Audi­ble turns it up to 11 in Canada

Ded­i­cated Cana­dian au­dio­book ser­vice com­ing

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Books -

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 BookNet 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.

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Mem­ber­ship to Audi­ble will cost $14.95 a month and will include one book, as well as what­ever free books are avail­able.

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