Audiobooks Now Available on Google Play, A New Battleground for Voice Assistant User Engagement

Last week Google announced that it will now sell audio books in its Google Play Store. Like Apple iBooks, the titles can be purchased individually, with no subscription necessary and are available on Android, iOS and the web. It should also be no surprise that they are also available on Google Assistant which means users can now play their audiobook through their phone or smart speaker at home. There is one catch though. The audiobook feature on Google Assistant is only available on Android phones at the moment and only supports English. To drive user engagement, Google is also offering discounts on popular audiobook titles as well as offering 50% off a user’s first purchase.

More Content, More Engagement

Giving users the ability to purchase and play audiobooks through the Google Assistant is a smart move on Google’s part. First, it gives users access to millions of hours of content which can only increase user engagement. Second, the audiobook market is the fastest growing segment in publishing as of the end of 2017. According to Good E-Reader, audiobooks generated $2.5 billion in sales last year, an 18% increase from 2016. Third, the audiobook audience is already prime for smart speaker listening. According to the Edison Research / APA Audiobook Survey:

“The 2017 survey asked about voice-enabled wireless speakers (such as Amazon Echo or Google Home) for the first time, with 19 percent of all listeners reporting using them to listen to an audiobook in the last year. Among frequent listeners, that rises to 30 percent.”

This number can only increase as more consumer adopt smart speakers and with Google Play’s new audiobook library. It also doesn’t hurt that in the same survey, nearly 60% of respondents replied that they have listened to an audio book on their smartphone, which is also Google Assistant’s largest user base.

A Tough Battle

Amazon already has a giant lead in the market having purchased Audible nearly ten years ago. It also dominates the industry in sales – in 2017 95% of the 50 million audiobooks sold were purchased from Amazon according to It also doesn’t help that Walmart also just announced it will begin selling ebooks and audiobooks, partnering with Rakuten, Japan’s top e-commerce company which already has a digital book division named Kobo with over 6 million titles. These titles will be available on a co-branded app and the Kobo e-reader later this year.

But in light of Google and Walmart’s recent partnership, one could see Rakuten and Walmart adding Google Assistant integration as well. These new players in the audiobook market also mean that publishers now have a choice of where their books are sold beyond Apple and Amazon. This could mean bidding wars on hot titles, allowing Google to offer exclusive content without needing a publishing house of its own.

Regardless of how much market share Google and others can take away from Amazon, it’s not about the sales. It’s about getting consumers to spend more time engaging with the company’s resident voice assistants. Audiobooks mean hours, not minutes of engagement. And to Google, that is priceless.

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