I can see how that accessibility fits your brand ethos about democratising audiobooks. What was the thinking behind that, just personal experience?
Mark and I are both kind of egalitarian, we believe in helping other people. I think our view has always been that the [audiobook] experience isn’t good enough. And actually, it’s also overpriced for what it is. And so the idea was that we’re going to make the experience better, and make pricing more accessible. And both of those things lead to accessibility. For us it was just always obvious that we were going to solve these two things.
Can you explain a bit about how you offer “an exciting alternative to big tech?”
Happy to. We find that big tech audiobook offerings are great for big tech incumbents, but not always great for consumers. The audiobook format hasn’t really been innovated in decades, audiobooks are priced at a premium to other formats, or consumers have to sign up to inflexible, one-per-month subscriptions to get a good price. There is no sense of community or humanity: it all feels very transactional.
We think our innovations are designed with consumers in mind – we’re improving the audiobook format with our exclusive x-book®, allowing listeners to see illustrations, take notes, search in the audiobook, and lookup words. We’ve made our experience more social too, with more sharing features than any other digital reading app.
Can you talk a little bit about your next steps?
I think we need to do more to enable more social recommendations, for example. We think algorithms and computers are never as good as your friends at knowing what you want to listen to, or read. So how do you create networks in which you’re enabling that to happen? That’s a big theme for the year.
And then just community features…why can’t you build book club features into the core experience of the app? Because then you let more people enjoy it. That’s one of our aims. And you make it easier for people to co-curate lists, for example, lists that you recommend with a group of people. I think we’re probably on ‘version one’ of social. You can take notes, and you can share quotes at the moment. We’re trying to expand on that, because we do think that reading is brilliant when you share it with other people. When you finish a book, the first thing you want to do, if you really enjoyed it, is pass it on and get someone else to enjoy it. How do we harness that? Could you make that more public for people to say, for example, ‘these are the quotes that really inspire me.’ There’s just a tonne of possibility.
I think gradually we’re trying to change people’s opinions about audio. It’s not cheating! And you can get as rich an experience with audio, in some ways even more rich, because the author could be telling you their story in their own voice. And what’s more magical than that?
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