Starting Wednesday (Nov. 8), Spotify subscribers in the United States can effortless transition from Britney Spears’ music to her recently released audiobiography, The Woman in Me, thanks to the launch of its previously announced offering of 15 hours of free audiobook streaming per month in Spotify Premium.
The Spotify Premium audiobook catalog includes more than 200,000 titles, over 70% of them bestselling titles from all five major book publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and RB Media) as well as independent publishers such as Bolinda, Dreamscape and Pushkin. Although Spotify has offered audiobooks since Sept. 2022, the user experience has been less than optimal. Users could listen to audiobooks in the Spotify app but, because Spotify wants to avoid costly in-app fees, users must purchase titles at its website.
Spotify announced its audiobook strategy on Oct. 3 and initially gave access to the company’s audiobook catalog only to subscribers in the United Kingdom and Australia. Rolling out audiobook streaming in its largest market will allow Spotify to better capture the expected benefits of offering free listening to a segment of its 226 million subscribers. “This greatly improves our offering, which will increase engagement on Spotify, which will then, of course, reduce churn,” explained CEO Daniel Ek at an Oct. 3 event.
Listeners who exceed the 15-hour monthly allotment can purchase additional listening time. In the early days of the audiobook offering in the United Kingdom and Australia, Spotify has “already seen consumers doing that in ways we probably wouldn’t have imagined, where some consumers are heavily upgrading and being really heavy audiobook listeners [from] day one,” Ek said during the company’s Oct. 24 earnings call.
To help listeners find audiobooks, Spotify offers an audiobook button on the search page and offers an editorially curated selection of popular titles at its audiobooks hub. Listeners can search by category — such as mystery & thriller or self-help — and scroll through lists such as “From book to screen” and “As seen on social media.”
The impetus for audiobook streaming harkens back to Spotify’s origins as a friction-less substitute for digital piracy that had decimated record label revenues by the time Spotify was founded in 2006. “We looked at the world and we thought the only way to beat piracy was to offer a much better experience,” said Ek during the Oct. 3 event. In 2018, Spotify applied the lessons it learned in music to a new format, podcasts, and, Ek claimed, added more than 100 million to podcast listeners to the ecosystem. “This created a win-win,” he explained. “The more people listened to podcasts, the more music grew. And the more people listened to music, the more podcasting grew as well.”
Now, Spotify sees audiobooks as the next opportunity to revitalize an underserved ecosystem with a single dominant player — Amazon-owned Audible in this case. “And just like in music and podcasting,” said Ek, “we’re really excited to be able to bring all the amazing tools that we built for creators and consumers alike to enable more discovery of these amazing audiobooks to the world.”