A Spotify for books?


SMALL PRINT:BOOKSHOPS MAY HAVE suffered due to the online migration of book sales, but the book-publishing industry still manages to make good money from its content, unlike the film and music industries. The proliferation of electronic readers has seen consumers change the way they read, but most people continue to pay for books.

Now, though, a Norwegian website is trying out the Spotify model (whereby subscribers can stream music) for audiobooks. Ordflyt.no, still in beta, is a collaborative project between a Norwegian publishing house and Aspiro, a Swedish company that works mainly with television and music streaming services. The service, which is focusing on Norwegian books for the time being, offers 150 audiobooks for free at the moment, and further titles are available for purchase.

Ordflyt (the site might want to come up with a catchier name if the service ends up going international) also plans to launch iPhone and Android apps in the next few months.

While it is possible to stream audiobooks in various places online, or hunt around for MP3s of some common titles, as yet there is no decent central online resource for such a service. Following the international success of Spotify, the publishing industry will be watching Ordflyt’s testing and expansion closely, although audiobooks are more of a niche market than music.

Meanwhile, the Spanish company 24symbols is already making progress in its attempt to become a “Spotify for ebooks”. It is using both an advertising-inclusive free model or a non-advertising subscription model for reading books online. It also launched a decent iPad app in late July.

Although many of its titles are already available for free at various online locations, such as Apple’s iBooks app or Project Gutenberg (a service that releases electronic versions of books when their US copyright expires), 24Symbols, along with Ordflyt, seem to be quietly starting a shift towards a new era of various and innovative book-reading and listening services.