When Tamir Koch, CEO of TriPlay, bought eMusic last fall, he acknowledged that he was primarily interested in looking to marry eMusic’s song library with TriPlay’s cloud service. He knew that eMusic also owned a digital audiobook business, but he didn’t anticipate that developing a new downloadable audio service would be a priority. After looking into the business and the explosive growth that downloadable audio has experienced in the last few years, however, Koch decided that the market was ripe for a new entrant. As a result, in mid-July eMusic launched eStories, a audiobook subscription service.
In entering the downloadable audio business, Koch said he sees the Audible/Amazon combination not as an 800-pound gorilla but as a “two-ton gorilla.” To get the attention of the audiobook consumer, eStories has priced its lowest-price package at $11.99 for one audiobook per month that can be played on five devices. Its most popular package is the $21.99 monthly offer that gives customers two audiobooks per month that can be played on seven devices.
It is the combination of low prices and more device choices that Koch is counting on to attract audiobook consumers. To that end, Koch pointed to eStories’ ability to be played on 13 platforms, including the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. In eStories’ most expensive monthly package, which costs $49.99, audiobooks can be synced on up to 10 different devices. And by using TriPlay’s cloud service, consumers can store an unlimited number of titles. “We want to empower audiobook consumers,” Koch said.
When TriPlay bought eMusic, they had about 26,000 audiobooks, a figure that rose to about 80,000 under a deal with Findaway. By the end of the year, Koch expects eStories to have its catalogue up to about 100,000 titles. Further down the road, Koch hopes to offer some exclusive items, but he emphasized that the goal at launch was to make the most popular audiobooks available to consumers, something the Findaway deal accomplished.
As part of its makeover of the old eMusic service, TriPlay has completely overhauled the eMusic storefront. “We’ve redesigned it to shine a light on the audiobooks,” Koch said. Koch is looking to add more content on the site to give consumers more detailed information about the audiobooks and their narrators, to help them discover the title they want.
Ana Maria Allessi, head of audiobooks for HarperCollins, said that one thing in eStories’ favor is a partnership with Findaway, whom she believes is the best at easily delivering downloadable audiobooks. The key for eStories in getting a slice of the audiobook market, Allesi said, will be developing enough consumer awareness about the new offering.
Part of eStories’ marketing effort will be reaching out to former eMusic customers. Koch said many of those customers had a bad experience trying the service in the past, in part because the vast majority were using desktop computers. As part of the new upgraded offering, Koch expects most of eStories’ customers to be using mobile devices.
With TriPlay’s entry into the audiobook field, could they be eyeing the e-book market? “It’s worth considering,” Koch said, before adding some important caveats. “We would only get involved if our technology could be used to improve the user experience,” Koch said. “There were obvious ways we could do that for audiobooks. The problem with e-books is that a company needs to have a device to be successful. We are not in the hardware market.”