Listening to audio content in the car is most often reserved for music and talk radio, but a Canadian streaming service is adding audiobooks to that list by partnering with auto makers.
Burlington, Ont.-based Audiobooks.com offers 60,000 titles that it can stream to subscribers. Competitors, such as Audible, Amazon and Apple, focus primarily or solely on downloading rather than streaming.
This distinction caught the attention of Jaguar Land Rover and GM, who have signed on to integrate Audiobooks.com into their respective infotainment systems.
"Our streaming platform works well because it doesn't require storage with their next-generation infotainment systems," says Sanjay Singhal, CEO of Audiobooks.com. "As many as 70 per cent of our users have always listened to our audiobooks in the car by plugging in with an Aux-In jack or streaming via Bluetooth."
Singhal has observed three different methods of integrating his company's service into the car:
Pure mirroring via platforms such as Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto, which has been adopted by aftermarket vendors such as Pioneer.
The app resides and communicates with the server through the phone, while the dash screen displays the interface the driver interacts with. Jaguar Land Rover uses this method, having allowed Audiobooks engineers to design the dashboard app.
A custom embedded application on the dash that is designed by the auto maker in-house and is proprietary to its infotainment system. This is the way GM will be going.
Audiobooks doesn't charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited book streaming. Instead, the first audiobook is free for 30 days, while each additional book is $14.95 per month. Subscribers must live in Canada or the United States, and books can't be streamed outside either country unless they've been downloaded to an iOS or Android device first.
Jaguar Land Rover rolled out the app integration with its InControl infotainment system in all 2015 Land Rover models, plus the Jaguar F-Type and XE lines. All 2016 models will have Audiobooks included.
"As Audiobooks.com brings in new features within their app, upgrading it on the phone or tablet will also run the latest version on InControl," says Peter Virk, head of connected technologies and apps at Jaguar Land Rover. "The best thing we find is personalization, which is important for us. I get in the vehicle with my phone and content, and then my wife gets in the same vehicle later with her phone and her content."
As a safety precaution, certain features are disabled while the car is moving, such as searching or downloading new books. Users who plug in their iOS or Android phones into the vehicle can manage playback on the dash or steering wheel controls. Virk says the visual cues will be obvious to subscribers because the look and feel closely resembles that of the mobile app.
"One of the reasons we partnered with the Audiobooks.com team was because their app already existed on iOS and Android smartphones," Virk says. "We like the seamless experience of listening to an audiobook in the living room or kitchen, and then taking the smartphone into the vehicle and have the story continue where we left off."
GM declined to comment, but confirmed in an e-mail that OnStar will be working with Audiobooks.com to integrate its content.
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