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After spending the past few years teasing its literary ambitions and acquiring the audiobook platform Findaway for $119 million (€117 million), Spotify has formally launched its audiobooks business with an à la carte model that will allow users to purchase and download individual audiobooks.
At launch, Spotify’s audiobooks catalog includes 300,000 titles from major and independent publishers for users in the U.S. Audiobooks can be discovered via the search function on the Spotify app, and buyers will be redirected to a separate web page to make their purchase. Once completed, users can return to the Spotify app to listen to the book, online and offline.
Unlike audiobook competitors such as Amazon’s Audible, which provides discounts and credits toward audiobooks for subscribers, Spotify is not offering audiobook discounts for Premium subscribers — at least at launch.
During a call with reporters, Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s vp and global head of audiobooks and gated content, said the company is actively exploring other business models but, after speaking with industry partners, determined the à la carte model “was the best way to begin activating audiobooks and learning from how people interact with individual titles.”
Since Spotify is acting as the retailer for its catalog of audiobooks, the audio giant is determining pricing for each title. Zicherman described the pricing as “consistent with industry norms” and noted that the royalty rates vary based on publisher.
And unlike its podcasts, which include ads even for Premium subscribers, Spotify will not be including advertising in its à la carte audiobooks business, though Zicherman said the company is “well positioned to explore” an ad-based model in the future, as well as other business models.
Though there will be no Spotify-exclusive audiobooks at launch, users can also likely expect to listen to those in the future, as the company previously experimented with the format last year with celebrity-narrated versions of classic novels like Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The company will also add algorithmically curated recommendations based on a user’s listening habits at a later date, but at launch, Spotify will lean on editorially curated recommendations for listeners.
“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,” Zicherman said. “We want to be the company that brings audiobooks into the future, and we are extremely excited about what the future will look like.”
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