(Image via readingpartners.org)
Arts & Entertainment Editor: Kamryn Kobel
Spotify recently announced that Premium members will soon be granted access to over 150,000 audiobooks available on the app. While this seems like a convenient way to consume more books, the app’s introduction into the audiobook industry raises concerns for authors.
Last year, Spotify introduced the ability to purchase audiobooks on the app – but now, according to a press release on October 3rd, Spotify will make hundreds of thousands of audiobooks available for free with a Premium membership. This feature will officially come to the US servers later this year.
This new feature doesn’t allow for unlimited access to audiobooks, however. According to Spotify, each member gets “15 hours of listening per month.”
WordsRated, a “non-commercial research organization” that studies books and the publishing industry, states that “the average audiobook is 10 hours long.”
Therefore, the 15 hours that Spotify grants Premium users to listen to audiobooks allows for one and a half books per month.
However, they do offer the ability to purchase additional hours of listening.
“For those super audiophiles who use up their 15 hours before their monthly billing cycles refresh, you can purchase a 10-hour top-up to finish that series.”
According to Spotify, “Our catalog currently encompasses upwards of 70% of bestselling books, with titles from major publishers including Hachette, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and RB Media,” along with various independent publishers.
One thing to note is that if you’re on a Family or Duo Premium subscription plan, only the cardholder (thus the person who pays for the account) will have the ability to listen. They do note, however, that they will be exploring other options for listening capability after the service launches.
The platform’s acquisition of audiobooks does raise concerns for authors.
On October 10th, the Society of Authors (SOA), “the UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators,” released a statement expressing their “deep concern” with Spotify’s audiobook feature.
According to the SOA, “no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms. Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.”
This creates a situation that is similar to the recent WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes, which you can read about here. Like with the writers and actors, the contracts and licensing agreements that authors signed did not include streaming services such as Spotify.
Spotify’s offering of audiobooks on streaming threatens the livelihood of authors, as they will not get paid for their work, as SOA notes that “The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales.”
Again, the situation is similar to the WGA/SAG-AFTRA situation in that the subscription service deal is beneficial for publishers but not authors – just like the deals with streaming services are beneficial for production companies but not actors.
And, as Spotify announced in their press release, many of the major publishing houses – HarperCollins, Penguin Books, Macmillan, and many others have entered into the streaming deal. This puts a lot of authors, big and small, at a large disadvantage and takes advantage of their work.
A great alternative to Spotify’s audiobook service is public libraries.
Many local public libraries have a selection of audiobooks that are available to check out, but there are also online services such as Libby, an app where you can download audiobooks to your phone for free.
Unlike Spotify, getting audiobooks from your local library is free, supports authors, and gives you an unlimited number of listening hours.
Don’t let streaming services keep taking advantage of artists and creators – consume wisely!