The Good News: Audible.com has finally started to roll out some social features designed to crowdsource audiobook buying recommendations by connecting subscribers with reviewers (and reviews) that may be of interest.
The Bad News: I only have 2 followers.
As of this writing these are my pertinent Audible.com stats:
Audiobook Reviews: 153
Audiobook Ratings: 293
Audiobook Titles in My Library (that I've purchased): 530
Audibooks Purchased in 2012: 29
Reviewers That I'm Following: 174
Number of "Helpful Review" Votes (for reviews I've written) Received: 9
Number of People Following My Reviews: 2
Now admittedly these numbers are skewed by the fact that I spent much of the weekend cutting and pasting book reviews that I've written for other places (including IHE) into the Audible site. Maybe I'll pick up some more "followers" in the weeks to come. And hopefully I'll find more reviewers to follow, and the recommendation process from within Audible will start to drive my book buying decisions to a great extent than the NYTimes Book review, word of mouth, and whatever you recommend in our interactions on InsideHigherEd.
However, for my audiobook selection process to change towards an Audible centric, and Audible community driven, some things in the Audible.com social features will need to evolve. I've never understood why Amazon does not invest more money into developing the Audible website, and why the site has always lagged so far behind the Amazon site in usability and features. I would think that us Audible listeners, being a somewhat beleaguered and misunderstood lot, would constitute (as a group) a valuable set of customers. Not only do we buy lots of books in lots of formats (I'm betting the average Platinum Audible subscriber is a big overall book consumer), we recommend our books to friends, acquaintances and total strangers.
What social features should Audible build into the site:
1. Integration with Amazon: This seems like the most logical step. Why can't my Audible reviews be also cross-published to Amazon.com? How come the Amazon site can't identify a review as an "Audible review", and therefore bring together all the user generated content? (Note: I've always thought that the Audible.com site should be folded into the Amazon.com umbrella - basically replicating what Amazon has done with the Kindle bookstore. This move, I think, would push Amazon to invest in the audiobook experience and incent Amazon to get more audiobook recordings into the library).
2. Ability for Audiobook Reviewers To Share More About Themselves: Yes, privacy needs to be protected. Sharing should be "opt-in". But I would definitely share things like my location, my total (Amazon) book buying history, and my book Wish List (both Audible and Amazon). The more I know about the people reviewing a particular book (and the easier it is to see this information) the more likely that I'll follow the advice of the reviewer. I have fantasies that the small college town that I live in is teeming with fellow audiobook listeners … and all we need is the social platform to connect us.
3. A Book Sharing and Lending Feature: Publishers, please take notice. We will purchase more books if we can lend books we buy to friends. The norms of reciprocity dictate this behavior. If we want to be lent a book we need to lend a book, and only a buyer can lend. Amazon needs to find some way to gather enough data to make this case to the publishers. To convince the publishers that it is in their financial interest to allow books to be lent out. There is a huge number of potential audiobook listeners who just don't know how wonderfully transformative and audiobook option can be. Let me lend them my books and they will be converted.
4. A Reviewer Incentive Program: Amazon and Audible should be incentivizing audiobook buyers to write more (and better) reviews by handing out some free book credits. This would be the world's least expensive program to energize community created site content and increased sales.
5. A Professional Reviewer Program: I've long thought that Amazon should hire every editor and writer from the NYT's Book Review (and other paper's book review sections) and put them to work reviewing books and editing reviews on the Amazon site. This practice should go doubly for audiobooks. High quality, well-written and trusted reviews by paid reviewers would be a cost effective method to drive new book purchases.
6. Figure Out Online Book Clubs: Online book clubs have never really worked. I think the time has come to try again. Audibooks might be the perfect medium of book clubs, as I think audiobook readers are a bit fanatical by nature. For an online book club to succeed it needs to be led by someone, it needs to take place over a distinct period of time (a couple of weeks maybe), and it needs to be built on a really good discussion and collaboration platform. An online book club that worked well at Audible could then be rolled into the larger Amazon site.
Are you an audiobook listener?
What is your campus library doing with audiboooks?
Any ideas for how our IHE community to could better share what we are reading?
How would you improve the Audible social experience?