Spotify is changing

Spotify is changing from an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord to a place where you need to pay extra for some items on the menu.

On Tuesday, Spotify launched audiobooks for purchase in the US. Listeners can browse a library of 300,000 titles from publishers large and small in a new audiobooks hub, as well as in Spotify searches. 

But unlike music or podcasts, Audiobook titles have a lock icon next to them.  

Spotify will ask you to pay up each time you want to listen to an audiobook. After an unspecified free preview, you’ll need to click a link directing you out of Spotify’s app to its transactional website. There, you’ll purchase the title upfront, regardless of whether you’re a premium member with a paid subscription or you listen to Spotify free with ads. Spotify didn’t respond to messages seeking specifics about free previews, publishers involved and other details.

The move broadens Spotify beyond tunes to yet another variety of audio. As culture at large has shifted to streaming as the most common way people listen to music, Spotify has emerged as the world’s dominant music service, with 433 million total listeners worldwide. 

For the last three years, it has aggressively expanded into podcasts, reframing itself as the world’s go-to service for audio more broadly. 

Audiobook streaming is the next frontier in Spotify’s quest to be your go-to place for all kinds of audio. 

The format, though less popular than music and podcasts in the US, is growing. Audiobook revenue for publishers increased 25% last year to $1.6 billion, according to the Audio Publishers Association trade group. In the last decade, the number of audiobooks has exploded: The APA counted 73,898 titles published last year, more than 10 times the number of titles in 2011.

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