With over 600,000 active users in 30 European markets, BookBeat has been making the news over the past few years. After their recent agreement with RBMedia, which resulted in 40,000 English-language audiobooks being added to an already vast catalog, the company has launched in Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The Swedish digital subscription company dedicated to the consumption of ebooks and audiobooks has also been at the center of industry news after the introduction of subscription alternatives to the classic unlimited model – a stunning development in the panorama of the current publishing industry.
BookBeat has been one of our content distribution partners in Italian and other European languages, and we expect some pivotal developments in October. In fact, Niclas Sandin's platform seems to be ready to make the jump into the Italian market with the launch of a proprietary app, available for iOS and Android, which will allow users to access a catalog of about half a million pieces of content!
Let us now give the stage to Valeria Luminasi, expansion coordinator for BookBeat, which we thank again for her availability. Have a good read!
There are many players in the audiobook streaming space. How does BookBeat differ from the other platforms?
Good question. Bookbeat believes in customization and in giving every user exactly what they need. For the Italian market, this translates into three different packages, with a monthly number of hours to choose from: 20, 50, or 100. This will allow us to improve access to those who have less time to read. Our app will also offer the cheapest audiobooks and ebooks on the market.
In addition, every month we launch a new, improved version of the app; this means that, in comparison with our competitors in other core markets, Bookbeat provides the best user experience, and gets the highest ratings.
BookBeat is headquartered in Stockholm. Since the primary way to access digital books in Sweden is through streaming services, how did this affect the way you developed your platform?
Sweden is the cradle of audiobooks, one of the first countries that turned an exclusive trend into a lifestyle accessible to all. BookBeat was part of the Bonnier Group, one of the oldest publishing houses in Europe and the leading media company in the sector. It is funny to think that in 1992 Bonnier was already sending the very first audiobooks (in cassette format) directly to the homes of the participants of his Book Club, and they were going strong!
Today, BookBeat does exactly the same thing: it has preserved its legacy and upgraded it into a subscription model, continuing a journey that began 30 years ago... but this time reaching more than 600,000 users across Europe.
After your success with showcasing some of the major publishers from various markets, you have decided to give space to indie authors as well. What prompted you to open the platform to self-publishers?
It is important for us to offer users a complete, high-quality catalog; to date, we have more than 600,000 books on the platform, and a large part is from indie authors.
For example, consider the case of “The Atlas Six” by Olivie Black: it was a self-published title that went viral on TikTok, becoming an international bestseller with millions of copies sold (and top listening records on BookBeat).
Audiobooks and the subscription model seem to be the perfect combo in today's market. However, what do you think about ebook subscriptions? How are users' reading habits changing when it comes to streaming?
That's true; in many markets, the consumption of audiobooks has been constantly growing and indeed, has seen a strong acceleration during the period of the pandemic specifically. In contrast, after the consumption boom in 2020, e-books did not continue to perform as well, and many readers became "listeners".
This has led us to focus more on audiobooks, although ebooks remain a key component of the platform.
From the users' point of view, ebooks are very practical but have a "serious" flaw compared to audiobooks: you can’t read them while loading the dishwasher!
BookBeat's audience is becoming more and more international. How have consumer habits changed and evolve from country to country?
Yes, and we have a lot of fun comparing them! For example, would you have ever guessed that Germany could love romance novels so much? No?
On the other hand, it wasn't a surprise for Poland, faithfully attached to its saga “The Witcher", which has now become international. We have some initial data about Italy too, but for now, readers seem to follow a general trend that has been dominating during recent years: thrillers and classics.
As for consumption habits, I can say that the whole world shares a love for Audio formats, especially on public transport and during household chores (see dishwasher!).
Let's look at the future: how do you see the publishing market evolving in the coming years? After the recent launch in Norway and the opening in the Netherlands and Belgium, what will be your next move? What should we expect to see in Italy?
As of today, you can find BookBeat in thirty markets, ten of which are considered main markets (with apps and content in the local language) and four are in expansion: Italy, Spain, France, and the UK. Seeing the performance of the other core markets, we are very confident about the upcoming launches. For Italy, in particular, we have a dream: to put an end to the fragmentation of the audiobook market.
We have seen a tendency among our competitors to work exclusively with certain publishers or titles; this can limit publishers and consumers, leaving everyone a little dissatisfied. BookBeat aims to create a free and complete platform, but also wants to make it clear that audiobooks are not a fad, but the future of the publishing world.
The interview was done by email in recent weeks - thanks again to Valeria Luminasi for her availability!