Spotify introduces audiobooks but with some major caveats

Spotify played a massive part in changing how people listen to music these days compared to less than 20 years ago. Their model was then extended to podcasts, allowing users to listen to thoughtful conversations spanning various genres and niches without a separate app.

Now, Spotify has just announced the company is extending its services by introducing audiobooks to the platform. For starters, the audiobook catalogue will only be available to users in the United States. Furthermore, unlike music and podcasts, you will not be able to stream audiobooks for free even if you are a premium Spotify user. You will, instead, have to individually purchase each audiobook that you want to listen to.

At the moment, the audiobook catalogue stands at 300,000+ titles recommended by Spotify editors. Spotify however commits to expanding this catalogue and also extending the service to other markets rather than only being restricted to the US. In due time, the company says it will be able to use algorithmic recommendations to suggest books to users, as it already does with music and podcasts.

There is a new “Audiobooks” section in the updated Spotify app, where users in the US will also find users’ curated recommendations. Similar to its competitors, Spotify will let you download titles for offline listening, adjust the playback speed, rate titles and also listen across devices.

The key difference between Spotify’s approach and other companies’ is each book is individually priced on Spotify, unlike other platforms where all books carry a set consistent price tag. Spotify claims this will be their biggest advantage.

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“We think that a more fluid pricing model would actually allow for both an audience that has never consumed this format to start consuming it on Spotify,” explained Nir Zicherman, Spotify VP and Global Head of Audiobooks and Gated Content

Another change compared to its competitors is that Spotify will not be using the app stores’ own payment systems for its audiobook sales. Users will be offered free previews of the book, but will then be directed to Spotify’s website to complete their purchases. Once the payment is completed, the purchased audiobook will then be unlocked in the app and saved to the user’s library.

This is not the end game for Spotify, as their press release explains that they are also exploring other business models, with things like subscriptions and advertising being considered.

“We see an opportunity to innovate in a substantially untapped market. Audiobooks represent just a 6-7% share of the wider book market, and that category is growing by 20% year-over-year. We believe that we have the potential to massively expand the audience for audiobooks, bringing the work of extraordinary authors into people’s lives. And we intend to take audiobooks further than ever before. Just as Spotify has changed the way that people create and listen to music and podcasts, we believe we can do the same thing over time with audiobooks by offering new formats, new ways to interact with content, and new ways to discover,” Nir Zicherman explains.

While more features are always welcome, being required to buy each book you want to listen to might rub some people the wrong way. When a freemium model similar to music and podcasts is introduced, Spotify will more easily attract listeners who have never tried audiobooks before.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly