Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level II

In my last post, I commentated on why Scribd survived while Oyster was shut down.

This week, I’ll examine a Scribd competitor: Audible.

I’ll be sharing my experience with the audiobook subscription through the lens of Octalysis Level II, highlighting important gamification techniques and the 8 Core Drives of motivation at each of the Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame phases to get me to take Desired Actions.

I first used Audible to download Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest business book: #AskGaryVee.

As always, let’s use the following 8 Core Drives of Octalysis:


Discovery is a user’s first contact with a product (video).

Every week, I listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, which is sponsored by Audible. Each week, mid-show, authors recommend a book on Audible. I also watch a fair amount of Gary Vaynerchuk’s content on Youtube. When his latest business book came out, I decided it was time to try Audible.

As such an avid reader, why wasn’t I already using Audible? Basically, I was slow to join since I prefer reading to listening, (I purchase up to four print books a month) and was already using Scribd’s audiobook features.

But Audible gives readers a Head Start (CD2): your first book is free. I wanted to listen to Gary V’s book, and it cost me nothing to try it out.

In this case, I’d known about Audible a long time. But the trigger occurred when I wanted to listen to a book and knew I could find it on Audible.


Onboarding is a user’s first use of a product.

After deciding I was going to try Audible, I downloaded the iPhone app. I then noticed I had to add/buy books from a browser.

At first, I thought this was annoying. But the annoyance didn’t last long. I knew what I wanted (the Gary V book), but I also noticed the curated lists and made a note to check these out later (CD7). In the sense of Nir Eyal’s Hooked Model, I made the small investment of effort (logging into in a browser) and was rewarded with the introduction to the curated lists in addition to the free book I intended to download.


During the checkout process, I noticed the fake price and price-with-credit of $0. I imagine this makes people feel smart. (Later, I purchased Dune with a credit, normally $48!)

I was also introduced to the three-part rating system: performance, story, overall. ? I like this because some books have great, multiple-voice-actor performances (as Dune did). This gave me confidence with my decision but also foreshadowed how I would search for books in future (I’ve actually avoided getting some titles because of poor voice acting performances).

What gave me more confidence was the Head Start through the ability to sample the book without using my credit. I heard Gary V’s energy-filled sincere voice and was ready to trade my credit for more of his business knowledge and philosophy.

After purchasing my first book, I was pleased to see it show up on my Audible app immediately. I started listening.


Scaffolding is where a user familiarizes herself with a product and gets more out of it, building habits. Action and reward cycles are key here, accomodating for extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

I came back to the Gary V book a few days later when I was about to make a short road trip. I wouldn’t have wifi. Then I found I could save/download the book to my phone (CD3 and CD4). I only have a 16GB iPhone, so had to delete a few apps and move photos to Dropbox to make room for the book.

Upon completing the book, I received a congratulatory High Five and Crowning. (CD2). I also gained the ability to send the book to a friend (CD5).

BUT, I also “received” a Torture Break (CD6): I wouldn’t receive my next credit until 20 days later. This waiting period is inherent to any subscription service, from Dollar Shave Club to Birchbox. For my player type, the Avid Reader (we won’t get into Octalysis Level III too much here), this waiting period feels very Black Hat. Of course, I could always purchase more credits at a discount:


Instead, I found myself instead replaying parts of the Gary V book I’d enjoyed. I got better with the controls, using bookmarks, and saving notes to view later (CD2 and CD4).

Then, 20 days later, I got this email:


A new credit! Notice the email provides recommendations based on past purchases and new releases (CD4 via the Alfred Effect and CD7).

Next, I tried a fantasy novel recommended by the Writing Excuses podcast, The Fifth Season, but only after sampling a few other novels, like A Wizard of Earthsea (a childhood favorite). Audible benefits from Meaningful Choices (CD3), since a reader’s decision on how to use the scarce single credit means she will also be empowered by that decision.

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I quickly downloaded Fifth Season onto my iPhone for easy listening even when I wasn’t connected to wifi (CD3).

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I took advantage of the clip feature, too, to begin saving especially strong passages I wanted to replay later. I will probably occasionally share these with friends or my writing group later, too (CD5). (I can now review the important parts in my study of the book without listening to the entire book again.)

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Sharing short clips also provides a way for Audible to be discovered by my friends and followers. A very nice touch from the Audible team. The receiver can listen to the clips without Audible (all she needs is a browser).

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Later Stages of Scaffolding

One time, while waiting for a new credit, I received a badge: Mount Everest.

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This prompted me to investigate the Achievement Symbol further (CD2). I found the Quest List (showing remaining badges and tasks to achieve them).

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Having noticed the Quest List, I wondered how I would achieve, for instance, a multi-day reading streak having just completed a book. Then I tapped around the app and found the short story collections that come included with the service (for instance, 7 Days of Anton Chekhov).

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This simple action alone gave me:

  • A boost from feeling smart (having found how I would achieve multi-day reading badges; CD2)
  • A new discovery! (CD7)
  • The anticipation of future accomplishment through a combination of Earned Lunch (Fixed-Action Rewards) and Anticipation Parade (CD2 and CD6)
  • The chance to build a habit with Audible, since the Anton Chekhov stories span seven days (see Nir Eyal’s Hooked Model)
  • A reduction in the Black Hat of scarcity and impatience as I waited for my next credit (reducing CD6)

This short story collection is part of the larger Channels feature, additional curated bonus content available with a standard Audible subscription:

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The Endgame is any product’s goal: a user who happily returns again and again.

Audible’s successful Endgame envisions a user listening and sharing books month after month. Depending on her player type, the reader is likely driven by several Core Drives:

  • CD1: The reader has a chance to learn about something related to their epic meaning or calling
  • CD2: Every month the reader reads a book, enriching her mind
  • CD3: The reader is free to choose from 180,000 high-quality audiobooks
  • CD4: The reader adds a new book to her collection each month
  • CD5: The reader gets to share what she’s reading with friends
  • CD6: Scarcity (only one book credit per month) ensures the reader wants more and is ready when a new month starts
  • CD7: There’s always more to read and experience. When paired with CD4 and the Alfred Effect, recommendations are on point. Audible has also shown a dedication to adding new content through its Channels feature.
  • CD8: If the reader leaves, she’ll lose access to her books (and the reading streaks she’s accumulated)

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My Endgame experience is just beginning.

I appreciate the quality of books Audible has attracted (it’s the #1 place for publishers to position their top titles), and enjoy what I can learn from reading (CD2, in line with my goals of becoming a better fiction writer) and the experience itself (CD7). My learning and experience also plays into my epic meaning and calling of writing fiction (CD1).

I also like the Replay experience via clips I’ve recorded (CD2 and CD4). And who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to add value to my writing group with shared clips (CD5).

My recent stats suggest I’m using Audible like Audible wants me to:

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In June, I averaged an hour per day on Audible. But I still have a long way to go to become a Master listener:

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What Was Your Experience

Is your Audible experience similar or different to mine? Let me know in the comments!

Audible does a nice job moving the reader through the Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame phases and repeatedly taking Desired Actions, mainly the downloading and enjoyment of new books every month.

As an Avid Reader (one of several player types I would discuss if we were going deeper into Octalysis Level III), I definitely feel I’m being accounted for and catered to. However, I also know casual readers who still enjoy their one book per month on Audible and will be long-term users of the service.

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