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Spotify jumps into the audiobook business – with 300,000 titles

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After acquiring Apple and Pandora, Spotify seems to have its sights set on Amazon.

In what appears to be the beginning of a new phase for the company, Spotify on Tuesday announced that US subscribers can purchase and listen to more than 300,000 audiobook titles. Users will have to pay for each book separately – there is no audiobook subscription yet – but with the expectation of a growing interest in audiobooks in the coming years, this looks set to set up a battle between Spotify and Amazon ownership. Audible.

Right now, audiobooks only represent 6% to 7% of the total book market, says Spotify. However, the category is growing by 20% year over year. Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s vice president and global head of audiobooks and gated content, calls it “a substantial untapped market” in a blog post.

“We believe that audio and long content is a much bigger issue than many had imagined,” says Zicherman. “Our expansion into audiobooks is a major testament to that belief. And this is just the beginning. Just like we did with podcasting, this will introduce a new format to an audience that has never consumed it before, unlocking a whole new segment of potential listeners. This also helps us support even more types of creators and connect them with fans who will love their art, making this even more exciting.”

The à la carte offer currently has a fairly hefty price. Wanna listen to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: Stories of Life and Music? It will cost you $25.90. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? That’s $32.90.

That gives the upper hand for now to Audible, which offers a variety of subscription options starting at $7.95 per month – with access to thousands audiobooks and podcasts, but no new releases or bestsellers. (Audible also offers a 30-day free trial to snag subscribers.) The top tier, $229.50 per year, includes access to the Plus catalog plus 24 credits for premium select titles. Audible currently has approx twice the size of Spotify’s new library.

However, with 188 million premium subscribers and 450 million monthly active users, Spotify manages to captivate an audience. The company has acknowledged its lack of experience in this industry and said it needed to learn to present audiobooks in a way that was familiar and intuitive to current subscribers. Once audiobooks are as familiar to users as podcasts, a world of possibilities opens up. By using a buy-to-listen model, Spotify can gauge user interest and collect data about the titles they research.

“The offerings available in the US today are just the first release of audiobooks on Spotify,” says Zicherman. “We will learn a lot from this launch and leverage those lessons as we enhance the experience with new features, plan for launches in additional markets, and innovate the format for the benefit of listeners, authors and publishers.”

Another possible option: an ad-supported audiobook model.

Spotify hasn’t suggested anything other than the à la cart model, of course, but the company has been clear that it expects a leadership position in the space since CEO Daniel Ek first began laying the groundwork for the audiobook rollout in June.

“Just like we’ve done in podcasting, expect us to play to win,” Ek said in a presentation to investors. “And with one major player dominating the space, we believe we will expand the market and create value for users and creators alike.”

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