Kobo’s never had an issue taking on the bigwigs. It’s outlasted bigger names like Sony and Barnes & Noble in the devoted e-reader space, and now it’s ready to take a swipe at Audible’s marketshare dominance. The Rakuten-owned company has just announced the launch of its own audiobook service.
The store is live now, with titles available for a la carte purchasing. There’s also a subscription plan available for $10 a month, giving readers (or, listeners, rather) access to a title a month — even if its list price is higher than the monthly fee. That’s $5 a month cheaper than Audible’s current asking price. And like Audible, the company’s also tossing in a free trial month to get people started. Once purchased/rented, books are available for listening though Kobo’s Android and iOS app.
Perhaps the discount will help the company gain a little marketshare, but it’s going to be an uphill climb for Kobo. The one-two punch of Amazon/Audible has a virtual lock on the market. E-book purchase numbers haven’t exactly been consistent in recent years, but according to Audible’s internal numbers, the audiobook giant keeps growing. Last year, it noted that “membership growth is consistent at 40 per cent year on year.”
And while Kobo has been a constant presence in the e-book space, the company isn’t exactly a household name here in the States, at least. As such, any sort of brand loyalty it’s built up over the years will only take it so far. I’ve owned a number of Kobo readers over the years. They’re solid devices with more software flexibility than their Kindle counterparts, but an appreciation of the company’s hardware isn’t exactly going to push me into using their audiobook service.
Pricing is one key place the company can differentiate itself — on top of a cheaper subscription rate, the company’s also got a “Price Match Guarantee” that’s being extended to its audiobooks in addition to existing e-books. Audiobooks appear to be continuing to grow in popularity, so there’s some potential for Kobo to make its mark, even at this late stage. But the company’s going to have to do more than that to distinguish itself, if it really wants to make a dent in the 22-year-old audiobook giant’s marketshare.