Canadian audiobook service Audiobooks.com is launching into the UK market today (18th October) with a catalogue of 70,000 titles, as its c.e.o. highlights the growing potential in the audiobook market.
Audiobooks.com has 360 publishers on its books, with 15% of those being UK specific including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House. It also expanded into Australia overnight.
The platform is planning to "entice" customers with an introductory offer which will enable new customers to claim two free books when they sign up to a free trial. After the free trial period, the subscription will cost £7.99 and will enable members to download one premium audiobook per month, on top of which extra titles can be purchased. At £7.99 the price matches the monthly subscription charged by dominant rival Audible, part of the Amazon.com.
Audiobooks.com chief executive Ian Small revealed to The Bookseller the company plans to open a UK office in 2018.
He said there was a "great deal of potential" in the audiobook market and that the industry was "just at the start" of realising the potential in the market, citing the demographic shift and market expansion taking place in the sector during the past five years, especially with the growing popularity of podcasts which are now seen as "premium content".
Audiobook downloads are increasing rapidly in the UK and the US, with publishers responding to the opportunity by investing more in the sector, hiring new staff, upping the number of titles they publish and exploring audio-first opportunities. An in-depth report by Nielsen, issued last December, estimated the market was worth around £91m based on 10.9 million units sold in 2015, of which 60% were downloads. Meanwhile the Publishers Association’s annual statistics released earlier this year showed the value of audiobook downloads to UK publishers increased by 28% in 2016, although it had the value at a much lower £16m.
Small said Audiobooks.com's parent company RBMedia had a "strong library and publishing presence", so it "made sense" for Audiobooks.com to expand. AudioBooks.com was acquired by the US group RBmedia, the owners of UK-based audiobook publisher W F Howes, earlier this year.
The value offered using the subscription model was "quite impressive", said Small, who added: "Buying from something like iTunes outside of a subscription model is quite expensive. But with the subscription model it's good value".
He added: "The reason for our aggressive [introductory] promotion offer is we have found that if you listen to an audiobook, and you haven't before, the customer does fall in love with them. So we're coming out with this enticing, attractive offer to hopefully expand market. It's a very strong, compelling offer".
Audiobooks.com is available on a variety of platforms including smartphones, desktops, smartwatches, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and with the infotainment systems in select Land Rover and Jaguar vehicles.
Canongate recently promoted Joanna Lord to the newly-created position of audio and online sales manager, as part of its "increased focus" on audio, while crowdfunding publisher Unbound is launching a new audio and podcasting arm Unbound Audio. Meanwhile e-book company Kobo launched an audiobook subscription service claiming to offer “the best value on a subscription plan in the category”.
Small will speak, alongside other audiobook retailers, at The Bookseller's audiobook conference AudioBook Revolution on 1st December, run as part of this year's FutureBook Conference.