Alexa currently sits on many a sideboard, responding to numerous arbitrary demands. Most people don’t think about the information it might be storing as it listens in to conversations, although Amazon has come under scrutiny surrounding privacy and security of the devices. So how long will it be before it is common practice for people to ask Alexa what they should read next?
Voice-user interfaces (VUIs), such as Alexa, open up a whole new world of opportunity for reaching readers and unique ways are needed to manipulate and work with metadata. For publishers, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it will require a totally fresh skillset. The industry has been focussing on ‘book discoverability’ for years now, but voice search throws in a host of new challenges.
Amazon’s Alexa currently dominates over 70 of the voice assistant market; but she isn’t the only one with the potential to change the way books are selected by readers. There’s Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby.
Google Assistant is reportedly the most advanced. It will read purchased books (from Google Play store) aloud when you say, “OK Google, read my book” and you can also find out information about the book or schedule reading to end at a certain time. It is currently the most sophisticated in terms of its ability to link questions to context, and it will give the most personalised responses. It can recall the last few things you said, and link them together, so that you don’t have to keep repeating yourself.
Alexa operates similarly with Audible subscriptions. If you have an Alexa device and an Audible subscription you can simply ask it to read the books you have purchased, read at different speeds and buy new books (if you have credit).
We keen to see how publishers will be approaching VUIs. The first experiment we heard of was HarperCollins Christian Publishing who saw the opportunity to create a daily flash briefing, available on a VUI. The bite-sized devotionals are designed to uplift readers each day.
The development in VUIs, alongside the rise in eBook reading pose an interesting change set to impact the industry over the next 5 years. For publishers who have the resources, the key is to experiment now and build up the skills needed to reach readers on their shiny new VUIs. How do you enable users to access your audiobook content? Do you bundle some content together? Is there a case for using your audiobook content for podcasts? Might that help your discoverability? We believe that voice assistants are set to play a deeper role in the book discovery process and continue to do so. We will continue to keep you updated!
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