Case Study - Research

The Challenge

Audiobooks and podcasting are the fastest growing audio segments on mobile. Users who listen to audiobooks don’t enjoy the benefits of dog-earing pages, highlighting excerpts or leaving notes on their favorite pages… they also lose the nostalgic aspects of owning a book and watching it age. This leaves a lot to be desired from the audio experience on mobile.

Develop a business case for an audiobook app that is highly personal, highly interactive and with the ability to bring even more utility to the user than a book ever could.

Constraint: All suggested technologies need to exist, or have the ability to realistically exist within the next 6 months.


As someone who is an avid audio learner, I have used Audible for a while. Especially through college, I did not want to spend too much money on audiobooks, so would utilize the functions of OverDrive through the library app. That being said, some books would take months before it would be available to read, making Audible a more lucrative option for a book I wanted or needed to read right away. Turns out I was not alone in this way of utilizing audiobooks. 

Audiobooks are becoming a booming market. In 2019, 50% of Americans over the age of 12 listened to an audiobook. The majority of listeners (74%) do so from their car, followed by 68% of listening at home.  


of listeners use free sources

(ex: public library)


of listeners use paid sources (ex: Audible) 


of listeners use a combo of both


While my love for audiobooks inspires me to create a platform that is usable, I need to recognize that I am not the (only) user. So, let’s see what they have to say! 


To better understand the likes and pain points of audiobooks, I focused on two apps: Audible and Libby (OverDrive). I looked at the review comments for both apps in the past two months. See my results below.



  • Wish for in-app purchases

  • Current version does not sync with Smart Watches

  • Desire to sort their library

  • Affordability 


  • Long waitlists

  • Difficult to distinguish Audiobooks & eBooks

  • Does not sync across devices


What is missing?

Ah yes, what I looked at was those people who already love and use audiobooks in their lives. They found Libby and Audible to a great way to spend their time, yet have some critiques on how to make the interface more usable. This however does not include those who love to read actual books. So, why do they read actual book, versus listening to them? 


I conducted a series of 5 interviews of avid book readers to see why they read books, what is the purpose of their reading, and how they interact with the book. This was done to learn if there was any sway in whether or not they would utilize an audiobook app if it had certain features. Common themes that arose include: 

Limit screen time

Like the action of turning pages

Read for purpose (ex: book club)

Empathize & Define

From here, I created three user personas to guide my designs.


Age: 35

Occupation: Advertising

Gender: Female


Local everything from shop small Saturday to supporting local libraries 

Mom and wants to have something to listen to on the run while still be affordable for a growing family. From work, to getting kids to school, X needs to be able to listen to books on her commute in an easy and safe (hands-free) way


Cannot organize the books into folders – Reads both for fun and to keep up with her friends at their Book Club. Envisions sorting her personal book away from the less sophisticated ones for Book Club.

Uses her local library, but frustrated at the length in time needed for her to get a book – especially for her Book Club’s new releases


Age: 24

Occupation: Real Estate

Gender: Male


Needs to be quick and easy to use 

Needs to sync with smart technology – particularly his Apple Watch


In-App purchases are not functional, and adds time to his already busy day


Age: 45

Occupation: Teacher

Gender: Female


Could be swayed to listening to audiobooks more than she already does

Looking for books to be a way to transport her to a space that is beyond the present world

Needs the ability to write down quotes and take notes for her students 



Wants to cut back on screen time, so any steps that can keep her from having to push more buttons to get through an app the better

How can we bring the cozy blanket, warm sup of tea, and energizing nature to the audiobook industry? 

Business Case

From my research, I found that many people enjoyed the apps that they were already using, whether it was Audible or Libby – however not one app has them all. With Libby you can borrow e-reader books, but need a different app with a different user interface. When you use Audible, there are not ways to get books directly from the app, and are not as many free books. 


Most use the app as a means to keep reading among the busyness of the day – but what if they are like those who prefer books? How can we encourage healthy lives for the user, while also making it convenient for them to continue to learn and develop when it is convenient for them? Therefore, a strong argument could be made for an app that would have the capability to listen, read, and direct the users to the page in their own book – all in one interface.