Last year I wrote an article called The Problem With Audiobooks. In this article, I argued that listening to audiobooks is a privilege of the privileged. And I wondered if university libraries could play a role in expanding access to audiobooks within our university communities.
In my writing on audiobooks, I have focused on Audible.com, owned by Amazon, and the lack of Audible as an option in college libraries. After my post appeared, I heard from Steven Rosato, the Managing Director of OverDrive. From chatting with Steven, I learned that OverDrive provides audiobooks (and e-books) to the college library community. To better understand what OverDrive has to offer as an audiobook option for higher education, I asked Steven if he would answer some of my questions.
Q1: How many colleges and universities are working with OverDrive to provide audiobooks? What were the growth trends during the pandemic? Is OverDrive the only option for university libraries to offer students, faculty and staff access to audiobooks?
Thanks Josh for taking the time to review what’s going on with audiobooks specific to the academic market. Audiobooks have seen continued growth in their use and sales for the past 20 years, but especially over the past 10 years. Of course, being able to consume them on a smartphone and not needing 10 CDs has dramatically changed things by making audio more accessible for the end user.
Most universities have 5-6 times as many eBooks as Audiobooks and yet audio is playing at about the same rate despite the number of eBooks in terms of selection and availability. This disparity in what is available in audio versus ebook is a feature that audio is expensive to produce and only around 10% of published titles get converted to audio, there will always be a lot more choice in. ebooks or print vs. . audio. This is an anecdotal estimate on my part, but based on what I know to be available.
EBSCO and ProQuest both have audiobooks in their offerings, but with OverDrive we have so much more (popular) commercial type content and our Libby app is the top rated app for libraries and schools, and it makes accessible and easy-to-discover audio in a school’s collection. OverDrive has over 315,000 audio tracks in our academic catalog.
Q2: How does the financial and licensing model work for colleges and universities to provide access to audiobooks? I understand that providing audiobooks to university library patrons is prohibitive, or at least very difficult. Is this understanding correct?
I can’t speak to the user experience for other platforms, but with OverDrive it’s extremely simple and easy. OverDrive collections are integrated into the ILS of any academic institution. So when a student or professor performs a search, the audio title will appear in their results. With OverDrive, the end user will be automatically authenticated and can either borrow the track directly from their computer and listen to it, or use the OverDrive Libby app on any smart device.
Audio costs a little more than an eBook, typically $ 10-15 per title. Publishers set the terms for loan models, but the majority of audiobooks are available in perpetual access (OverDrive calls this model One copy / one user, aka OC / OU), more NY bestsellers can be found in Access measured (MA) but these tend to be much cheaper than the OC / OU. There are additional options for Simultaneous use (SU) as well as Cost per Circ (CPC). CPC titles are a great option because the university only pays when a title is borrowed and 90% of these titles cost between $ 2-4 per draw. I should note that not all titles are available in all loan models, but I thank the editors for being flexible in offering several options that allow schools to use their budgets in the most efficient and cost effective manner. .
Q3: My guess is that even with the ability to work with OverDrive, people who can pay for audiobooks from Audible (and also for the synced Kindle eBook) will have a better listening and reading experience than what is available from a university library. If you can pay for an Audible subscription, you can download and listen to any of the over 200,000 audiobooks on their platform. How is my assumption wrong? What am I wrong about privileges and audiobooks?
I wouldn’t call your assumption a mistake, but it compares a retail solution to an institutional solution. Because I love analogies, I would suggest that someone’s ability to acquire audiobooks isn’t too different from a meal plan. If they can afford it, they can order GrubHub, Door Dash, or go out to a restaurant every night compared to what would be available at college in a dining hall.
By doing the math, it’s a lot more expensive and less convenient to maintain, but it’s still something you can do when there’s something specific you want. Audible is a fantastic option, but since it’s retail, it buys titles by user. You may be able to get that of Adam Grant very popular Think about for $ 28.50 or even $ 20.00 via Audible, but that’s per person. OverDrive has this available under OC / OU for $ 66.50 and can be borrowed by one user at a time for many years. Therefore, the cost per use will be much lower than the retail model.
OverDrive is obsessed with user experience, and we’re proud of the awards we’ve won and the high ratings we’ve achieved in app stores – which are on par or better than retail options Google, Apple, Audible, Scribd and Kobo.
A prediction from me, sharing a point I made in our last conversation, I predict that with the arrival of AI and Machine Learning storytelling options, publishers will be able to offer storytelling. and good quality audio titles for any book at a fraction of the cost of what it takes now to create an audio title. You’ll even see the most scholarly journals available in audio – more formats will only increase access and availability.