While we all love what Amazon is doing with the Kindle stores and Audible, the sad reality is the Kindle store and Audible only cater to a fraction of the world’s readers and listeners, leaving the door wide open to other players.

As reported here at TNPS recently, Sweden’s Storytel has been quick to step into the gap Audible has left in the global audiobook market.

Sweden’s Storytel beats Amazon’s Audible to the India audiobook market

Storytel has just launched in India, is currently preparing for Italy, already has a presence in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain and of course Sweden, and may have the United Arab Emirates lined up next.

But as Storytel looks to the Arab markets it faces competition not from Audible (Amazon owns the Middle East e-commerce site Souq but as yet has shown no interest in the exciting Arabic book market) but from Dhad, a relatively recent audiobook start-up in Saudi Arabia.

Arab News reports that Manar Saud Al-Omayri started Dhad in 2014 as a business-to-business venture because e-commerce in Saudi Arabia was not then considered advanced enough to warrant a consumer-facing app – that only come in 2016.

But the real surprise here for many will be that Al-Omayri herself does not enjoy reading Arabic books.

I personally do not read in Arabic, and I felt that I needed to strengthen my Arabic as many of people in our generation who became more familiar with English than their mother language. But reading a printed book needs a certain environment ready for you in order to read, while audiobooks can be easily reachable and they are time investing because you can listen to them anywhere and at any time.

Reports Arab News,

Since Dhad was open to the public in 2016, it has achieved tremendous success. Some books were purchased more than 10,000 times, and that rarely happens for printed books. Free books exceeded more than 200,000 downloads.

While Dhad is focussed on Saudi Arabia customers it is finding interest from across MENA (Middle East North Africa), as one might expect. But Al-Omayri says Dhad is also finding customers far further afield wider – from the USA and Argentina in the west to Malaysia and Indonesia in the east, reflecting the potentially lucrative Arab diaspora market.

Dhad pricing reflects domestic market book-spending patterns, with average audiobook prices at around $8, aiming to be 10%-15% below the print price for the same title..

With no sign that Audible is thinking about the Arabic market its likely Storytel and Dhad will have the arena to themselves, but Storytel might have a challenge matching Dhad’s low prices, and Dhad has a comfortable head start, with some 200 titles under its belt, and new titles being rolled out each month.

Currently Amazon offers Audible in the US, Canada, Japan and Italy, and elsewhere with the same overlaps that the Kindle store has, so UK/Ireland, Australia/New Zealand, Germany/Austria/Switzerland and France/Belgium/Switzerland.