Beat Technology Is Developing Romania’s First Audiobook Platform

In News by Porter Anderson

Publishing houses in Romania are working together to produce the Echo audiobook subscription platform, a first in market of almost 20 million people.

Echo is the new platform developed by Norway’s Beat Technology for as Romania’s first audiobook and podcast subscription program. Image: Echo

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘The Romanian Market is Nascent’ in Audio
One of the speakers in today’s (June 14) “Forging Forward” conference in the digital Bologna Children’s Book Fair program is Nathan Hull, who reps the Norwegian custom designer of digital subscription platforms Beat Technology. The panel, “Innovation: Staying in Business, Forging Forward, and Making a Profit,” is moderated by Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah and features, in addition to Hull, input from Zanichelli Ventures’ Enrique Poli, Fonfon’s Veronique Fontaine, and Publishing Perspectives.

Hull brings us word of the coming launch of Romania’s first audiobook platform, expected to go live late this month.

Echo—that link is to its holding page, “coming soon”—has been founded by Bucharest’s publishing house Nemira, and reportedly is having success enlisting other publishers in Romania to be partners in the development. Hull has said in our past coverage of this approach that creating a bespoke audiobook and/or ebook platform through Beat Technology usually works best if more than one player in a given market is involved.

Hull tells Publishing Perspectives that as many as 3 million of Romania’s 19.4 million people are fans of podcasts, and the Romanian book market is estimated at between €80 million and €100 million (between US$97 million and $121 million). Hull reports a robust recovery underway after the book market was hard hit by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Hull: ‘High Benchmarks’

“Audiobooks have until now been a very small segment of this market,” Hull says, “mostly CD audiobooks sold through retail.”

Nathan Hull

This, of course, gives Beat a clear path forward, with plans to provide both downloadable audiobooks and podcast content, bringing together publishing houses including Trei, Curtea Veche, Nemira, Humanitas, Publica, Crime Scene Press, and For You. Hull says more houses are joining the consortium weekly as the launch nears.

Relative to Bologna’s trade show, running digitally this week, Hull says an entire part of the new Echo platform in Romania is to be given over to children’s content, from picture-book series to middle-grade novels, the pitch there being a service that parents can use to with kids at bedtime.

The business model is token-based, he tells us, users signing up for a set of credits each month to be used in buying audiobooks, not unlike the basic Audible model in the States–and a departure from the all-you-can-listen-to model more common in many European programs. Aware of this, Echo will also offer three levels of credit-based subscriptions.

Currently a credit is set to be worth €4.49 (US$5.44) for the monthly credits model. The user will get a month’s free trial and three credits. They’ll then opt between a basic subscription that provides two credits monthly, a second level offering up to three audiobooks per month, and a premium level at five credits per month providing up to five audiobook purchases. The subscriptions’ pricing will start at €8.49 for the basic two-credit level (US$10.29).

The Echo platform is owned by Ana and Radu Nicolau, two entrepreneurs in publishing and technology, and developed in collaboration with Beat. Echo also has further backing from a strategic investment and alliance with the Cărturești book chain.

Ana Nicolau, in media messaging on the new project, says, “Coming from a family business, I’ve always been concerned with sustainability and taking the long-term approach. I believe audiobooks have a bright future ahead and I also think that in some already existing international markets publishers and the creative community, who are the driving force behind the works themselves are just not fairly remunerated for their work.

“Coming from a family business, I’ve always been concerned with sustainability and taking the long-term approach.”Ana Nicolau

“As the Romanian audiobook market is in its infancy, we have a shot here to do things differently and to offer a valuable and flawless service that readers appreciate and feel good about supporting, knowing that their beloved authors are making a fair living, not to mention the editors and translators and narrators and artists that help bring these works to life.

“Everything that we’re trying to do is guided by this goal of ensuring the health of that ecology and we are proud and humbled by the trust our partner publishers, narrators, authors, agents and rights holders have placed in us so far and we’re tremendously excited at the prospect of bringing this new format to as many happy and excited book-lovers in Romania as we can.”

And for his part, Hull says, “Beat has built and powers the leading publisher services in Norway, Germany, Denmark and Spain. The Romanian market is nascent, which allows both Echo and Beat to establish an acceptable business model in Romania, set standards for recording quality, and high benchmarks for consumer experience.”

The latest team shot from Norway’s Beat Technology. Image: Beat

More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here. As Bologna 2021 gets underway, more from us on the Italian market and news from its publishers’ association is here. More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair itself is here, more from us on children’s books is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here

More from Publishing Perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.