Audiobooks: Bonnier’s BookBeat Opens in Spain and Italy

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

BookBeat, based in Sweden, is offering usage-time audiobook subscriptions in both its new markets, Italy and Spain.

On the upper row, titles offered in the Italian edition of BookBeat, and on the lower row, titles offered in Spain. Images: BookBeat.it and BookBeat.es

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

See also: 
Ahead of Frankfurt Audio: Storytel Makes Its Third-Quarter Report
Storytel Rolls Out Its Audiobook Service in France
Audiobooks: Ghana’s AkooBooks Is Relaunching with Norway’s Beat Technology
Spotify Opens Its US Audiobooks Offer: 300,000 Titles
Germany’s Bookwire Reorganizes Its Audiobook Approach

As Frankfurt Audio Approaches
Ycan still feel the breeze of Storytel going by, on the way to France. ‘Tis the season, it seems, for audiobook services to enter new markets.

Today (October 12), Niclas Sandin‘s BookBeat, a Bonnier brand, has announced that it’s going into Spain and Italy.

Spain, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, is this year’s guest of honor at Frankfurter Buchmesse, which opens exactly four minutes from now. Okay, it actually it runs October 19 to 23, but the pre-Frankfurt deer is in the headlights now, as anyone being asked for last-minute meetings is discovering. And Italy is Frankfurt’s guest-of-honor-in-waiting, its year being 2024 after we have Slovenia take the honor in 2023.

In these newly opened Italian and Spanish markets, BookBeat is using the increasingly popular time-usage subscription format. There are three packages offered, ranging from 10 to 100 hours of listening time. The prices run:

  • €6.99 (US$6.77) for 20 hours
  • €9.99 (US$9.68) for 50 hours
  • €14.99 (US$14.53) for 100 hours

This is a trend to watch. To date, the two main subscription formats have been the “all you can listen to” route and the Audible approach (in the United States, not in all Audible markets) of a single audiobook per month for a subscription cost of close to US$15.00, quite similar to the price of Bookbeat’s top tier. Very few books offer 100 hours of listening, so it’s immediately evident that even at its highest rate of a comparable US$14.53, a user is getting a lot more sheer listening hours than normally can be had in a monthly Audible subscription, and the BookBeat subscriber can use those hours as he or she sees fit, not just in a single choice of book.

BookBeat, in promotional copy for both new markets, says it has more than 700,000 titles for takers of this time-based, not title-based subscription format. It is not immediately clear, however, how many of those 700,000 titles may be hearable in Italian or Spanish (or other languages).

Sandin: ‘We Aim To Be a Complete Platform’

Spain is BookBeat’s 11th market and Italy is its 12th. And while the company in its media messaging is quoting a 94-percent rise in audiobook growth in Italy and a 137-percent growth increase in Spain, both those figures are for the year 2020 which was, as we all know, a period impacted by the digital acceleration of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic–an event which public health officials are trying to warn has not ended, especially as the northern hemisphere sees the return of winter ahead.

Those 2020 audiobook statistics are drawn by BookBeat from the Associazione Italiana Editori (AIE) in Italy and Javier Celaya‘s Dosdoce for Bookwire in Spain. In its one-year-later 2021 report, the AIE in Milan said, “Overall audiobook sales, after the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic-driven rise in 2020, have ‘settled down,’ dropping 11 percent by comparison to that first pandemic year, to €86 million (US$96.2 million).”

Dueling statistical reports can’t be counted on to render reliable outlooks for prosperity, 0f course, and Sandin and his team are experienced and capable. But it will be interesting to see what level of actual uptake BookBeat encounters in these markets by comparison to the earlier stages of this still-ongoing pandemic.

Niclas Sandin

In a prepared comment, Sandin is quoted, saying, “One of our ambitions is to build the market together with publishers by increasing the demand and extending the market of digital audiobooks.

“We don’t want to focus on trying to reinvent the wheel by building a large catalogue ourselves. That’s already the core business and passion of our publisher partners.

“For Italy specifically, we also estimate that a fragmented market with a lot of exclusive offers has stopped the market from reaching its full potential. Publishers are missing out on revenues as their books are only available on one platform, and we don’t believe that benefits users, either. Our focus should be on the offer to users and improving the discoverability of the service.

“We aim to be a complete platform by working with all publishers and promoting the books we … see our users enjoy listening to. We look forward to learning more about Italian and Spanish users’ listening habits now that we’re available with our local platform in both markets.”

BookBeat is seven years old, a Bonnier Books brand founded in 2015 and opened on the home market, Sweden, in May 2016. The company reports that it now has more than 100 employees and local offices outside Stockholm in Karlstad, Helsinki, Berlin, and Warsaw.

Update: After saying it had “close to 600,000 monthly paying users” on October 12, the company tells Publishing Perspectives on October 13 that it has “close to 700,000 monthly paying users.” The majority of them presumably still are in Sweden, Finland, and Germany.

Much more on audiobooks and the broader audio market will be available at Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Frankfurt Audio area in Hall 3.1, K61. While at Frankfurt, if you’d like to get a message to BookBeat’s CEO, Sandin, we’d suggest going by the Bonnierforlagen AB stand in Hall 4.0 at E40.


At Frankfurt, please join us for the inaugural edition of Publishing Perspectives Forum, a two-day program of leading and influential professionals in the international publishing industry discussing today’s challenges, dynamics, and trends.

For example, “The Audiobook Retail Evolution” explores “the audio retail landscape” as ” increasingly complex and competitive, with evolving business models and more sales platforms. What do publishers need to know to make sure their audiobooks reach consumers? And how is audiobook retail evolving in different global markets?”

Speakers include:

Our Publishing Perspectives Forum program is specifically geared to business interests in the world publishing industry – the issues and challenges facing the trade, from mounting economic challenges to the competition of entertainment media for the “attention economy” of consumers’ focus.

Attendance is free of charge for all Frankfurter Buchmesse exhibitors and trade visitors. The program language is English. You’ll find full details and developing news here

More from Publishing Perspectives on Storytel is here, more from us on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on book fairs is here, more on digital publishing is here, and more on audiobooks is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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.com, 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.