Spotify Rolls Out U.S. Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles

Spotify is expanding beyond music and podcasts by adding audiobooks. The company is starting out with just over 300,000 titles, available for purchase in the U.S. “This is just the beginning,” says Spotify, promising a geographic expansion. In June, the audio streamer completed its purchase of global audiobooks distributor Findaway, announced last year. The acquisition was designed to make it a major player on entry, competing with Amazon’s Audible, the nation’s biggest audiobook service. Unlike Audible, Spotify is individually pricing audiobook titles and offering them à la carte, not by subscription.

Apple and Google have similar sales models. Spotify VP and global head of audiobooks and gated content Nir Zicherman told reporters at a briefing that the “fluid pricing model” will enable Spotify to attract “an audience that has never consumed this format” while also pleasing audiobook fans. “Plus, he added, it could work for authors who may not have found their audience in the past,” TechCrunch reports, adding that its “royalty rates will be consistent with industry norms.”

Spotify will initially use a recommendation system based on editor suggestions, though it plans to migrate to an algorithmically generated discovery list as the service evolves. Eventually curated recommendations will begin appearing in other areas. Spotify is using a UI specially designed for audiobooks that offers “a set of standard features, including the ability to download titles for offline listening, adjust the playback speed, rate titles and listen across devices,” notes TechCrunch.

“Spotify, which has been fighting Apple over its in-app purchase policies, said users will be directed to make audiobook purchases via a web browser instead of inside the app — a move that means Apple won’t be taking up to a 30 percent commission for downloads,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently highlighted audiobooks as “part of his vision to grow the company to 10 times its current size,” explains WSJ. Specifically, “Ek said he believes the overall audiobook market could drive $70 billion in annual revenue, and margins over 40 percent for the Spotify unit.” Currently, audiobooks account for an estimated 6-7 percent of book sales.

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group president Amanda D’Acierno told WSJ her authors are frequent guests on podcasts carried on Spotify, offering synergistic opportunities. “D’Acierno pointed to U2 frontman Bono’s memoir ‘Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story,’ which comes out November 1, as an example,” WSJ writes, noting U2 “has more than 17 million monthly listeners on Spotify.”

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