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How to Build an Audiobook App Like Audible

With the busy pace of modern life, we have to constantly look for solutions to save time and multitask. Today, putting in for the evening by the fireplace under a handmade quilt with your favorite book is a thing of dreams.

That being said, as with many other spheres of our lives, we can say “there’s an app for that!” Audiobook apps allow us to be wrapped up in the world of literature even in the middle of our busy schedules. You can listen to your favorite book on your way to work, at the gym, or while cleaning the kitchen.

Of course, you could just download an audiobook file (a simple MP3 file, for instance) and listen to it on your phone or audio player. But a basic MP3 player or music player app can’t suggest new books based on your preferences and can’t save bookmarks. This is why the majority of people who regularly listen to audiobooks prefer special audiobook apps.

One of the most popular audiobook apps – Amazon’s Audible – has more than 50 million downloads on the Google Play Store, and listeners around the globe downloaded more than 1.6 billion hours of audio using Audible in the past year.

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[Image source: Windows Central]

We decided to analyze the inner workings of audiobook applications like Audible to determine the challenges faced by developers to create an audiobook app similar to Audible.

Why should you consider building an app for audiobooks?

At this point, the audiobook is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. Many retailers have already realized that the audiobook app development is worth investing in, and publishers consider audiobooks a great way to promote their catalogs.

According to one study, the audiobook industry is estimated to be worth $2.8 billion, and the number of audiobooks published is growing by leaps and bounds. For example, in 2013, about 20,000 audiobooks were released; in 2014, the number was 36,000; and in 2015, 43,000 new audiobooks hit the market.

Moreover, the number of audiobooks that have been listened to has overpassed the number of ebooks that have been read; and in 2015, people downloaded about 3.88 million audiobooks but only purchased about 2.47 million ebooks.

Why is the audiobook industry so hot right now?

The first reason why the audiobook industry is so hot right now is the emergence of Amazon’s Audible. Audible’s offerings are shaping the whole industry. The very existence of such a convenient application for listening to audiobooks is one of the reasons why the industry as a whole has seen a dramatic increase in consumer interest and, consequently, revenues.

Before Audible, listening to audiobooks meant buying CDs or downloading files to a computer and then copying them to an MP3 player or phone. Audible has enabled users to download audiobooks directly on their mobile devices, which are always at hand.

Also, another Amazon product has caused a boom in this industry – the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). ACX is a marketplace for authors, narrators, publishers, and rights holders to create and exchange audiobooks. We’ll consider ACX in detail a bit later.

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[Image source: ACX]

It’s not surprising that an industry that is growing so rapidly would attract developers and investors who want to get their piece of the cake.

What business model is best for an audiobook app?

As we’ve said, Audible is very popular. Many bloggers, reviewers, and other internet users consider it the best app of its type.

The average audiobook listener downloads 17 audiobooks per year. And as of mid-2016, Audible offered its users more than 180,000 audiobooks.

Audible charges its users a membership fee of $14.95 per month after an initial 30 day free trial, and this membership covers one free audiobook per month and gives a 30 percent discount for any additional audiobooks. You can purchase a monthly or annual plan to get access to titles available on the service.

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[Image source: Freemake]

A subscription model like Audible’s seems to be the best pricing model for audiobook services today. This model has been proven not only by Audible, but also by other popular audiobook services including iTunes, Scribd, Audiobooks.com, and Downpour. Most of these services also use a similar subscription model where users pay to access one audiobook per month.

But not all of the services we just mentioned used a subscription model from the very beginning. For example, Scribd initially launched an unlimited subscription plan that offered access to as many titles as you wanted.

Soon, however, Scribd realized that they did not get enough profit with this model, and so they changed their subscription plan to be in line with Audible’s. Now, a monthly plan gives you access to only one title; if you want more, you need to pay more.

There are also some services like Spotify that provides select audiobooks for free, and some services like Playster which, along with a regular subscription plan, offers a premium plan that gives access to all 60,000 titles in their catalog. Audible does not offer such a plan. According to Audible’s general manager Ian Small, the company is currently looking for a model that can widen their audience. At the same time, they need to fix prices at rates that will satisfy rights owners.

“It’s a learning process (albeit an expensive one) to figure out what does not work, and then build on what does,” Small says.

How does Audible deal with right holders?

For audiobooks created through ACX and sold on Audible, rights holders receive 25 percent of all sales revenue if the audiobook is not exclusive to Audible; for titles exclusively available on Audible, rights holders receive a 40 percent cut. These rates are the same as those offered by iTunes.

The majority of audiobook platforms offer a flat 35 percent to right holders.

