4 Questions About $8,784 Worth of Audiobooks

Value, sharing, libraries.

July 14, 2013

My first audiobook was Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, purchased on 4/26/2005 from Audible. Over the years I have purchased 368 audiobooks. At list price, if I had paid the per-book price (rather than buying a platinum Audible membership) I would have spent $8,748.49 on audiobooks.

I've put my audiobook purchases, with dates and list prices, in a Google spreadsheet for you to check out.

Owning this library of audiobooks raises some questions:

1. What Does Ownership Really Mean?    

I'm not someone who reads books twice. Once I read a book I'm done with that book. What I want to do is pass my books along. I want to lend my books to friends, colleagues, and people that I've just met. Reading and talking about books gives me joy. Collecting books does not.   

But with digital books sharing them ranges from problematic to impossible.   

If you look at my list of audiobooks and ask to borrow one I cannot oblige. We have no way of passing around a single audiobook. Amazon has tried to solve this problem for e-books with the Kindle Loan program, an effort that seems to have met with only mixed success. Only some Kindle books are available to loan out due to restrictions put in place by publishers.

Is Amazon working on a similar book loaning program for Audible? Would such a program encourage more audiobook reading (and purchasing), or would it cannibalize sales? When will Amazon roll-out its used e-content marketplace (to which it holds a patent), and will it include audiobooks?

2.  Audiobooks and Academic Libraries?

How does my audiobook collection compare to what is available at your academic library? How much would it cost your library to have 368 books available for sharing?   

I would love to give my whole audiobook collection to my academic library. Even assuming that they would want it (would they?), this is impossible. As far as I know, there is no way to transfer a collection.   Even if the collection could be transferred, Audible does not seem to be in the library business. Can somebody update us on the current status of the library audiobook market?

The larger question that my audiobook collection raises about libraries is one of unequal access. I've been fortunate enough to have the resources to purchases my audiobooks, meaning that my universe of choice extends to whatever Audible has on offer. Those of us that cannot afford audiobook purchases (which included myself for my first 3 decades of life), are limited to what is available for lending at academic or public libraries.  

My experience is that the library selection for audiobooks is scant to begin with, and the titles that I would want are often checked out. Are we doing enough to make access to audiobooks available to our entire community of readers, not just those who can afford the price of purchase?

3.   Dangers of an Amazon / Audible Monopoly?

Is Audible's control of the audiobook market a monopoly? Every audiobook that I have ever purchased has come from Audible. The Audible platinum subscription plan means that my $8,784 worth of books actually cost me less than $3,500.  But if Audible (and Amazon) had any real competition in the audiobook market would I have gotten an even better deal? Perhaps Audible would be more interested in making audiobooks lendable, or would would with libraries?    

My sense is that Amazon's investment in the digital electronic book market, including launching the Kindle and buying Audible, has so far been a positive thing for readers.   Amazon has focused on growing the market. 

What happens, however, when Amazon succeeds in eliminating all real competition? What will stop Amazon from raising prices on e-books and audiobooks, or further restricting any sharing options?   Is there anyone on the horizon that could compete with Audible? What options do we have in our own personal purchasing behaviors to encourage competition in the audiobook space?

4.  Our Common Books?

Okay, enough of these serious questions. Now I want to book club! Do we have any books in common?

Your can be audio, e-book, or paper - I'm just curious about how our libraries overlap.

Could you share your reading library?

Why hasn't goodreads (now owned by Amazon for a reported $150 million purchase price) made it possible to dump my Audible and Kindle purchase history into the platform?   

Are you also a crazy audiobook listener?


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