Libro.fm, the audiobook retailer and listening app for local bookshops, launched internationally on Wednesday to give even more bookstores the ability to earn income via audiobook sales.
The platform is now available worldwide in six currencies: USD, CAD, EUR, AUD, GBP and NZD. Libro.fm currently partners with more than 2,200 independent bookshops, with 146 of those being international stores.
At a time when independent bookshops face crushing competition from Amazon and other major online retailers, the international launch will hopefully help give smaller stores a chance to grow their businesses.
Libro.fm saw a demand among global readers for an audiobook app that supports smaller bookshops. In 2022, 29% of new Libro.fm users were from outside of the U.S., the company said.
More broadly, the global audiobook market size is predicted to reach $35 billion by 2030, per Grand View Research.
Every time a customer makes a purchase or pays the membership fee, Libro.fm shares profits with the selected bookshop. So, instead of customers giving money to a large service like Audible, they are providing necessary revenue to their local bookstores.
“What is significant for the bookshop is that every sale matters because of their business model… every book counts,” Libro.fm co-founder and CEO Mark Pearson told TechCrunch. “Whereas for Amazon, it’s a drop in the bucket if you sell a book.”
It’s completely free for bookshops to sell audiobooks on Libro.fm.
Meanwhile, if booksellers want to sell on Amazon-owned Audible, they either make 40% of the retail sales or a royalty rate of 25%, depending on whether they get exclusive or non-exclusive distribution rights. To sell a physical copy on Amazon, sellers must pay either $39.99 per month for a professional seller account (no per-sale closing fee) or 99 cents per sale if they have an individual seller account.
With Libro.fm, users choose one bookshop of their choice in their local area and then either pay a monthly membership ($14.99 USD), which gives them one audiobook credit per month, or purchase audiobooks à la carte. Members receive a 30% discount when buying individually.
Readers can listen to their audiobooks via the free iOS or Android app. All audiobooks are DRM-free, meaning they can also download and listen on other devices. Libro.fm hosts more than 400,000 digital audiobooks.
In 2014, Libro.fm was co-founded by Mark Pearson (Libro.fm CEO), Carl Hartung (CTO) and Nick Johnson (creative director).
“After starting my own publishing company, Pear Press, I saw growth in my audiobook sales. However, these independent bookshops had no way to participate in that growth,” Pearson told TechCrunch. “And so that’s why we decided to start Libro.fm. I myself, as a publisher, and my friends who had PhDs in computer science, teamed up to build this platform. And we did it with no outside investors. We’re 100% employee-owned.”
With only 18 employees, Pearson says that the entire Libro.fm team are “super passionate” about bookstores and plans to keep the company “as small as possible” in order to “maximize the revenue that we share with our bookshop partners,” he added.