Audible turns it up to 11 in Canada
Dedicated Canadian audiobook service coming
The big Canadian publishing story this fall is audiobooks. And Wednesday morning the story got bigger with the announcement that Audible is launching a dedicated Canadian service that will include original programs, lectures and comedy as well as more than 100 new titles from Canadian authors in English and French. The service will be curated with a focus on Canadian content besides offering more than “300,000 local and global titles,” the company said in a news release. Available titles will include Justin Trudeau’s Common Ground, in both English and French, with an introduction narrated by the prime minister, and a multi-voice production of Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird graphic novel adapted for audio by Atwood.
“Audible has earmarked $12 million (Canadian) over the next three years to invest in Canadian writers and voices,” said Audible founder and CEO Don Katz.
Membership will cost $14.95 a month and will include one book, as well as whatever free books are available. For example, a special edition of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale performed by Claire Danes will be free for one month, as will an edition of Quebec author Catherine Leroux’s Le Mur Mitoyen.
Late last week, e-reader company Kobo announced that audiobooks would be available for download on its app, which had previously been geared only toward ebooks.
They, too, are offering a monthly subscription service that will cost $12.99, offering members one audio book per month.
Growth in the audiobooks industry has been rapid. The Audio Publishers Association estimates audiobook sales for 2016 at $2.1 billion. That’s up 18.2 per cent over 2015. Doubledigit growth has been the norm since about 2013.
Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo, noted that people are reading ebooks more on their mobile devices. He also noted that people are pulling out their devices while in lineups at the bank, for example. “So they’re trying to fit reading into different parts of their day.”
This is backed up with recent research conducted by Book-Net Canada, which found that among adults who had read a book last year, 20 per cent read digital books on their smartphones, a six per cent increase. The research found this use has been at the expense of ereaders, use of which was down by five per cent since last year.
Kobo, said Tamblyn, did its own research with a focus group of Kobo users — those who already read ebooks — and found that 46 per cent listen to audiobooks.
“Audible is going to be employing so many actors that you’re going to have trouble finding somebody to serve your cappuccino,” Atwood quipped at the announcement.
Penguin Random House Canada has also begun its own inhouse audiobook production and it’s starting off big. It hired Ann Jensen — formerly of CBC Books and the senior producer of Canada Reads — to helm its audio publishing program.
Membership to Audible will cost $14.95 a month and will include one book, as well as whatever free books are available.