But there’s one key feature that makes Audible desirable to indie publishers: Audible allows its users to share audiobooks via email, SMS, or messengers including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Audible then defrays all expenses for the distribution of these titles. In other words, when a user downloads an audiobook and then sends it to others, Audible pays rights owners for each subsequent listen.

This move allows independent publishers to attract a wider audience at a lower cost.

Audible, Amazon, and iTunes each has a set of requirements for audiobooks they will distribute. For example, you may need to split your book’s audio files into chapters instead of submitting as one whole file; side tones or sounds might not be permitted; each file might have a maximum limit of 170 MB, and so on.

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[Image source: 9To5Mac]

If you’re ready to get your piece of the audiobook industry pie by creating your very own app, then allow us to suggest some ways to fill your app with content.

Where can you find content for your app?

In-house content creation

Of course, you can fill your app with audiobooks created by your own company if you have enough resources for that. But it takes a lot of money, time, and effort to create content this way.

Instead, there are some more realistic ways to fill your app with audiobook content.

Marketplaces for audiobook creators

We’ve already mentioned ACX – a marketplace for anyone involved in the audiobook creation process, such as authors, publishers, narrators, rights holders, etc. Rights holders for a particular book can post a job for creating an audiobook on ACX, and studios or solo narrators can search for the titles they are interested in bringing to life.

Once an audiobook has been produced, publishers can then distribute their products directly from ACX to Audible, iTunes, or even their own websites or apps.

APIs

Some companies don’t sell content directly to users. Instead, they provide APIs that allow retailers to access their titles and sell them on to consumers.

The brightest example of this API business model is Findaway. Findaway has over 100,000 titles and deal with more than 200 publishers. Their API is used by a bunch of companies including Scribd and Playsters, both of which we mentioned above.

Related content

You can develop an audiobook app that, in addition to audiobooks themselves, will deliver news, articles, and podcasts. In the first quarter of 2016, Audible expanded its range of content to not only audiobooks but also podcasts and news. Content for these new categories is provided by authoritative sources including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post, and is delivered in the form of “channels.”

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[Image source: Waterlogg Productions] ​

Since the audiobook sector is hot and developing rapidly, we’re sure we’ll see many more changes and improvements soon. Just a few years ago, ebooks became a booming industry, and now audiobooks are going through a period of rapid growth as well. It’s a great time to get on board with this new trend.

Single-Page Apps vs Multiple-Page Web Apps: What to Choose for Web Development

Single-page applications, or SPAs, have created a lot of buzz around the internet. Developers have gone into battles of words comparing SPAs with the traditional multiple-page approach. This dispute has turned into a struggle akin to iOS vs Android.

We’ve decided to also add fuel to the fire and investigate this topic. Our aim is to find out why more and more companies prefer single page approach and to consider cases when it’s best to use an SPA framework.

Google, Facebook, and Trello use single-page apps

A single-page application is a web application that fits on one HTML page. This page can be dynamically updated, but it never reloads the whole time a user is interacting with it. Using an SPA, you can manage most interactions on one web page for dynamic updates.

Where can you see single page web apps? You deal with them every day when checking your email on Gmail, scrolling your news feed on Facebook, or adding a new task in Trello.

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[Image source: Trello Blog]

Do you remember the last time you used a Google Doc? Yes, Google Docs are SPAs too. When you click on any element of a Google Doc, type something, or perform any other action, the main interface remains untouched. Nothing but the chunk of content you want to alter is modified. This is the main idea of a single-page app.

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[Image source: Chrome Webstore]

Most promotional websites and landing pages are also just one page.  CashNotify is a good example of a landing page built on an SPA framework. This website promotes the CashNotify app (a macOS taskbar app for Stripe payments) and lets users buy the app:

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Such apps may also meet the needs of single-product and single-service companies such as Seedlip, a company that sells the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits.

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Utilities, namely  URL shortening sites, are also commonly single-page apps. The Google URL Shortener is a good example.

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Single-page applications provide a more fluid and responsive experience. But how? To answer this question, let’s examine the pros and cons of single-page applications.

Reducing response time and hardware costs with SPAs

Single-page applications try to solve the problem of poor performance and increase conversion rates. They can drastically save on hardware costs and much more. Let’s investigate all the benefits SPAs can bring.

Speed and responsiveness

With single-page apps, a server doesn’t need to reload most resources such as HTML, CSS, and scripts with every interaction. These files require only initial loading. After that, only new data is downloaded from the server. Additionally, SPAs reload only pieces of content, so they have a lighter server payload. This is why such apps allow fast interactions in an app.

