Spotify says it's ready to take on the audiobook market

The audiobook industry is now worth even more than the podcasting industry.

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Spotify is gearing up to launch its own audiobooks offerings, executives from the company told investors at a recent meeting. The move isn’t entirely surprising, given that Spotify purchased audiobook distributor Findaway late last year.

The Verge reports that Spotify is now ready to really get moving on turning that acquisition into a full-scale operation. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company believes audiobooks will be “a massive opportunity,” and that, as is the case with podcasting, it will “play to win.”

The audiobook industry is still very much owning — or borrowing — each individual title. If Spotify were to turn audiobooks into a subscription streaming product, it would irrevocably change the nature of the audiobook industry writ large. And maybe not in a net positive way.

Lots of details to work out — How, exactly, Spotify would add audiobooks to its business is unclear, though we can generally assume the expansion would follow a similar pattern to Spotify’s other products. Pay a monthly fee (perhaps a more expensive one?) and access unlimited audiobooks. It’s a tempting pitch, given that audiobooks cost somewhere around $14.99 a pop.

Ek did say Spotify hopes to include audiobooks in its freemium model, too, and The Verge reports that Dawn Ostroff, the company’s ad and business chief, said Spotify is “looking at bringing ad monetization into audiobooks.”

All we know right now, really, is that Spotify wants to make audiobooks work as part of its existing business model. How it’ll do so is very much up in the air. It will likely take some additional mergers and acquisitions to make it happen; Findaway’s catalog is large but not all-encompassing.

The Spotifization of books — Audiobooks are popular now and growing more so before our eyes. As The Verge points out, the APA counts the audiobook industry as being worth about $1.6 billion — more than the podcast industry, even. Tapping into that market, especially as the only streaming platform to do so, could be a huge source of revenue for Spotify.

As for the audiobook industry itself… well, it’s less certain whether or not Spotify would be good or bad for it. It would make audiobooks more accessible in the way the platform has made music much easier to access, but there are trade-offs involved in making that possible. In much the same way most artists profit very little from Spotify streams, writers would profit far less than they do from audiobook sales.