With just 50,000 titles Bonnier’s Bookbeat is no match for Audible or Storytel in volume terms, and we shouldn’t see the sudden leap from 4 to 28 markets as a gamechanger for CEO Niclas Sandin.
Sandin himself concedes as much. The press release Sandin optimistically states,
We believe that the audio book can become one of the fastest growing digital media in Europe. As soon as it starts moving in a market, we should already be there.
But in an interview with Svensk Bokhandel there is a more cautious and realistic note:
(In Spain) we have over a thousand books. We are looking at adding a few thousand titles in the Netherlands and are currently in discussions in Italy. I can’t go into all the markets, but there is some where we start to get books from publishers. Then it will be easier for us to show that we also exist.
I think there are many markets where the audio book will never be big. But in some markets we see tendencies that people start to show interest and where the publishers want to invest. We want to be there. But I do not want to speculate on the proportion involved.
Sandin speaks from experience, having tried and failed to make any impression in the UK market, where established players like Audible hold sway.
For Bookbeat’s Europe expansion we need to see these as stepping stones, not a market onslaught. For most markets the majority of titles will be in English and progress will be slow.
This is where Bookbeat now operates: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, UK.
While Storytel researches a market, sets up a country manager and country unit, and then lets the regional operation run the show, with back-up and funding from Stockholm, Bookbeat’s new countries will at least initially be run from Sweden.
Comparisons with Storytel’s market by market approach are not really valid, so weighing up Bookbeat’s now 28 markets against Storytel’s 17 (20 by end 2019) and Audible’s 8 (9 when Spain goes live) doesn’t tell us much.
Audible certainly won’t feel threatened – it has no interest in the smaller markets outside Amazon’s mainstream operations – and neither will Storytel. But this is great news for the wider market.
Bookbeat’s progress will be studied carefully by rivals and new players planning to enter these markets, and Storytel might well jump in to specific markets as Bookbeat proves the interest.