Switching from Audible to Scribd…& Some Links Related to Audio

When somebody mentions “audiobook” there’s a high probability you’d probably think of the Amazon-owned entity, “Audible”. I, too, did for the longest time. I didn’t even think anyone else offered audiobooks. Plus, I’ve been on an Audible annual subscription for about two years now. Tweeting on something related to this, Jackson tweeted back basically saying: Scribd > Audible.

Scribd: My last memory of this site wasn’t much. My memory extended to needing to upload a document to get credits which you then used to download a different document…and it not having a great interface. That was probably back when I was in college. I didn’t know they did anything else. Visiting their website, it looked like they’ve added significantly to their offering: Unlimited books & audiobooks for $8.99? Plus a clean inteface? I’m intruiged.

Essentially if I read more than 1 book a month it was cheaper than the Platinum Annual plan (~$9.5/book). Plus, it would give me the flexibility to abandon any books I didn’t like. It made sense to sign up.

I signed up for the service last month (Jan) to test out the service and test the depth of the catalogue. About 70% of the titles I had previously purchased on Audible were available and the same with the next 10 titles I had hoped purchase, 7 of them were available. Good enough for me to switch behaviour and potentially unlocking some latent demand to consume even more…maybe more than 1 book a month.

Hence, I didn’t renew my subscription to Audible with the plan of using Scribd + purchasing any titles it didn’t offer directly from Amazon. The only downside to this remains not owning the title and being locked into the subscription for as long as I’d like to use their audiobooks — not dissimilar from the expectations you’d already have from subscribing to a Netflix.

If you currently subscribe to Audible, I’d encourage you to look into Scribd (#not-an-ad). They’ll even throw in an annual subscription to Pocket & Blinkist.

Scribd raised $22mm in 2015 from Khosla and other folks…they’ve had this available for a while. It should definitely drive up audiobook consumption https://techcrunch.com/2015/01/02/scribd-khosla-funding/. Here’s a recommendation of books from Scribd (and Opendoor) board member Keith Rabois (@Rabois) to get you started.

More on audio

All of this got me thinking a bit more about (non-music) audio in general. Here’s a loose collection of links/unstructured thoughts.

  • Audio drives consumption. Voice is the complement that drives creation.
  • We’re seeing audio become more and more mainstream as potentially the next big platform. We’re already seeing the growing numbers for increased consumption of audiobooks and podcasts and could extend further.
  • Audio – Demand:
    • One part is no doubt driven by the growing popularity of AirPods – personal consumption. See “AirPods Have Gone Viral” – LINK (High visibility, social signalling, and something different). “AirPods Are Now One of Apple’s Most Important Products” – LINK
    • Another part via the in-home voice assistants: Alexa, Siri, Google etc. LINK, LINK
    • Growing podcast revenue proxy for increased demand from consumer. LINK Efficacy of listening: NYT Op-ed LINK Industry report on Audiobooks LINK.
    • Dive deeper into Sirius to understand more about the biggest audio platforms of yesteryear: radio. Radio is a $40b ad business. LINK What’s the transition here. Maybe there isn’t one Sirius bought Pandora…x-sell users and maintain base?
  • Voice – Supply:
    • We’re also seeing an increase in creation tooling eg. Anchor acq Spotify (Podcasts) and Voiceflow (bots).
    • More picks and shovels will be built. including ad tooling, analytics, content moderation, user verification, etc.
  • Exclusive Supply:
    • As all of this happens: owning exclusive content and apps (skills) will start to become more and important. Ben Thompson (aggregation theory) has more which touches on this topic in his post about Spotify acquisitions LINK.
    • Audible has Originals already. Spotify has Gimlet. What’s the equivalent for Scribd?
    • Are original audiobooks similar to super in-depth podcasts like Hardcore History?
    • Would such titles ever make it to being in a book format? Will they become more interactive: either with the screen as the second medium or via interactions?
    • Certain skills will be available on one device and not another. I cannot find any good examples of this right now.
    • Will we see more dedicated production houses? Is Serial an equivalent to Game of Thrones for HBO? How many more podcasting production houses will we see?
    • There was the crazy $500mm deal for Howard Stern back in 2004 LINK when he joined Sirius. There’s Joe Rogan. Who’s next? Will they go to a platform?
  • Networks:
    • v1 is most obvious here: a social network for audio books (a la GoodReads) or for podcasts (a la Breaker).
    • v2 here will be native to the platform itself: For eg. TTYL (ex-UCLA folks) are attempting to build audio social network and Chai (ex-USC folks 😏) building voice chat for teams.
    • How will these v2 networks interact with the supply not from friends?
    • What’s after this? Will we see existing networked platforms build here? Twitter/Fb/Snap/Google/etc?

If you have interesting links on the audio space and/or are building something is this space, I’d love to chat: me@varadhja.in or @varadhjain.

P.S. Any good newsletters in this space?