UPDATED with U.S. debut. Spotify, which last month launched audiobooks in the UK and Australia as part of its offerings for Premium subscribers, has expanded the new business to the U.S.
U.S. subscribers will now have access to 200,000 audiobook titles, the company announced Wednesday. At launch, 15 hours of listening will be included at no extra charge, with 10-hour “top-ups” available for purchase.
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The move gives subscribers book options alongside 100 million music tracks and 5 million podcasts, the company said.
Spotify is making a major push into the audiobook sector, adding more than 150,000 titles to its existing Premium subscription plans.
The streaming company announced details at an event at its New York headquarters today headlined by CEO Daniel Ek. The UK and Australia are the initial territories with audiobooks, and other parts of the world will soon follow, including the U.S. this winter.
“This is a big step in the evolution of Spotify,” Ek said. Recalling the founding of the company in 2006, he added, “the world looked very different than it does now.” The music industry at the time was in turmoil, beset by piracy and facing an existential crisis as legacy revenues plunged. After it had made a successful entry into the music business, Ek said, Spotify then moved to podcasting in 2018, finding that podcast listeners also listened to a lot of music and vice versa, creating a virtuous cycle. The idea is for audiobooks to provide the next opportunity for growth.
Ther audiobooks effort will give Spotify Premium subscribers access to 15 hours of audiobook listening each month, with additional 10-hour re-ups available for stand-alone purchase.
Audiobooks can be downloaded for offline listening, with features enabling automatic bookmarking and ways to track monthly listening. Selections will be curated and suggested to users via a hub on the main Spotify page.
As with the music and podcast sectors, audiobooks “has one big, dominant player,” Ek said, alluding to Amazon. Taking some market share from a tech rival “gives great flexibility to our business, which will help revenue and then profit,” the exec said. “All major publishers” are on board for the initiative, he added.
The event in New York was also to include a panel discussion featuring Jennette McCurdy, Min Jin Lee, and Yomi Adegoke and musical performances by Joy Oladokun and Alicia Keys.
Adegoke said she was looking forward to returning home to the UK in order to take advantage of the new service and said her thinking has changed over the years as the medium has matured. “There’s a certain snobbery around it,” she said. While she used to view it as “cheating,” she said she now considers it “exciting” to expand the audience for books. Lee said in an environment of book banning and threats to democracy, she said it is important to open new avenues of access for authors and publishers.
“Someone actually came up to me yesterday and said, ‘I couldn’t make it more than halfway through your book, but when I listened to it, it flew by and I listened to the whole thing,'” McCurdy said. “I was, frankly, offended,” she laughed, “but I was thinking about it more and it made me excited to open up new ways for people to engage with books.”
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