Spotify opens a premium library

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The Future. After taking the podcast industry by storm, Spotify is pushing in the chips on its nascent audiobooks business, including a free set amount of listening time to current premium subscriptions. While the novel approach to giving users access to audiobooks may send users rushing to the proverbial digital bookshelves (and send Spotify’s stock soaring), it could also upend the literary business in the same way streaming changed music forever.

Spotify is offering 15 hours of audiobook content each month to premium subscribers — now available in Britain and Australia and rolling out in the US this winter.

  • While hours seem like an odd metric, the average audiobook lasts seven to ten hours, so users are essentially getting one to two books as part of their subscriptions.
  • If users want more, they can pay an additional $10.99 for ten more hours of audiobook content — an improvement on Spotify’s previous à la carte method.
  • And subscribers will have plenty to choose from — Spotify inked deals with the five big US publishers and hundreds of smaller ones, giving users access to over 150,000 titles.

Spotify has told publishers and authors the audiobooks will be given the full music treatment — algorithmic recommendations to users, promotion possibilities tied to podcasts, and demographic breakdowns of listeners.

But while that puts a lot of access and data in the hands of authors and publishers, many are worried the hours metric and payment model (publishers are paid royalties on titles by how many hours they’ve listened to) could devalue their work and ultimately hurt compensation. 

Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor and a former executive at Google and Apple, compares this to how iTunes revolutionized music sales by teaching people to pay $0.99 for specific songs instead of purchasing the whole album — pay for what you want to consume, not what the artist wants you to consume.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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