Sweden’s digital audio subscription market will shrink 25%, says a Mediavision survey

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From The New Publishing Standard:

It’s been so long since we heard anything negative about Sweden’s experiment as the world’s audiobook subscription Petri dish that it sometimes seems digital subscription, led in the Nordics by audiobooks, can do no wrong.

But if a Mediavision survey is correct, the good times may be coming to an end.

According to the Swedish news site BreakIt (auto-translated),

One in four subscribers to the audiobook companies plans to cancel the subscription or change service within 12 months.

This says BreakIt, equates to 195,000 households.

. . . .

It’s not clear from this how much the anticipated shrinkage will be due to genuine disaffection with the service and format, or how much any particular operator is likely to be hit or to benefit.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

PG doesn’t watch audiobook pricing as closely as he does ebook pricing.

When PG checked, the top five New York Times Best Sellers for audio versions of bestselling books were priced as follows on Audible (a quick check of Barnes & Noble audio CD prices for these books surprised PG because the CD pricing was very close to and sometimes lower than the downloadable audio price from Amazon):

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing – $31.50
  2. Hideaway – $31.49
  3. Fair Warning – $26.94
  4. Camino Winds – $31.50
  5. If It Bleeds – $27.99

A couple of questions occur to PG:

Should audiobooks be less expensive?

Each of these tradpub audiobooks have a price tag which is about twice what the ebook version of the same title is.

Is the price of audiobooks too high?

PG understands that a narrator who has likely spent time developing his/her talents is involved and will require payment. He also understands that audiobook recording studio time and/or recording equipment and a home audio setup won’t come free, but, is the price of audiobooks depressing sales?

Particularly during a serious world-wide economic downturn?

Just as with ebooks, once the original version of an audiobook is created and uploaded to Amazon, all each purchaser is receiving is a bunch of organized electrons. (He’ll set aside CD version as the equivalent of a hardcopy printed book.)

For an organization with as many hard drives as Amazon, electrons are pretty close to free. Delivering 100 copies of an audiobook to 100 purchasers doesn’t cost much more than delivering a single copy of an audio to a purchaser.

What would happen to audiobook sales if an audiobook was priced at 99 cents? Or $2.99?

Or if someone purchasing an ebook could get an audiobook of the same title for $1.99 more?

Is the best opportunity to sell an audiobook at the same time a customer is purchasing an ebook of the same title? Or vice-versa?

Sophisticated retailers, online and offline, work hard to increase the amount of money their customers spend with them. Cross-selling, up-selling, free shipping thresholds, selling related products are goals for any smart retailer. Gaining a greater share of the customer’s purchasing activity is an obsession with well-run business organizations.

Which, of course, raises the perennial question about why commercial publishers aren’t managed very well. Maybe publishing is just too special to be subject to market forces.

That would be of little concern to PG if authors didn’t ultimately bear a great deal of the financial burden created by ineptly-managed publishers.

2 thoughts on “Sweden’s digital audio subscription market will shrink 25%, says a Mediavision survey”

  1. The OP doesn’t offer much context, just cherrypicked quotes that say nothing about the pricing and terms of the digital subscriptions or their contents. (Are there limits on monthly checkouts, do the titles include new releases or only old, windowed titles, how does pricing compare to discrete sales?) Folks might not be ditching because of the content but because of the service.

    Not sure there’s much of real meaning there.

    There was also tbis bolded quote:

    “Price plays an important role as the supply is wide and the audio book companies thus have little to distinguish one another. In order to avoid a price war, the players should, for example, engage in bundling, in merging several different services. ”

    Different interpretations are possible but the latter sentence seems to suggest they ought to coordinate in price fixing.

    Hmm, I wonder how Swedish antitrust works…

    • In the OP, I didn’t notice any distinction made between “canceling” and “switching.” How many of the lump group are actually giving up on audiobooks, as opposed to those who are simply unhappy with their current service?

      I take these surveys with a grain of salt, always. It’s very much like surveying how many people have stopped watching broadcast TV, and extrapolating that to say that people are giving up TV watching. (Or, these days, how many people have dropped their cable or satellite TV – but still watch just about as much audiovisual content, if not more, over Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc.)

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