Starting today, Spotify listeners in the U.S. will be able to purchase and listen to more than 300,000 audiobook titles. Below is an interview with Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s Vice President and Global Head of Audiobooks and Gated Content, discussing today’s announcement and the company’s vision for audiobooks in the future.
Today, we’re announcing that 300,000 audiobooks are available on Spotify in the U.S. Why are audiobooks the next frontier for us as a company?
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. 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.
But what we’re really excited about is providing a great new experience for listeners—introducing audiobooks to an audience of people who may never have tried them otherwise. By bringing audiobooks to Spotify, we have the opportunity to both grow the space as a whole and enrich listeners’ lives.
What can listeners expect today?
Starting today, users in the U.S. can easily find audiobooks on Spotify alongside music and podcasts as a section in their library, in search, and in their curated recommendations on Home.
Audiobooks will show up with a lock icon on the play button, signaling that they need to be purchased in order to listen. Users who discover audiobooks in the Spotify app will be able to purchase them on a web page. Upon returning to Spotify, the book will be automatically saved in their library and available to listen to whenever they want.
Once listening, there are a number of features that we know from user research are essential for a seamless experience. Listeners can download content for offline listening, and our automatic bookmarking feature saves their place so they can easily pick up where they left off. Speed control is also included, with a variety of options to speed up or slow down the pace. And for listeners who want to share their opinion after listening to a book, we’ve also included a rating feature, which will publicly display the aggregate rating of the book.
What makes Spotify ready and equipped to make a positive impact in the audiobooks space?
Adding an entirely new content format to our service is no small feat. But we’ve done it before with podcasts, and we’re excited to now do the same with audiobooks. We’ve been testing, researching, and listening to figure out how to create the most seamless experience on Spotify. Our hope is that users who find audiobooks in their apps starting today feel that the user experience is obvious—that audiobooks fit in perfectly with how they already use Spotify.
We also have the opportunity to apply our learnings around creators to uplift the authors and publishers whose content is now on Spotify. It’s important for us to deliver a great experience for the people behind the audiobooks we all love, and you can expect that we’ll start providing some exciting creator-facing features soon.
The offering available today in the U.S. is just the first iteration of audiobooks on Spotify. We’ll learn a lot through this launch and leverage those learnings as we enhance the experience with new features, plan for launches in additional markets, and innovate on the format to benefit listeners, authors, and publishers.
What are some of the opportunities for us as a company around this offering?
We are running faster and are more focused than anyone else in audio. And we believe that audio and long-form content is a much bigger business than what many would have thought. Our expansion into audiobooks is a significant proof-point in that belief. And this is just the beginning.
Just as we did with podcasting, this will introduce a new format to an audience that has never before consumed it, unlocking a whole new segment of potential listeners. This also helps us support even more kinds of creators and connect them with fans that will love their art—which makes this even more exciting.
What have been some of the challenges in creating and implementing this offering?
As I mentioned earlier, audiobooks are a completely new format for us. While we have substantial learnings around how people want to listen to music and podcasts, we wanted to offer an experience that feels unique to the book format. So it took a lot of research and fine-tuning to build that experience in a way that also feels intuitive to what users expect on Spotify.
We also recognize that there are a lot of features on Spotify, and we had our work cut out for us adding an entirely new content type without making the platform feel crowded. We believe that the solution we came to feels seamless, but we’ll always continue to iterate on the product to address users’ needs.
What is one audiobook you’re particularly excited to listen to?
Liberation Day by George Saunders. George is one of my all-time-favorite writers, and his newest collection of short stories is due to come out only a few weeks after launch.
George typically narrates his own audiobooks, but this one is particularly exciting because, in addition to his own voice, it will feature a variety of really amazing narrators: Tina Fey, Stephen Root, Michael McKean, and others. I can’t wait to hear it!
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