Libro.fm Opens, Audiobook Sales Through Local Bookstores

In News by Porter Anderson

The seven-year-old Seattle-based Libro.fm opens a Bookshop.org-style audiobook-selling service in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

A map of independent partner bookstores on the Libro.fm site on July 26, as the company announces an international opening. Image: Libro.fm

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

‘A Technology Partner to Local Bookstores’
Today (July 26), a Seattle-based company called Libro.fm has announced that it is opening a new offering in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, saying that the program allows independent bookstores to partner with Libro on audiobook sales.

The site’s “international launch” page gives users the option to enter through buttons for the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

The company, seven years old, says it currently is partnered with at least 2,200 independent bookstores which together can offer as many as 400,000 “DRM-free digital audiobooks.”

Not unlike the Bookshop.org model, consumers have a chance to select a store to support from those 2,200 independent booksellers, choosing a bookstore after creating a Libro.fm account. Profits, then, are to be shared with that bookstore each time the consumer buys one of several things:

  • An audiobook
  • A monthly membership, which includes one audiobook credit and 30 percent off on additional buys
  • Bundles of credits
  • Gifts

In using a subscription service of credits for audiobooks, Libro is emulating Audible‘s United States one-credit-per-audiobook subscription format, which is not the same as that rolled out by Audible in several other international markets. By using the credit-subscription approach, Libro says in its press materials that this enables it “to compete directly with Amazon’s Audible.”

Image: Libro.fm

Libro.fm classifies itself as an 18-employee “social purpose corporation,” and to that end offers corporate-responsibility summations here.

Currently, in a widget on the site, the names of nine selected specific bookstores are displayed, three each in London, Toronto, and Melbourne, Australia.

According to prepared comments from Mark Pearson, Libro.fm co-founder, the company has until now been limited to United States and Canadian sales made in US dollars. He says the company now accepts payment in US dollars and Canadian dollars, British pounds, and euros, as well as in Australian and New Zealand dollars.

Press materials say Libro has 139 “international stores”—presumably meaning partner bookstores located outside the United States—and that “customers can live anywhere in the world.”

Many of those customers, it should be noted, however, may find themselves at the moment physically nowhere near a partner bookstore. The map of partnered stores on the site at this writing shows one store in South America, two in Africa, and one in India, for example. That’s not a criticism. It’s the reality of what appears to be an aspirational business model in the early stages of its projected expansion.

“The partnering stores, according to the company, include physical stores, online retailers, mobile e-commerce companies, and pop-up venues.

Pearson includes in his prepared remarks, “We see ourselves as a technology partner to local bookstores and this mission guides us in all that we do. … We actively seek to feature audiobooks by authors of color, disabled authors, and LGBTQIA+ authors through our site, app, and marketing communications.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, more on bookstores is here, and more on bookselling 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.