Spotify has announced that audiobooks are now supported on the platform in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Previously, audiobooks were available on the music streaming platform only in the United States.
Spotify users in these countries have access to over 300,000 audiobooks and can download books to listen to them offline, adjust playback speed, rate titles, and use automatic bookmarking.
The audiobooks can be found in a new audiobook hub in the APP and in recommendations. Currently, the recommendations are made directly by Spotify staff, but there are plans to use algorithms in the future.
Although audiobooks have been available since September, Spotify refuses to release statistics on how users interact with them — this could be due to poor discovery and access to payment methods for the audiobooks.
If audiobooks are made available through in-app purchases, Spotify needs to pay royalties to Apple or Google. So, users are required to make payments on Spotify’s website.
To further complicate things for users, Spotify doesn’t link to their website from the app. When a user clicks on an audiobook they want to listen to, a message appears that says,
You can’t buy audiobooks in the app. We know it’s not ideal.
Almost four years ago, Spotify CEO Daniel EK filed an antitrust complaint against Apple at the European commission. In a recent blog post, Daniel EK wrote,
The Audiobooks purchase flow that Apple’s rules force us to provide consumers today is far too complicated and confusing — confusing because they change the rules arbitrarily, making them impossible to interpret. Bottom line, we’re forced to make users work even harder to listen to an audiobook.
Daniel goes on to say:
This harms not only consumers, but, this time, also authors and publishers who now find themselves under Apple’s thumb. We believe there is huge potential to grow the audiobooks market and get more authors heard by new listeners — but the purchase flow we’ve been forced into is artificially limiting that growth.”
In 2021, Spotify purchased Findway, an audiobook distributor, with plans to develop different formats and markets for users to consume content. Spotify is hopeful that audiobooks can be another source of revenue and that the industry will grow to $15 billion by 2027.
Other platforms use methods to break free from Apple’s grip. For example, the audiobook streaming service Audible requires users to make users pay for content by using in-app credit rather than cash payments to circumnavigate regulations.
Earlier this year Apple updated its policy to allow platforms to directly enable payment from their app to their website. However, Spotify has yet to take advantage of this and implement a user-friendly method for purchases.