Audio streaming subscription platform Spotify, best known for its dominant music and podcast services, has officially launched its audiobook business in the U.S. Beginning today, Spotify listeners will be able to access a new audiobook-specific user interface to purchase audiobooks from an collection of more than 300,000 titles that features entries from major publishers (including Hachette Audio, Penguin Random House Audio, and Simon & Schuster Audio) as well as independents, in a variety of genres, and will include works by such bestselling authors as Colleen Hoover, Stephen King, and Michelle Obama.
In a live-streamed press preview, Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s v-p and global head of audiobooks, called this move the next step in the company’s broader “ambition to become the complete destination for all of people’s listening needs.” Zicherman explained that with Spotify’s entry into podcasts over the past few years, “we made a bet that people would prefer to have a single platform built on user behavior, as in listening, as opposed to content types, as in music or podcasts.” By introducing audiobooks to the lineup, “we see an opportunity to innovate in a substantially untapped market,” he said. “We believe that we have a potential to massively expand the audience for audiobooks.”
To start, Spotify’s audiobooks hub will follow an a la carte business model, through which users purchase individual titles on a linked web page via credit card and save them to their Spotify library. Customers will be able to download audiobooks for offline listening, and the user interface provides speed control options, automatic bookmarking, and a rating feature.
As is the case with other Spotify offerings, audiobook listeners will be able to access their titles across Spotify platforms and compatible devices like smart speakers and cars. “Pricing on the retail side is set by the retailer—in this case, Spotify—which is consistent with industry norms,” Zicherman said. (Each title will be individually priced.)
Spotify has been signaling a foray into audiobooks for a couple of years, most prominently with its acquisition of digital audiobook publisher and distributor Findaway, which was completed in June. According to Zicherman, Spotify’s inaugural audiobook catalog will include titles from the Findaway Voices self-publishing tool for independent audiobook creators and from the Findaway Publishing imprint, and will continue to do so moving forward.
Zicherman stressed that today’s rollout is the merely the first iteration of Spotify’s audiobook program. “In the future, we do intend to apply our knowledge of algorithmic recommendations to deliver relevant content to potential listeners,” he said, noting that there are plans down the line to innovate on the business model and develop new features enabling listeners to interact with creators and other listeners as well. Bestselling romance author Abby Jimenez (Part of Your World), who joined Zicherman in conversation during the Spotify preview, suggested that future interactivity enhancements could potentially link audiobook listeners with a Spotify playlist curated by the author or to a Spotify podcast where reviewers discuss the audiobook.