Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Comparison Points and Decision Points

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Comparison Points and Decision Points

Article excerpt

This report is intended to provide enough information to help libraries, library consortia, and other organizations make informed decisions about whether to launch a digital audiobook service and, if so, what decision points will ensure that the service will be welcomed and used by the target population.

This chapter outlines the key comparison and decision points, then briefly describes, where information is available, how the current five major vendors of digital audiobook services for libraries compare. However, readers must remember that the marketplace is changing rapidly, with new suppliers and vendors entering the market and existing vendors revising and fine-tuning their systems and business models. Therefore, this information may soon be outdated.


Ultimately, content should trump technology in a library's digital audiobook service. In other words, when all is said and done, most users of a digital audiobook service want to listen to a good audiobook, not fiddle with and master the technology. Therefore, this section looks at the master collections offered by the major vendors serving the library market.

Overall Size

Size and quality are both important factors in evaluating digital audiobook master collections. However, the sad fact is that the master collections offered by digital audiobook vendors to the library market are not, at present, very large. Although Google, the Open Content Alliance, and other massive digitization projects busily and happily make digital versions of millions of print books, none of the top five audiobook vendors have anywhere near 100,000 titles in their master collections. Audible, which has been at this business the longest, has the largest collection. The relatively small size and slow growth of these collections likely has slowed the adoption and diffusion of audiobook listening as a viable, enjoyable, useful option to readers.


Audible has a master collection of more than 14,100 audiobooks. (1)


NetLibrary has approximately 4,000 titles. In mid-November 2006, it had 934 digital audiobooks in its core collection, with many others in various specialized collections. (2)


As of mid-November 2006, OverDrive had 7,617 titles in its master collection of downloadable digital audiobooks. (3)


As of mid-November 2006, Playaway had approximately 165 titles that could be purchased directly from Playaway. (4)

Playaway also has agreements with other companies for distribution of its digital audiobooks on Playaway devices. For example, Recorded Books offers approximately 20 of Playaway's titles as a core collection. (5) Recorded Books also offers various continuous order plans that send out 6 of Playaway's adult titles, 4 of Playaway's children's/young adult titles, or both every quarter. (6) Follett Library Resources also began distributing Playaway audiobooks in 2006. As of October 2006, Follett offered approximately 100 Playaway titles. (7)

TumbleTalkingBooks and Tumble Read-Alongs

The TumbleTalkingBooks master collection contains approximately five hundred titles. Approximately sixty-five Tumble Read-Along titles, which combine audiobooks with a variable-font-size visual e-book, are included in the master collection. (8)

Overlap within and across Master Collections

If an audiobook vendor offers selection of individual titles, its master collection may contain two or more audiobook renditions of the same basic text. This type of overlap is not always bad because it gives the selector an opportunity to compare prices and, if audio snippets are available, the voice talent of the narrator.


Because Audible has the largest master collection of the five vendors analyzed in this report, it has quite a few duplicate titles. When Audible's catalog of audiobooks is downloaded and sorted by title in spreadsheet software, users can see numerous titles have multiple unabridged versions available. …

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