As Storytel Q3 results show 730,000 subscribers, with streaming revenue up 43% Y/Y, fourth place rival Bokus Play plays the discount game to stay relevant

It was never going to be easy for new kid on the Scandinavian audiobook block, Bokus Play. Storytel is far and away the strongest player, both at home and abroad, with BookBeat and Nextory so comfortably in second  and third place it seemed like there was no room for a fourth player. Even one with Bokus Play’s supporting cast.

On the other hand, Sweden is nation of ten million, and as only 49% of Storytel’s streaming revenue comes from Sweden and a Q4 forecast of 341,000 paying subscribers in Sweden, it may be there is indeed room for all, if the price is right.

Amazon’s Audible shows no sign of interest in Scandinavia, and in fact the strong rumours of a broader Amazon launch in the Nordic region this autumn have also come to nothing so far. Which means that the four Nordic digital players have no need to worry about saturation just yet, nor to having to compete with Amazon’s deep pockets.

The smaller players may also be cheered by Jonas Tellander’s international focus right now, which will be drawing resources away from the fight for the domestic market.

As reported here at TNPS, Storytel is preparing launches in Singapore –

Storytel to launch in Singapore in 2019

and Brazil in 2019 –

Storytel confirms Brazil launch for 2019 as Mexico launch nears

, and has a launch imminent in Mexico –

Storytel confirms Latin America ambitions. Mexico launch this year

and we can safely say Storytel’s international ambitions do not stop there.

So when will the three rivals make their move? Surprisingly it is Bokus Play that is first to the table, with a bargain appeal to Swedish consumers.

Bokus Play, which only launched this spring, offers a variant subscription model to that of its rivals, with a choice of unlimited streaming like Storytel and co, or a fixed price one book a month option akin to Audible.

And now it is trying to improve on its offering.

Maria Edsman, CEO of Bokhandelsgruppen i Sverige AB, which owns Bokus Play and its bricks & mortar and online counterpart Akademibokhandel, said in a press release:

We have created a unique package that meets the multi-faceted customer – whoever wants to shop in store sometimes, online sometimes and sometimes consumes digital formats. Our strength is that, with our combination of more than 100 stores and e-commerce as well as subscription service for audio books, we can offer customers a breadth that makes us unique in the market.

Such was the press release.

But in an interview with Svensk Bokhandel (SvB) Edsman offered further thoughts on how Bokus Play is rising to the challenge.

Declining to offer actual numbers, Edsman admitted,

We have not yet reached the number we thought of from the beginning.

That’s a sentiment echoed by publishers SvB spoke to, but still there is room for optimism, if Bokus Play can get its act together and tap into the customer base of sister operation Akademibokhandel.

SvB explains,

According to Maria Edsman, the bad outcome is because Bokus Play has not been able to campaign as planned. The idea was to go out to the close to 1.9 million members of the customer club Akademibokhandel’s Friends. However it took longer than expected to get a sufficiently good offer and a technology stable enough to withstand a wide launch in the club. In anticipation of that, only Bokus channels were used.

That changes with the latest deal, although it appears to be in beta right now, with a full launch with in-store promotion and commercial promotion set for the New Year.

Thus far it seems Bokus Play will not be offering ebooks as part of its all-formats strategy, with Edsman offering a No Comment response when asked about this by SvB.

Having got Edsman to the interview table SvB make good on the opportunity.

SvB: You have lost nearly eight months when the market continues to grow. Which customers will you recruit, those who do not have a service or those already in their competitors?

Edsman: There are very big movements all the time. Those who are with the competitors are not there forever. We want to reach both those who today have an audio book subscription and those who have not tried yet. The more we can offer, the more attractive we become.

SvB: How many subscribers are you aiming for?

Edsman: Our long-term goal is to be as strong in the digital channel as we are in our other channels.

SvB: No audio book service is profitable. What will you do to get it?

Edsman:The competitors are unprofitable for various reasons. Everyone, except us, invests a lot in marketing. We can take advantage of the channels we have in the stores and the customer club. It’s cost-effective.

Which perhaps leaves the big question, how many Akademibokhandel customers have already signed up to Storytel, BookBeat and Nextory audiobook  and ebook services before Bokus Play even launched, and in the months since when Bokus Play has been running at idle speed because it took eight months “to get a sufficiently good offer and a technology stable enough to withstand a wide launch”?

And how may of those will find the new Bokus deal worth jumping ship for?

On a separate note, while it now seems like maybe Amazon won’t be coming to Sweden this year after all, back in August Boktugg ran an intriguing post asking if Amazon might buy Akademibokhandel and Bokus Play.

My thoughts are that Amazon has pretty much zero interest in the publishing world outside its existing placeholders, and a small book market like Sweden self-evidently doesn’t even warrant a Kindle ebook store, let alone a serious investment in the Scandinavian publishing scene.

Amazon has bigger fish to fry.

But that’s great news for publishers, authors and booksellers in Scandinavia, who can plan ahead without having a contingency for an Amazon arrival.

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