While Google has worked to quickly close the gap between Google Home ($129 at Dell Home) and Alexa, there was one major multimedia box that Google hadn't ticked yet: audiobooks. Until Tuesday, that is.
Alongside, movies, TV, magazine subscriptions, books, Android apps and music, Google just added audiobooks to Google Play. You'll find these audiobooks under the Books section, and they're available now in 45 countries and nine languages.
Unlike Amazon's subscription approach to audiobooks with Audible, Google is simply selling audiobooks outright -- they must be purchased, but they'll be added to your account and can be shared with family members who you add to your Family Library. For the launch, Google has also slashed the price of many titles and (for a limited time) is offering a 50-percent-off coupon for your first audiobook purchase.
But the importance of audiobooks in Google Play is that you no longer have to cast or stream audiobooks over Bluetooth to listen to them on your Google Home speaker. Audiobooks from Google Play are available on Android and iOS devices (through the Google Play Books app), the web and most devices that support Google Assistant. (Audiobooks work in Google Assistant on Android phones, but not on iOS devices for now, and support for Android Auto is coming.)
This means you can listen to audiobooks on all your devices and seamlessly switch between them. You can go from listening to a book at home through Chromecast ($30 at eBay) on the living room TV, pick up from your phone or car on your commute to work and listen to it on your bedroom Google Home speaker without ever losing your place or skipping a beat.
To start listening to an audiobook on Google Home, you must first purchase a title. You'll have to do this at play.google.com or within the Google Play Books app. Also, make sure you purchase it from the correct account.
Once you have an audiobook in your library, here are some of the commands you can use:
- Play the most recently listened to audiobook: "OK, Google, read my book."
- Request a specific audiobook: "OK, Google, read [book title]."
- Change chapters: "OK, Google, previous/next chapter."
- Check how much time is remaining: "OK, Google, how much time is left?"
- Find out who the author is: "OK, Google, who wrote this?"
- Listen to the audiobook on another device: "OK, Google, read my book on [Chromecast name]."
Play controls for other playback features, such as music or podcasts, work the same for audiobooks.
- Play or pause: "OK, Google, resume/continue/pause."
- Stop: "OK, Google, stop."
- Set a sleep timer: "OK, Google, stop in 30 minutes."
- Skip ahead: "OK, Google, skip ahead 10 minutes/seconds."
- Go back: "OK, Google, go back 10 minutes/seconds."
Unfortunately, through Google Home and voice commands, it's not possible to change the playback speed. However, you can use the Google Play Books app from iOS or an Android device to cast the book to your Google Home speaker and choose from 0.5x to 2x playback speed, as well as select a specific chapter to play.