Is Playaway Business Model Workable?

October 3, 2006

At the Intuitie Life Business Blog, Dave Taylor gave his assessment of the Playaway audio player, which is a device that comes pre-loaded with an audio book–you buy it, listen to it, and dispose of it in whatever way you choose, (or you could keep it around of course). The point is that it’s highly mobile and you don’t need a separate player to use it. You can imagine that this would be very convenient for air travelers especially.

The Playaway’s mother company is a local Cleveland firm called Findaway, and, as I like the idea of local businesses becoming successful, I was interested to see what Taylor had to say.

In a nutshell, Taylor liked the mobility, but cracked on the audio quality and also thought it was too expensive. He also had some concerns about what to do with the Playaway once you’re done with it.

I can’t speak to the audio quality, but otherwise I don’t know that Taylor has a legitimate beef with any other aspect.

He says the Playaway’s too expensive, that the same book could be downloaded from Audible.com or iTunes cheaper. Yes, but the Playaway’s not trying to outgun downloadable audio books, it’s going for the convenience market. If I’m in an airport and want that audio book and know I can start listening right off, that’s a selling point. Convenience costs, and many people are willing to pay. The question for Playaway is whether it has enough of a potential user base that wants an all-in-one solution–how many of these things can be sold in places where other types of audio books aren’t convenient?

Taylor’s questions on what to do with the Playaway once you’ve listened to your title don’t make much sense to me. What do you do with a digital download? What do you do with a book? What do you do with a set of audio CDs? What to do with readable/listenable media is a question no matter what type it is. Why do you think it’s so easy to find books at garage sales or super cheap at the half-price book store? Because once you’ve read it/listened to it, you really don’t have a use for it in most cases, especially when you’re talking about fiction. The Playaway’s no different (although I do agree that it may be less environmentally-friendly).

Taylor’s got some interesting suggestions to improve the Playaway concept, like doing a Netflix-style service that gives you a discount on your next Playaway when you send the first one back. And, it so happens, one of the Findaway principles showed up at Taylor’s blog to say they’re going to do just that.

I have no stake in Findaway, don’t know the guys who are part of it, so I have no skin in this game. But I think Taylor’s assessment is based too much on how HE likes to listen to media and not on the potential audience that would like this type of product. On the other hand, Findaway sent him the player hoping he would review it, so it stands to reason he’s going to give his opinion based on his lifestyle and not provide an objective view of the market, etc.

Anyway, both Taylor’s review and the ensuing comments are interesting, so take a look why dontcha.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world. 



  1. Brilliant Website. Please take a look at my website. Let me know what you think.
    Maybe you will link to it…Thank You.

  2. I don’t think that their business model was really thought to the end. With todays consumers buying MP3 players, iPods, Zune’s and how ever else these players are called, my oppinion is that you need to separate the machine from the content.

    Why would somebody want to buy a machine everytime he only wants content. Or why woudl I want to bother returning the old player to get a new one?

    Downloadable audio books are what will be in high demand and already now is popular with music. I see a steady increase in audio book downloads from my audiobook store where we only offer audiobooks for download. No more CD’s, tapes or preloaded onto players books. This is the model that works and will continue to work for the next few years. Nowadays you can’t tell mich further than a few years ahead anyhow…

    Audio Books Corner

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