Books | September 21, 2022 10:14 am

The Problem With Spotify’s New Audiobooks Service

The streaming service launches with 300,000+ titles, but it's not a user-friendly interface from the start

A screenshot of Spotify's new Audiobooks section, which launched this week
A screenshot of Spotify's new Audiobooks section, which launched this week
Screenshot/Spotify

If you heard Spotify was launching an audiobook section, wouldn’t you assume that it would follow the same format as its music and podcast streaming?

Unfortunately, the service isn’t quite that easy — as reported by Variety, Spotify is beginning with 300,000 titles from major publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster) as well as some individual authors. But the streamer is selling the books à la carte (admittedly, without ads) and without the ability to buy a title within the app. You have to go to a separate web page and buy with a credit card, which avoids transaction fees by Apple or Google, and then go back to your app library to read the book.

Besides the impressive number of titles, there are also no exclusives at launch. Still, Spotify thinks audiobooks are an untapped market.

“We’ve always believed that the potential for audio is limitless, and have been saying for a while now that our ambition is to be the complete package for everyone’s listening needs,” said Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s VP and global head of audiobooks and gated content, in a statement. “Audiobooks are next to come into the picture because we see a substantial untapped market.” Zicherman also notes that audiobooks represent only 6-7% share of the wider book market, but the category is growing by 20% year over year. 

At launch, listeners can download content for offline listening, bookmark their place, fiddle with speed control and rate books.

Right now, this seems like just a play to combat Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service. Hopefully, as Variety suggests, Spotify will add some features that could open up audiobooks to a wider audience, including subscriptions or purchasing titles within the app.