Product development and management
I am a huge Audible fan. Most of that I attribute to the fact that it expands the time we have available for reading and learning something new - while stuck in traffic, at a cardio treadmill or washing dishes. Things that used to be boring can now be pleasurably endured as time for learning one more thing, planting the seeds for one more thought. It’s all wins, you get the boring stuff done, and at the same time enrich yourself with new concepts.
It is a no-brainer then, that for my first product teardown, aimed at taking a closer look at some of the products I find interesting, I have chosen it. As learning for me is of utmost importance, it is hard to conceive many other products that deliver this goal in such an enjoyable manner.
You can think of MOOCs (massive online open courses), or Kindle or even plain old books, but the convenience that audio books offer is difficult to achieve by any of these. MOOCs often require you to be looking at the instructor, kindle and paper books required that you have your hands tied to flipping or clicking through pages. You may argue that there are other aspects MOOCs are better at, such as integrating exercises and the depth of the knowledge being conveyed, or that books force you to do just one thing at the time, increasing focus and absorption. This may be right. But in terms of convenience it is hard to beat audiobooks.
As I am writing I have around 40 items in my online audible library and all except 3 or 4, I have finished reading, and I have earned almost all badges except “the stack”, “the watchtower”, “repeat listener” and the “dabbler” (this one being attributed to users that have lots of books in the library but a lower percentage of completion — e.g an impressive library of 1.000 but-yet-to complete books 😉), and have 233 hours of listening time to go to achieve the master level (the top rank in the hierarchy of reader types - I know still a long way to go 😀). All compounded, in terms of non-stop reading I have read 11 days 05 hours and 24 minutes using Audible. Uff!.
The only other app I consider a must-have in my portfolio, and committed to paying a monthly fee being Spotify. In fact, they all see somewhat related to me, as they both are streaming audio content, and sometimes I use them interchangeably. When riding my bicycle I often alternate between continuing an audiobook, and hearing the weekly playlist recommended for me - the annoying part being to swipe the phone screen to look for one or the other app launcher.
I am quite satisfied with the experience with Audible so far. I mainly use the app to listen to the books, and the app is pretty clean, putting your latest book right in front of your eyes as the 1st thing you see when you open it. Think it is also pretty good to have other books listed as they give you a sense of context and give you some sort of motivation to finish one more. From this screen you also have access to play and rewind, which are the most import commands to have for any audio player and mostly when you are playing books, but nothing more. When you select a specific book, that screen also displays these commands, in an even bigger format. When I am driving sometimes the external noise prevents me from listening to something carefully and I have to rewind. Or sometimes the variations in the inflections of the narrator make some sentences not so clear in a particular moment. I just hit the 30' rewind again.
As you can see I am quite satisfied with the status quo, and there are not many things that I see as main disturbances in my current experience with Audible. Only when zooming in I can think of things that can push my enthusiasm to yet a different level.
I wish there was an even faster way to initialize the app, as it is very uncomfortable and even dangerous to be swiping screens on the phone (that by the way is in a window supporter), while I am driving. I am sure that in voice activated cars this no longer an issue, as at home by asking Amazon’s Alexa I can start reading just with a voice command, but in my case this is still unpleasant.
I also wish I could have an easier way to capture, store and share text snippets, as the current features makes them fade to someplace I will only know about if I devote a little more time in looking for it — although most of the time I am content in just listening to the content with no further actions while I am listening (also because many times I am doing something else).
Nevertheless, I would say that there is one thing, that if improved the has most potential for positive impact on user satisfaction. I read on kindle, audible and paper, and having one library that tracks all of these has just proven to be cumbersome. Although kindle is integrated with Goodreads, audible isn’t, so if I want to keep my library updated I have to go to Goodreads and manually add the book. Not to mention the the books I read in paper format that are not integrated with anything. I don’t know what is going on between those entities as they are supposed to be one. From a consumer standpoint this is a pain-point as I don’t want to have to duplicate effort in manually adding products to a website when all the other parts of the process are virtual and digital.
Even for the paper books — if they were acquired via Amazon — there should be a way of seamlessly putting them in one unique library not two or three.
I am not particularly fond of the Audible website, as I think the library display is poor, i.e. doesn’t leverage the nice graphics on the book covers in the same way that the library display in Goodreads. Amazon “library” is even worse, as it is buried under “manage your content and devices” and it took me at least 5 minutes to find it now (also having to sign-off from the uk account and sign in to the .com account where I make my kindle orders). As things stand, would be happy in having my (unique and integrated) library at Goodreads, which user home page by the way is resembling more and more facebook’s timeline (is it just me that noticed?).
My hypothesis is that content quality (including the narration) and social are the two most elements of the audible product, and while they seem to be nailing the first one by getting more and more original content narrated many times by the authors themselves in case of non-fiction or acclaimed authors in case of fiction, the second is remains to be addressed, specially when considering the lack of integration with other platforms such as Goodreads. I must say though that to this respect the experience in the audible app is quite different than the one on the audible website, and that some elements such as the gamification badges, could be transferred to whatever ends up being the prevailing social network for sharing information on books. Besides the Goodreads challenge that I have accomplished for this year yuh-hu, there are not many elements of gamification yet on this platform.
A colleague from graduate school even started a challenge (within the goodreads challenge) to keep track of how people where accomplishing their goodreads goals. That would be so much easier to accomplish if all the gamification potentialities within goodreads were unleashed.
I love seeing the progress that is happening in the book lovers space, it seems that books are regaining their spot in the media arena. I am tending towards consuming much more books than television per day, no doubt there. It is always good when people have more and more access to the inspiring thoughts of people living in other continents and places.
I am about to finish reading (listening to) Kim Scott’s Radical Candor narrated by herself, and I feel that I have much better insight into how tech companies in Silicon Valley operate (the expected behaviors, etc.) than before. It is quite powerful when your level of insight is one book (and not a thousand miles) away.
It is going to be even powerful when navigating those insights is as easy and pleasurable as sliding a fantastic library ladder. Now it is just a matter of who’s going to be providing the library, making the ladder, and helping Belle spread the word about what she is reading. Bonjour!🎵
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