By Suradha Iyer
Amazon India recently introduced Audible, its audiobook subscription service, to the Indian market. Here’s all that you need to know.
Audible: The service
Amazon sells books, e-books, e-book readers and now, audiobooks in India. With the audiobook industry globally valued at $2.5 billion, its potential amongst India’s huge English-speaking audience is immense.
Using an audiobook on Audible couldn’t be easier — you can read offline, you can pause and Audible picks up where it left off for you, and it is accessible across all devices. These books have been dramatised well, read by the who’s who of Hollywood and beyond, and it’s the newest reading habit for a hyperconnected, mobile-friendly generation.
The user-friendly app uses your Amazon account to store audiobooks on your phone, or you can off-load them to Amazon’s cloud services and download them when you want to listen to them.
Audible’s Indian subscription plans
Audible India, as a part of its launch offer, currently offers a 90-day free subscription (or 3 free audiobooks) with Amazon Prime, and 1-month free subscription for other users. Thereafter, you are billed Rs. 199 per month to continue the subscription for 1 credit per month (that allows to download 1 audiobook) and 30% off every subsequent audio-title purchased.
Audible has an open cancellation policy that allows you to listen to the audiobooks you purchased/redeemed even even after you have quit the service. However, even though credits roll over into the next billing cycle, to continue using them, you need to have an active subscription plan.
For readers committed to reading on the go, Audible also offers plans for 6 and 12 months at Rs. 1,345 and Rs. 2,332, respectively. The Indian service is far cheaper than its American counterpart, though it doesn’t come with 2 Audible-only audiobooks per month. Given that the Indian subscription for a month is 20% of the $14.95, it seems like an acceptable trade-off. Standalone audiobooks are available on the Amazon store as well, where the individual prices for books are higher than the cost of the membership.
With a limit of a 5-credit rollover, Audible is only worth the price if you are committed to reading/listening to at least one book per month. Compared to its competition in India, Storytel (priced at Rs. 299 per month), with a few thousand English and regional books, and a number of podcasts to choose from, Audible has close to 200,000 titles to choose from (in English, no Indian languages). Storytel also has original Indian content, unlike Audible. Newer titles exclusively for India, including star-studded collaborations, are being revealed nearly every day.
Another player in the market, Google Audiobooks, available on the PlayStore, is exactly like a bookstore where you pay per book. There is no subscription plan, but the books are also priced much higher, even if you listen to only one audiobook per month.
Social media partnerships
Audible India marketed itself by contacting social media influencers and putting up affiliate links for their large international audiences. We’ve seen many YouTube stars advertise Audible to incentivise reading to a wider demographic, portray reading as a fun activity, recommend books, offer a free credit and take home money per subscription. With the Indian demographic actively online, Audible’s partnership program in India will necessarily mean an income source for Indian influencers, more scripted pitches, and in your face advertising for Audible.
If all the advertising works here, audiobooks will take over. Globally, they’ve practically replaced e-books. Amazon wants Audible to become a part of your routine — while driving, while commuting, waiting in line, going on a run — they are selling a lifestyle.
Can listening replace reading?
When you listen to an audiobook, you will spend more than 8 hours per book, given the average word length of a book. How many of those 8 hours keep you actively engaged will determine if audiobooks are a valid substitute for books. Reading has definite physical and cognitive benefits such as strengthening portions of the reader’s brain while also improving focus, reducing stress. It’s unclear whether the same benefits accrue with audiobooks. The potential for the switching the market is huge in India, and with newer content planned for an indigenous audience, more non-readers might finally make the switch to being ‘readers’.
Only time will tell what Audible does to reading as a cosy, comfortable hobby, but if you want to beat your boredom, you might want to listen to a book on your phone now!
Suradha Iyer is a writing analyst at Qrius.
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