Amid lockdown, audiobook platform Storytel sees spike in users

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on May 19, 2021

The global market for audiobooks is projected to reach $20 billion by 2030

Oral Storytelling has been an inseparable part of Indian tradition for several centuries. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for many people to rediscover the joy of listening to stories.

With the lockdown confining people to their homes and restricting the options for outdoor entertainment, many people are now exploring audiobooks along with their families.

“Our year-on-year growth has been constant and healthy but during the lockdown the intake (of service) has witnessed a significant growth as more and more people are willing to try our service,” said Yogesh Dashrath, country manager in India for Storytel.

Storytel’s origin story

Storytel is one of the world’s largest subscription-based audiobook and ebook streaming service providers with presence in more than 20 countries with a base of over 1.5 million subscribers.

In India, Storytel launched its services in November 2017 with contents in English, Hindi and Marathi with just 400 odd titles. Subsequently, it expanded its content library significantly and currently boasts of 200,000 titles in audiobook and ebook formats in 12 languages.

“It has been quite a journey from where audiobooks were a very new concept to a stage where a lot of people have been our subscribers for years. Today, we have a catalogue which is extensive in quite a few languages,” said Dashrath.

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Storytel offers wide range of e-books and audiobooks titles under classics, crime, romance, fiction, non-fiction, history and personal development categories. While its ‘Unlimited’ plan offers access to audiobooks & e-books in English and 10+ Indian languages at ₹299 per month, the ‘Select’ plan, at a price point of ₹149, provides unlimited access in a particular language like Marathi, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam.

Audibooks in India

Although the concept of audiobooks is slowly catching up in India, it is still at a very nascent stage as compared to many developed countries. For instance, revenue from audiobooks is almost 10 percent of printed books in the US while audiobooks are pretty much equal to printed books in terms of sales in Sweden.

The global market for audiobooks is estimated at about $4 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $20 billion by 2030.

“The bigger challenge, not just for Storytel, but the entire publishing industry in India is how do we get more people to pay for stories and books,” said Dashrath.

He added that the number of audio books on offer in India is still on a lower side in general but it will improve as the market matures as more and more people get into audiobook publishing and more new users getting used to the concept.

Also read: How literacy helps financial inclusion of rural women

A study ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the India Book Consumer’ conducted by Nielsen Book India in June-August 2020 found that both reading, and audiobook listening are up, increasing by a substantial seven hours weekly on average to as much as 16 hours total, per week. While two of five respondents of the survey said they’re spending more time with print titles, one in two respondents said they’re spending more time reading e-books and listening to audiobooks.

“I see a pretty promising trend for audio in general. There is a huge enthusiasm for apps like Clubhouse or the growing popularity of podcasts. I personally feel if last decade was of touch phones and touch screens, the next decade is going to be audio,” Dashrath said.

Published on May 19, 2021

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