If you’re a book-based company in Edinburgh, Scotland, home of J.K. Rowling, what better way to launch a new product than to ride the hometown girl’s Harry Potter coattails?
To that end, V-Burny.com, a privately held online retailer selling downloadable audiobooks, is introducing its Player2Go, described as a subscription service for player devices that come with audiobooks, with a Potter hook. The company plans to reimburse, up to £9, anyone who becomes a Player2Go member and who has already ordered or plans to purchase the print book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in any store in the world. The offer is good for Play2Go members who send their proof of purchase to V-Burny.com by January 31, 2008.
According to company principal Victor Semo, the costly giveaway is an invaluable way to build audiobook awareness with his target market. “Thanks to podcasts, audiobooks have been gaining in popularity for the last few years, but in the general public, it is still not well known among core book-buyers,” he said. “Moreover, the audiobook market in the U.K. is quite small, but has a large potential, only £70 million in the U.K. compared to almost $1 billion in the U.S.
V-Burny’s Player2Go is available on an annual subscription basis: Premium members (£15) can keep the MP3/MP4 player as long as they want, while Basic members (£10) keep it for up to 10 days. The service is also available on a pay-as-you-go basis for £3.99 per day and the portable player can be kept up to 10 days. Customers can transfer the audiobook to their computer or burn it onto CD when they receive the player. Postage is free both ways.
Semo and V-Burny co-founder Frank Masquefa have been following research that shows most iPod and MP3 owners in the U.K. fall into the 12-30-year-old age bracket. V-Burny is targeting the younger group’s parents, who may not own a player, or who may be confounded about how to load or work the one they may own.
In the U.S., Cleveland, Ohio-based Findaway World followed a similar strategy when it launched its Playaway product, a self-contained MP3 downloaded audiobook (replete with battery and headphones) sold at retail and circulated in libraries. The company has cited “rapid growth” in recent months and has expanded business to the U.K., making about 50 titles available there in May.
Player2Go currently offers roughly 250 titles and has licensing deals with such publishers as HarperCollins; Listen & Live; Little, Brown; and Timberwolf. Semo noted, “We have just signed with BBC Audiobooks, and they should send us around 500 titles in the coming weeks. And we are in talks with around 10 audiobook publishers, including Random House.”
Among the most popular titles to date are the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books; Saturday by Ian McEwan; the New York Times Pocket MBA series; and Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club.