TNPS August 2020: “While the ripples won’t be felt for some time, we are witnessing a seismic change in the US publishing scene. An earthquake at sea, barely noticed now, but that will set in motion stormy waves and possibly a tsunami to come.”

As light and internet return once more to these distant shores I’ve had the chance to read the industry and wider media take on the Spotify audiobooks launch in the US, and can’t help thinking the “game-changer” phrase being bandied about is a trifle premature.

Yes, per TNPs back in August 2020, this is big. But this is just the first ripple of the publishing tsunami Daniel Ek’s decision to move into audiobooks triggered.

At the time, the trade journals reported the Spotify plans as a footnote, if at all. Spotify? Audiobooks? Do be serious. Spotify is a music-streaming platform that toys with podcasts. Audiobooks are a different industry. Daniel Ek, stick to your rhythm and blues. Publishing audiobooks is a man’s game.

TNPS took a rather different view, of course.

In fact the scenario so far is panning out much as TNPS forecast in 2020. The big difference perhaps is that Storytel is now a player in the US market. But only in name. As yet Storytel has brought absolutely nothing new to the US audiobook scene and for publishers and consumers alike the song remains the same. Most American audiobook listeners won’t even know Storytel exists. And that looks likely to stay the position for the foreseeable future.

Spotify’s launch this week, with 300,000 titles, is, as above, the first ripple of something much bigger. Perhaps not so much for the US, which as yet is the only meaningful Spotify audiobook market, but more for what it portends for the global audiobook market.

It’s late evening here as the lights and internet come back on, and no telling how long before they go off again, so a deeper analysis will have to follow another time.

But those wanting an immediate perspective beyond the news and quotes coverage of the industry’s esteemed journals and the wider media might do well to check out the 2020 TNPS post, which has aged well.

For those wanting to understand why the Spotify US launch is not, on its own, quite the gamechanger many commentators are saying, and is just one of many tsunami ripples to come, stick around.