Joseph Frare, Fiction Panel Editor
Have you ever played a video game, such as Call of Duty, Halo, or even Fortnight, and after you’ve conquered a specific base, taken down a difficult enemy, or perhaps merely decided to open up the single player campaign mode, a small notification pops up on your screen stating you’ve won an achievement? The reason why you got it may be downright pathetic (I’ve just started level 1!) but I can bet you’ve felt a little bit accomplished in spite of yourself. Deeper into the game, when you’ve finally mastered that final mission or defeated that last boss, the notification pops up and now I bet you feel like a hero.
Audible is a company founded by Don Katz in 1995, and bought by Amazon in 2008. Since then, Audible has dominated the audiobook market, selling hundreds of thousands of audiobook titles worldwide. Since the company has hit its peak at the top of the market, Audible has been innovating to keep readers listening. One of its ideas, which may actually be the most underappreciated of all of its efforts, is the small achievements listeners get when listening to their favorite titles for a certain amount of hours.
Now, perhaps the listener may not be impacted when he/she looks at the 491 hours achievement, as they may be listening just for the sake of listening to their favorite book, that’s fine, but just like the gamer who plays the games just to play them, the listener who gains this “newbie” achievement can feel a kind of accomplishment from listening to the book they want to listen to anyway.
Audible doesn’t stop there. There are also badges a listener can earn by doing different activities on their profile or with their audiobook, such as placing bookmarks, binging a certain amount of hours, being an insomniac listener, downloading a certain number of audiobooks, and even just reading on weekends. Like the video game achievements, these badges have creative titles such as “Weekend Warrior”, “Night Owl,” etc. What’s different about these compared to video games however, and is a plus in my book, is that when the listener selects the achievement–if you didn’t win it yet–Audible gives you a little description of what it is with a little rhyme scheme. Gotta love that creativity.
“O, ye insomniac! O, ye who listens to drift! This badge will be given after a graveyard shift.”
I’ve gained an achievement just for listening for an hour during lunchtime, and to be honest, the achievement is pretty cool. Earning it makes me feel like I’ve stepped up in the ranks of the audible listener, and to me at least, in the smallest way it’s almost like earning a merit badge in boy scouts. You feel good, you feel like you’re becoming a pro. And that is what I think Audible is doing right.
However, there is a reason why I said this is the most underappreciated aspect of Audible. When you select an earned badge, Audible gives you the option to “brag about it.” However, when I decided to brag, I only got a post on my Facebook profile that merely advertises Audible, and in no way brags about my hard-earned achievement! Giving my Facebook friends a free book title on Audible is not bragging! Sure, I could write about my win, but I feel like it would seem unofficial. While my profile is still just a promotional tool, it’s just not the same! If you’re going to promote your product on my profile, at least give me a screenshot or something of my win, Audible.
But achievements like these could be great for encouraging young readers to read. It’s like playing a game, and as they play, they may come to enjoy the story they’re reading or maybe it will be the assigned textbook they need to go through. From elementary to high school, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t read a lot of books because I just wasn’t into anything that wasn’t about superheroes. Playing video games, on the other hand, was my favorite pastime, and I was big into those one-hundred percent completion kinds of games, which would give me achievements to track and mark my progress. The achievements made me feel accomplished, and I wanted to have them all.
If small achievements like these could be correctly incorporated into today’s ebook and audiobook market, they may help encourage the hesitant young reader into reading. Perhaps there can be an app that holds these achievements for audio and ebooks, rewarding readers specific and creative achievements for reading certain genres of books, from philosophy texts to science fiction titles. And why just have them for kids? Perhaps certain achievements can be designed for the older readers as well. Such an app could also reward the reader by granting them a great deal on another book title, or perhaps get one for free, thanks to winning a certain achievement(s).
The fact that achievements have been so lightly considered actually motivates me to learn the tech skills to make a smartphone app for this purpose. Reading achievements could attract and encourage new readers and writers in unique ways, and bring a new aspect to reading books.