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Why Spotify’s launch of audiobooks is such a big deal

Updated Sep 28th, 2022 6:58PM EDT
spotify audiobooks
Image: Spotify

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As a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon, I’m going to be spending a lot more time inside my Spotify app, oddly enough, in the wake of a potentially game-changing announcement from the Swedish audio giant on Wednesday. Namely, it’s that Spotify audiobooks are now a thing, which means I can split my downtime, between new episodes of HOTD, by streaming the official HBO show podcast (from inside Spotify) and listening to the audiobook version of Fire & Blood.

That’s the hefty George R.R. Martin book that the new show is based on. Something that, again, I’ll be listening to from inside Spotify.

Spotify audiobooks now available in the US

This launch, we should add, is particularly noteworthy for at least two reasons. One is that audiobooks now represent only the third content format the streaming giant has made available inside the app, after music and podcasts. And, in a first for Spotify, there’s no all-you-can-stream buffet here. Unlike with the thousands upon thousands of songs and podcasts users can enjoy with their subscriptions, you’ll buy these audiobooks one by one, representing a potential windfall for the book publishing industry.

That’s the hope, at any rate.

READ MORE: The Playlist: Spotify finally gets the Netflix TV show it deserves

As far as Spotify is concerned, though, how did the streamer draw a line from letting people binge their favorite songs to letting those same users buy an audiobook edition of Stephen King’s latest story? “We’ve always believed that the potential for audio is limitless, and we’ve been saying for a while now that our ambition is to be the complete package for everyone’s listening needs,” Spotify vice president Nir Zicherman said, as part of the launch.

“Audiobooks are next to come into the picture because we see a substantial untapped market: While audiobooks represent just a 6%–7% share of the wider book market, the category is growing by 20% year over year.”

Spotify logo with earbuds
A pair of earbuds is shown in front of Spotify’s official logo. Image source: Newscom/MEGA

300,000 books available

As Spotify has continued to iterate the product over the years, I’ve certainly been impressed with how it’s maintained the consistency of the user experience. Even as the company brings different kinds of content into the app.

Spotify’s podcasts, for example, feel superior to Apple’s offering in that I (and many other users, based on complaints I’ve seen online) seem unable to consistently keep our podcasts in sync across multiple Apple devices. I’ve run into similar syncing issues with Apple Books.

Spotify users, meanwhile, have been promised an automatic bookmarking feature as part of any Spotify audiobooks that are purchased.

“Given how conveniently Spotify fits into its users’ lives (across devices, filling their time with both music and talk content), the friction to now consuming audiobooks will be lower than ever before,” Zicherman wrote in a Medium post. “And what’s more, Spotify has built world-class technology to solve music discovery and podcast discovery. With this launch, we are excited to be the company that also soon solves book discovery at large.”

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Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.