Impossible to second-guess why this took so long – the expectation was early 2018 – but Amazon has finally launched a beta version of Audible in India, and it has stuck to its standard model despite an almost year long head start by rival Storytel.
On the face of it Storytel gives by far the best value for money. R299 ($4.12) will get you unlimited access to the Storytel catalogue of audiobooks and ebooks.
By comparison Audible will set you back R199 ($2.75) and give you just one audiobook per month. For unlimited ebooks you’ll need to pop along to the separately operated Kindle Unlimited and shell out another R150, taking the bundle total up to R349, but you’ll still only be getting the one audiobook per month from Amazon.
But Amazon offers the bigger audio catalogue, with 200,000 audiobooks and that may be a big draw for those who want western audiobooks, mostly in English.
For local Indian language content it’s not yet clear how the two compare.
The big unanswered question is how the publishers are doing with these two contrasting deals, and indeed how many publishers opted in at all.
Here’s the thing. With Audible a publisher stands to get a fraction of the R199 for the one audiobook downloaded.
In mind that R199 equates to a fraction of just $2.75, it begs the question how many mainstream publishers have agreed to having their audio titles in Audible India for such a low return.
With Storytel the publishers stands to get an almost certainly much smaller fraction of the pot from all the subscriptions paid in, but for each audiobook or ebook downloaded.
As Storytel has been keen to stress in other countries, while the unit payout may be smaller, the volume of payouts is significant because consumers are not rationed to one book per month, so publishers with in-demand content stand to earn more from the unlimited model.
At the end of the year Storytel plans to move to a by-the-minute royalty plan for publishers, putting it in line with the model Amazon has long used for ebook self-publishers (but not mainstream publishers) in Kindle Unlimited.
The big question is whether Amazon will at some stage change the Audible model, both for consumers and content-suppliers.
My guess is yes to both, and it’s just a matter of when.
Earlier this year Storytel launched in Italy, going head to head with Audible, but Amazon’s head start there means Storytel has to do all the work to get any traction.
Amazon’s late arrival to the India audiobook scene rather reverses the battle lines, giving Storytel the advantage.
One to watch in 2019.