Audible Captions: A Demonstration

Richard Stern, Audible's Chief Product Officer, explains Immersion Reading and Audible Captions.
Richard Stern, Audible's Chief Product Officer, demonstrates Audible Captions and Immersion Reading.
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Audible response to August 23 claims by the AAP regarding the Captions feature

We are surprised and disappointed by this action and any implication that we have not been speaking and working with publishers about this feature, which has not yet launched. Captions was developed because we, like so many leading educators and parents, want to help kids who are not reading engage more through listening. This feature would allow such listeners to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance. It is not and was never intended to be a book. We disagree with the claims that this violates any rights and look forward to working with publishers and members of the professional creative community to help them better understand the educational and accessibility benefits of this innovation.

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Twenty-plus years ago, Audible pioneered a new medium to redefine and enhance the nature of spoken information, education, and entertainment. Built on a love of words and performances and a deep appreciation for the writers and actors who together create unforgettable listening experiences, Audible now reaches many millions of subscribers around the world. However, we have always believed we should do more. We believe companies can have a heart and soul, and a mission that transcends financial success. This conviction imbues everything we do.

To boost engagement with literature in Newark, our Project Listen Up program provides high school students across the city with Audible memberships and includes a bundle of over 150 educator-selected audiobooks. In the program’s first year, we reached more than 11,000 students, and we are continuing to invest in and scale this effort in the years ahead.

Recently, we also announced another free initiative, which we believe will help enhance the experience of literature for students, and likely many others – Audible Captions. When the program launches, it will allow listeners to follow along with a few lines of text as they hear the audiobook performed by one of the many talented actors we work with every day.

We developed this technology because we believe our culture, particularly in under-resourced environments, is at risk of losing a significant portion of the next generation of book readers. We have heard from so many teachers and educators that they want to find new ways to improve literacy rates and inspire students to pick up a book and read.

Today, we face the first generation of non-readers in our history, with less than 20 percent of U.S. teens reporting they read a book, magazine or newspaper daily for pleasure. We are committed to doing what we can to help address this serious issue and we believe marshalling new technology like Captions to meet students where they are, via an audio service on their phone or tablet, is a step in the right direction. We are actively speaking with educators, publishers and others to help ensure this free, new technology does all it can to make a meaningful difference.

Thanks for listening.

Don Katz

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1. What is Audible Captions?

Audible Captions is a soon-to-launch technology that will provide, at user request, machine-generated transcriptions to accompany Audible content s/he already owns. When the feature launches in September, at the start of the 2019 school year, it will allow listeners who choose to enable Captions to see a few lines of machine-generated text at a time as they hear the audiobook performed. We expect the feature to be available for all titles that pass our quality threshold.

2. Why did you develop Captions?

Audible Captions was designed with students in mind. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, it will be made available free with a curated bundle of selected titles to over 150,000 public school students across the country. The Audible Captions functionality was requested by Newark high school students using Audible as part of our Project Listen Up program, and we believe that in addition to meeting student needs it will increase accessibility for all listeners who face challenges understanding words. We will be making it available at no cost to all Audible customers, so students, parents and listeners everywhere can have access to this technology. While Audible will make the audiobooks available at no charge to students, all rights holders will be paid their standard royalties.

3. How is Captions different from an eBook?

Audible Captions does not make an eBook available to customers. It does not replicate or replace the print or eBook reading experience. Text is displayed progressively, and only a few lines at a time, while audio is playing, and listeners cannot read at their own pace or flip through pages as they could with a print book or eBook.

As Captions are computer-generated using automated technology, transcriptions are not an exact copy of the text, and errors may happen from time to time. Captions will be displayed only for audio that can be transcribed at a sufficiently high accuracy rate when requested by listeners.