Listening to Books on Amazon Echo & Why Brands Should Take Note

I’ve been mystified: Audible, the Amazon audio book publisher sales keep getting better and I couldn’t really figure out why. In February, for the first time Audible versions of The Fourth Transformation outsold Amazon paper and Kindle versions. In March Audible sales exceeded Kindle and Paper combined on Amazon.

This is not the way it used to be. When Robert Scoble and I published Naked Conversations in 2006, there was no Audible. In fact, there wasn’t yet a Kindle. An eBook was just one big fat PDF, which seemed to get bought by people who preferred to scan rather than actually read the words we had written.

By the time Age of Context came out in 2012, the book business had changed a lot. Bookstores ad become an endangered species and more people bought Kindle versions of our book on Amazon then purchased paper versions there. Audible was recently acquired and sold well but was in third place. It did well, I think because of Whispersync, a smart service that offered an audible version in a bundle with the Kindle edition. You could read at home, and ten when you went out, you could pick up in Audible exactly where you left off on Kindle.

Still, it was new to us, and people we talked with seemed surprised about Audible.

I have been surprised about the growing strength of Audible, and a bit ambivalent. It hints at both the death of paper and the death of printed words. As the author of seven books and thousands of freelance articles, I have grown rather fond of written words. I grew up that way, treating books as personal teacher and Libraries as hallowed places. On the other hand, I am a bookseller and I am happy whenever anyone gets the information and insights contained in the books and more than happy to receive revenue for my efforts.

Trying to understand what had changed so fast to make Audible such a big aspect of our book efforts, I did a little digging, and found a single page buried in the minutiae of Echo support information: You can now listen to your audible books on Amazon Echo. A few years ago, very few people listened to “talking books” as they were called. Now, I see evidence that Audible will eclipse paper and Kindle combined on Amazon.

Please note that I emphasize on Amazon.

We sell a ton of books when we speak. After most of our talks, Robert and I sign and sell paper books, something that we cannot yet do on Kindle and Audible. People still like to meet authors and chat with them, and go home with a keepsake from the experience. When I factor that in, paper remains the most popular format — at least for now. I imagine a few years from now there will be ways to sign a Kindle and perhaps voice print an Audible.

This blog is dedicated not to our books but to our new business of helping brands adapt to the changing Mixed Reality technologies. The takeaway in that area, is that technology is steadily, relentlessly and surprisingly change the way people buy and businesses sell.

I remember when the big news related to business practices on the Internet was that you could go t a bank’s website and download and print a loan application, fill it out by hand and deliver it to a branch near you. Not only is that practice nw arcane, but the bank branch is possibly gone, except for an ATM still lodged in the wall of the old building.

Whatever it is you sell, the way people buy is changing. They will expect you to adjust your technologies to serve their needs. Yesterday it was a static web site; more recently it was a mobile app, tomorrow morning or soon thereafter, it will involve Mixed Reality. You want to be ready to give it before your customers demand it and your competitors offer it.

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