New Audiobook Platforms Launch to Compete With Amazon’s Audible | Books

A new audiobook platform that aims to create a “delightful, welcoming, independent bookstore-like atmosphere” has been launched as audio giant Spotify also enters the burgeoning audiobook market.

Spiracle features titles from a variety of publishers, but its focus is on independent presses and on offering a range of literary fiction and nonfiction, including books in translation.

Director Kate Bland said the intention was not to “offer every book ever made into an audiobook, but we are selecting what we hope to be a truly wonderful series of international books and translations”.

Spiracle produces a number of audiobooks itself in partnership with independent publishers and operates on a subscription model, with users paying a monthly or annual fee for access. People can also buy titles once.

Bland said the company operated “on the basis that there are book lovers out there who want to buy their audiobooks and be part of a literary atmosphere that is all about the fun and life and world you can have in books”.

She said she hoped the company would succeed because of “people’s desire to have independent platforms”.

Spiracle officially launches on October 6 and isn’t the only new player in the area; last month, Spotify also started offering audiobooks to customers in the US.

The streaming service has a catalog of more than 300,000 audiobook titles, which users must purchase on an individual basis if they want to listen to them, even if they have a paid version of Spotify.

Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s vice president and global head of audiobooks and gated content, said the company had “always believed that the potential for audio is limitless” and that it saw a “substantial untapped market.”

According to Nielsen, which tracks book sales, “UK audiobook purchases hit the highest 12-month period ever recorded” between July 2020 and June 2021. While they currently only have a 6% share of the UK book market, Nielsen said that the “format has certainly taken its place in the book market, especially after gaining a large number of new fans during pandemic lockdowns”.

Last year, Spotify also bought Findaway, which was founded in 2005 and built Playaway, described as a “circulation built, preloaded audiobook player”. It now does digital audiobook distribution and has a self-publishing platform for independent authors called Findaway Voices. Spotify’s purchase of Findaway has not yet been approved by the US Department of Justice.

The audiobook market has been dominated for years by Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon, and other companies, especially smaller ones, are struggling to penetrate.

In 2021 the app hibooks, which initially operated on an £8.99 all-you-can-eat model, will be discontinued. The UK was the third largest market, but a comment on the website said that “unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to discontinue our service earlier than expected”. Hibooks said developers would be “working on a new platform to offer free audio content, including some of your favorite classic titles,” although there is currently no information on this.

There are a number of other smaller audiobook platforms in operation, some of which operate through a subscription model and others by title.

Among them is Storytel, which is available in 25 countries around the world, although the UK is not yet one of them. It has over 50,000 titles available to listen to and uses a streaming model. It also operates under the Mofibo brand.

Audiobooks.com charges users £7.99 per month, with that cost covering one “premium” and one “VIP” book – a book from an exclusive selection – each month. Users can also purchase credit to add to their subscriptions, with one credit granting access to one audiobook.

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