In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway reports on Spotify's purchase of Findaway and how it will affect the audioobook ecosystem.
In the brand new Self-publishing News podcast Howard and I discuss, among other things, a massive new investment into Inkitt, designed to bring successful titles on its self-publishing platform to the big screen. On tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time, Tim will be leading a discussion about planning for 2022.
Spotify Buys Findaway
This week’s lead story is probably the biggest story of the year so far. Or possibly the last several years. It’s one of those stories that many of us have been saying was coming in some form for a long time. And now it’s here, I very much hope that people who were sceptical whether it would happen will start paying attention. Because you need to start thinking about what it means for the future. Right now.
When Spotify declared they wanted to become “the singular platform for all things audio”, it was obvious they would make a big move into audiobooks at some point. This week they made that move. They have acquired audio platform Findaway for an undisclosed fee. The deal is subject to regulatory approval. That would normally mean it will be shooed through, especially as this promises to offer a robust alternative to a rather beleaguered Audible. But better competition to Amazon was cited by Bertelsmann in their takeover bid of Simon and Schuster, and that has led to a lawsuit from the Department of Justice, so you never know.
Spotify have already dipped their toe in the water. Earlier this year, when they made the above remark, they partnered with Storytel. This partnership allowed Storytel’s 1.6 million subscribers to access Storytel content through Spotify. But Spotify itself has more than 100 times that number of subscribers. And it is this week’s announcement that is the first step in rolling out audiobooks to all of them.
What Does This Mean for Writers?
If the deal goes ahead, what will this actually mean? Well, for a long time, Spotify has been the boogeyman of the music industry. If iTunes is seen as saving music creators from the evils of Napster, then Spotify threatened to haul them back into the dumpster. Payments for each listen are microscopic. This has meant that it is pretty much impossible for creators to make any kind of a living from Spotify streams alone. What it means in practice is that creators in the music industry have to make their money elsewhere. And writers, of course, also have other revenue streams. But we also have costs uniquely associated with producing audiobooks. Audiblegate has already left both authors and voice artists wondering if making audiobooks on the likes of ACX adds up. Which ties in with the advent of AI narration, lowering the costs for authors – but at the expense of work for narrators.
The danger is that the kind of payment rates Spotify offers will make Audible feel like a lost paradise. But unlike music, which is produced in the same way across formats, if no one can recoup the costs of producing audiobooks, then Spotify will lose whatever money they’ve just spent. And that’s the one glimmer of hope.
But in terms of what Spotify has actually said, little will change for now. Findaway will continue to run much as it does at present. It's just that its offering will now be available to Spotify users. The Findaway team will remain in place, and will continue to run the show. But Spotify have said that this is a first step. And it's the next steps that we need to watch.
Storytel Buys Audiobooks.com
It really has been the week of the subscription audio takeover. And in any other week, this would have been the top story. Storytel has entered the English speaking audio market by purchasing Audiobooks.com. The acquisition has cost Storytel $135m and will give them access to Audiobooks.com's 300,000 strong catalogue. Storytel has, of course, been one of the ongoing big stories in audiobooks. This means the story just got a lot bigger. I highly recommend you read Mark Williams' detailed report over on The New Publishing Standard.
A Look Ahead to Friday's Futurebook
Christmas adverts are in full swing on TV. And that means Futurebook is just around the corner. This year it’s a hybrid offering, and that means you can join from anywhere. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights. My antennae are telling me there might just be something on subscription audio!
There is indeed, quite a lot about audio. It includes a discussion of the role of AI in narration, something I’ve covered here in recent weeks. There is also a nostalgic look back at the impact ebooks have made on all our lives – and a look sort of forward at who is reading ebooks these days. Heaven help us there is the inevitable session on NFTs. And of course, with COP26 done and dusted, there is a session on how publishing can play its part in tackling the climate crisis. Who knows, maybe there will be some hints of actions as well as words.
As can be the case with Futurebook, this feels like a look at the horizon through a pair of trusty binoculars rather than booting up Hubble. But it’s no less an important gaze into our world for that, and the subjects covered are certainly likely to be ones I come back to here again and again in the next couple of years. And of course, I will be there online and will report back the highlights next week.Spotify buys audiobook distributor Findaway and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.