SPAs also reduce response times thanks to moving data processing from the server to the browser.

Adaptability

An SPA brings you considerable relief when developing a mobile application: you can reuse the same backend code from a web-based app for the mobile application. That’s quite hard to do with a multi-page application. Additionally, SPAs look and feel more like an application than a website, so you don’t need to specifically adapt an SPA’s design or functionality for mobile devices.

Flexible UI

You can totally rewrite the frontend of a single-page application with no influence on the server except for some static resource files.

Offline support and caching

Single-page applications can cache to any local storage with dispatch. This type of apps sends one request to a server and then stores all the data it receives. The application can use this data. This is why an SPA can operate even offline, unlike an MPA, so you can keep using it even if your device loses connectivity. Whenever the connection comes back, the local data will synchronize with the server.

Ability to separate data and UI

Single-page apps are able to distinguish between data and the user interface. This can considerably help to streamline testing when developing a web app. Moreover, such a distinction allows you to handle all future integrations and possible changes in how data enters the SPA framework and goes to other systems without massive implications for the interface.

Debugging with Chrome

Of course you can debug multiple-page applications with Chrome, but with single-page approach it’s much easier. There are several reasons for this. First, you can see all the code at once, as it’s located on one page. Second, these apps are developed on frameworks that have their own Chrome developer tools such as React developer tools and AngularJS Batarang.

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[Image source: Chrome Webstore]

SPA drawbacks – but not ones you can’t beat

Every new model has its drawbacks, and single-page applications are no exception. There are areas in which they lose to multiple-page applications.

Poor crawlability

Why don’t SPAs get on with SEO? Definitely, an SPA has a far smaller semantic kernel than an MPA. No matter how hard you try, you can put only a limited number of keywords on one page. For this reason, you should thoroughly consider what content best matches your users’ requests. Besides, single-page apps give you the chance to leverage rich internal anchor text links, tags, and meta descriptions.

Nevertheless, you can handle these problems with SEO. Search engines give higher scores to domains devoted to one theme, so you can make your single-page website 100% thematic. This will help you overcome problems with SEO and hold the top spot.

Memory leaks

A  memory leak is the loss of available computer memory. In SPAs, memory leaks can happen due to event listeners. Listeners, also known as event handlers, receive event notifications from an event source. By event, we mean any action recognized by the software, such as a keystroke or a mouse click.

Sometimes events can be unbound incorrectly. How does that happen? An HTML element can be bound to an event. But if you modify the HTML content, the event handler stays in memory though you can no longer execute it. The browser doesn’t remove this event handler, so you need to do it on your own with the help of RequireJS, module loading, or by closing all events properly.

Security concerns

Some people underline the insecurity of SPAs due to cross-site scripting (XSS). With XSS, attackers can exploit a vulnerability of a web page and insert their own client-side code. This lets attackers deliver a malicious script to a victim’s browser.

But actually, you can handle this problem as well.

With MPAs, you need to secure separate pages. In the case of single-page apps, you just need to secure your data endpoints. If you don’t want your client to have access to all of your code, you should divide the downloadable JavaScript into several separate parts.

Lack of scalability

We can barely call single-page applications scalable. With the traditional approach, you can create new content and split it across new pages. But with a single-page app, it’s much harder to add more to your site. If you put too many features on one page, it’ll cause a longer loading time. Facing this problem, some companies have to fully redesign their websites.

Single sharing link

Using single-page approach, you only have a single URL (i.e. there’s only one link to share on social networks). This makes it impossible to share a specific piece of content.

Back and forward browser buttons don’t work

Back and forward browser buttons don’t work with single-page applications. Whenever visitors click the back button, the browser will actually transfer them to the previous page that the browser loaded but not to the prior state in your application. You can handle this problem with an HTML5 History API. The good news is that many modern SPA frameworks are fitted with this API.

Wrapping things up

When choosing between an SPA and an MPA, consider the following:

  • What your website will do

  • How much information you’re going to post for your users and what type of information it will be (Does it involve interactive content?)

  • What your site will look like and what the main elements will be

  • What benefits your content will offer to users

As a general rule, single-page applications work for single-product or single-service companies, though they’re unlikely to meet the requirements of any complex provider. If you have a large business that provides many services or products, such as eBay, and want more opportunities for your users to interact with the site, you’d better choose a multiple-page approach.

On the other hand, a single-page application can be a magic wand if you want to considerably cut hardware costs or if you need offline processing – to throw a life jacket to your visitors during server outages, for instance.

We’ve provided you with a detailed list of pros and cons for SPAs and considering use cases for each approach. This data will help you choose the right approach for your website.

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