind
Epic fantasy adventure, one of the highest rated books on Good Reads. Absolutely worth it but at 30 hours may be a large commitment as a first book
5. The Way of Kings
This book gave me heart palpitations... again, a large commitment but I can't drop it from the list
6. Lies of Loch Lomura
A very fun adventure story; reader's voice takes a moment to get used to but once you do it is very fun and endearing
Great story in a unique world
Looking at your list with so many historical books in them you should absolutely try Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's require tremendous commitment, but it's deliver way more than even most of non-fiction books do including great characters writing and on lot's of wisdom. Best of both worlds.
Is it legal to read a book outloud on Twitch?
The need to unplug is real.
Is it because Audible can be listened to while performing other tasks or going about your day, and it removes the previously quiet, uninterrupted time of the day to ponder?
'It’s simplistic but not entirely inaccurate to say that Audible’s parent, Amazon, is to book publishing what Facebook and Google are to magazines: the troll under the bridge whose idea of a toll is to devour consumers and competitors whole.'
'On the train to get coffee with a well-meaning writer twenty years your senior who will advise you to “climb the ladder” like she did. By listening, you partially reclaim the lost hours, preserving some ghost of an alternate universe where you don’t have to do what you’re doing, and you’re on the couch reading the old-fashioned way instead.'
Personally, I find audio-books almost completely different from active reading... mostly distracted entertainment rather than true immersion.
Podcasts are great for the gym, drive, and yard work though.
For books, I prefer to read. The pacing of reading allows me to think more deeply about the content. Admittedly, I do not read a lot of throw away novels. If I did, maybe they could take the place of podcasts.
I pretty much never listen to them now. For occasional drives, podcasts are a much better fit because it's hard to dip in and out of books with multi-week gaps. But, then, I mostly don't much care for random background entertainment--even music much of the time and certainly not talk.
- I cannot search for a new book on Audible - I need to go to amazon, buy there and come back.
- I cannot get my podcasts on Audible app.
- I cannot manage the books on Audible (same issue with kindle). There is one screen for seeing the whole library - sometimes I want to put books on a high shelf cos I know I won't go back to them ... ever.
- Why can I not get a text version of each audible book for free? and vice versa. It annoys me to pay twice - especially when there is explicitly a kindle / audible sync designed to allow you to listen to page X then read from page X. It's like they thought it would be good but then failed to sell the idea to publishers.
- Why can't authors put out their own readings (I think this is a publisher issue - but I think the whole market could 10x if authors just released audible books like podcasts, polished or not)
- Listening takes longer than reading. So there is a big incentive to write scripts for audible only books - shorter and more radio play like. But mostly audible is just the after thought.
- Frankly I know there is something there - it's just hard to see what the real market will look like when we find it.
Searching and buying audiobooks and ebooks works fine on Android where Audible is allowed to provide their own in-app payment system.