The Future of the Audiobook
By Pauline Bird, Emily De Vogele and Cameron Phillips
Audiobooks for children have never been easier to access – my youngest child is five and she has a Yoto player. It is an audio player that children can insert physical cards into (made from a similar material to bank cards – so very durable) and the Yoto will play the story selected. There are over 1000 titles to choose from and you can even record yourself reading a story.
She also enjoys listening to Nosy Crow books. Every Nosy Crow paperback picture book comes with a free audio reading. You scan the QR code to listen. She can’t do this independently as she needs a phone or tablet which she doesn’t yet have. Therefore, for us, the Yoto works better for independent listening and the Nosy Crow audio recordings, for when we are listening together.
My eldest is eleven and has an Echo Dot in his room. He enjoys listening to that at bedtime on nights when his dad or I don’t read to him. My son usually lets me know which book he would like so I can buy it on Audible and he can listen to it immediately on the smart speaker. He likes to read along with the audio, so he currently chooses books he already has hard copies of.
I prefer listening to books on my phone, and I can hook it up in the car for longer drives with the family. I tend to use the Audible or Audiobooks apps but I’ve just downloaded the BorrowBox app, meaning that I can borrow audiobooks from my local library too. I can’t wait to try it out! For those of you who aren’t sure if their child would like an audiobook or not, this might be a good option to try first. Also, the website Lovereading4kids.co.uk has a section for audiobooks where your child can listen to samples and choose three full books to download for free via audiobooks.com.
There really is such versatility in how and where children can listen to audiobooks now. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for children’s audiobooks.
Audiobooks on Music Streaming Sites
Audiobook dynamics for children are on the up and up as explained by Pauline, and it looks like audiobooks might be making a grand entry onto music streaming sites too. It was announced recently that Spotify paid $123 million for Findaway, an audio streaming platform that allows users to create, record, and share their own audiobooks.
This is huge for the future of audiobooks. Spotify is one of the most popular streaming platforms, and while there is an option to upgrade to premium, its base package is free. Every other audiobook platform starts at a monthly subscription rate, if Spotify is able to make certain audiobooks free on its platform going forward, it unlocks a whole new level of reading and listening to a previously untapped audience.
Spotify is no stranger to audiobooks. It currently has several unabridged audiobooks on its site, ranging from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, read by Tatiana Maslay, to The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, read by Lauren Williams. Although finding these audiobooks proves tricky at the moment, as there is no one account or source to sort through all the audiobook options on Spotify, instead users have to search for a book specifically to see if there is a playlist that contains all the chapters for said book.
Spotify could revolutionise the future of audiobooks, by simply introducing a codified and sorted library, and buying the rights to more titles to share on their platform. So many people, especially the younger generation, are familiar with Spotify’s layout and mode of operation that the introduction of audiobooks wouldn’t phase them, rather they would likely welcome the extra material to listen to. Spotify has proven it can acquire and host new audio content before, with the successful launch of their podcast section years prior. It’s only a matter of time before a major streaming platform takes a hold of audiobooks and sees the potential in them that readers have been talking about for years.
Emily talked about the immense positive a streaming platform like Spotify will provide to the audiobook sector, and rightly so. I however just want to provide a bit of balance, being the cynic I am. We wrote an article a while back talking about a particular Twitter thread that investigated potential financial malpractice and injustices when it came to audiobooks, their production and sales. Given the long known and debated concerns over streaming rates when it comes to artists earning royalties from putting their music on Spotify, I do hold concerns like before about the financial landscape of audiobooks and everything that goes into them and beyond when they are overseen by a company like Spotify. Pay people what they are worth please.