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  Technology   In Other news  24 Jan 2018  Google gets into audiobooks as rivalry with Amazon heats up

Google gets into audiobooks as rivalry with Amazon heats up

REUTERS
Published : Jan 24, 2018, 8:03 am IST
Updated : Jan 24, 2018, 8:03 am IST

Google launching an audiobooks store widens the battle, which has also seen Google’s YouTube unit stop supporting an Amazon product.

Google began selling ebooks in 2010.
 Google began selling ebooks in 2010.

Alphabet Google introduced audiobooks to its online store on January 23, making its smart speakers and virtual assistant more competitive with Amazon Echo devices and Alexa voice assistant. Listening to audiobooks is among the most popular nighttime uses for smart speakers, a burgeoning type of home appliance that provides audio streams of music, news and other data based on user commands to an embedded virtual assistant.

But Google’s Home speakers have lagged Amazon Echo in terms of audiobook features. Amazon-owned Audible, the top provider of audiobooks, has not been supported on Home and other speakers with Google Assistant. Google launching an audiobooks store widens the battle, which has also seen Google’s YouTube unit stop supporting an Amazon product. Greg Hartrell, head of product management for Google Play Books, listed subscription-less buying as the top selling point for the new audiobooks store.

 

“You can buy a single audiobook at an affordable price, with no commitments,” he said in a blog post on January 23. Audible offers one-off purchases but promotes a $14.95 monthly subscription that includes one free download and 30 per cent off further purchases. Amazon and Audible did not respond to requests to comment. Google began selling ebooks in 2010. Hartrell told Reuters in a statement that audiobooks are being added because “our users are asking for them.”

About 16 per cent of US adults owns a smart speaker, according to an Edison Research survey conducted in late 2017. The firm in conjunction with Triton Digital also found last spring that 30 percent of frequent audiobook listeners had used a smart speaker to take in an audiobook in the previous 12 months. Audiobook sales surged nearly 20 per cent annually for three consecutive years, reaching $2.1 billion in 2016, according to the latest Audio Publishers Assn. data.

 

Thad McIlroy, an online book industry consultant, said audiobooks represent the only publishing category with “strong growth” so it makes sense for Google to challenge Amazon despite having a weak ebooks business. Google-purchased audiobooks can be accessed through Google Play Books on the web, apps for Android and iOS devices or through Google Assistant in speakers, Android smartphones and “soon” cars with Android Auto, Hartrell wrote.

Tags: google, amazon, google home mini, speaker