Spotify has just unveiled a range of audiobooks to its listeners, narrated by some very distinctive voices. Can it beat Audible at its own game?
Spotify has hired celebrities and voice artists to read nine public domain novels, in a venture that sees the music streaming service moving a little out of its comfort zone and right onto the home territory of Audible, the Amazon-owned audiobook behemoth with the annoyingly unavoidable adverts.
It’s not the very first time that Spotify has hosted an audiobook; just last year at the outbreak of the pandemic, celebrities including Daniel Radcliffe, Stephen Fry, David Beckham (?!?!), and Eddie Redmayne took turns to read chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. Nor is it the first indication that Spotify has ambitions beyond just music, as was shown by the eye-wateringly expensive exclusivity deals with popular podcasts including The Joe Rogan Experience, The Michelle Obama Podcast, and Archewell Audio (presented by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle).
So can Spotify win over audiobook listeners, just as it has with music fans? That may depend on the calibre of its early offerings, so judge for yourself from the nine audiobooks and their narrators:
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (read by David Dobrik)
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass (read by Forest Whittaker)
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin (read by Hillary Swank)
- Persuasion by Jane Austen (read by Cynthia Erivo)
- Cane by Jean Toomer (read by Audra McDonald)
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (read by James Langton)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (read by Sarah Coombs)
- Passing by Nella Larsen (read by Bahni Turpin)
- Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (read by Santino Fontana)
While of course it’s disappointing that everyone’s favourite helium-voiced underwear model and former football player has not yet been re-hired to give us his rendition of Tolstoy’s War & Peace, it’s a strong selection of classic literature to choose from and it seems likely that a significant audience will be seduced by the sound of these stories.
Labelled as podcasts rather than audiobooks on the app, you can access them with a free account (though your experience will be interrupted by adverts), or with a premium ad-free subscription starting from £9.99 per month (or £4.99 for students).