When Kindle Unlimited launched this summer it offered a format which none of its competitors matched: audiobooks. And now Scribd has.
Earlier today Scribd debuted the latest addition to its ebook subscription service. They've partnered with Findaway World to add 30,000 audiobooks from leading publishers.
That 30,000 titles falls far short of the 150,000 titles Audible carries, but it does include the frontlist and popular titles from many publishers, including The Hunger Games trilogy, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, and many others.
The audiobooks are available now in Scribd's Android app and in your web browser, and the iOS app will be gaining support in the near future. They can be downloaded and listened to offline, and Scribd is also planning to offer a Whispersync-like feature early next year.
Scribd's subscribers will be able to listen to as many audiobooks as they can find the time, all for the same $9 a month they pay for access to Scribd's 500,000 ebook catalog.
In comparison, Amazon offers around 2,300 audiobook titles in Kindle Unlimited. Oyster doesn't have any, and the recently launched streaming-only audiobook subscription service offered by Skybrite has "thousands" of titles and costs $9.99 a month. Also, the retailer Audiobooks.com used to offer a $25 a month subscription but they dropped it in January 2013.
This is a bold move for Scribd which will make its service much more attractive than its competitors, but its also a move that Amazon could copy if that giant really wanted to. But they probably won't because of the increased costs.
I would bet that Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited with only 2,300 audiobook titles because audiobooks usually cost 4 times or more than the price of an ebook. This suggests that an unlimited audiobook subscription plan is simply unsustainable at $9 a month or the KU's $10 a month.
And I think even Scribd knows that. Techcrunch reported that Scribd is hinting at a price hike:
The company is adding audiobooks without raising its $8.99 monthly subscription fee. However, Adler described that as “an introductory price.” While he wants to offer “as much value as we possibly can at an $8.99 price point,” Adler is “not ruling out” a tiered pricing plan in the future.
If the audiobooks prove popular they're going to have to increase prices - or go bankrupt.