Friday, 4 January 2013

I like books and I like music... but which is best?

There's only one way to find out...



You might have seen that Spotify has withdrawn the facility for UK users to purchase and download tracks, in favour of concentrating on its primary offering of streaming music.  

My guess is that it was because no-one was bothering to buy and download when they could stream.  Premium subscribers can also save playlists locally to iOS or Android devices as part of their deal.  What's more, those iOS users with an Apple TV can also stream their Spotify tunes through their sound systems at home too... so why buy?

Setting paid-download options alongside streaming options within the Spotify app has never made much sense to me, so it's not really a surprise to see it disappearing

Since picking up a Spotify Premium account when they first became available I've rarely bought anything from iTunes or other download stores.  I listen to hundreds of tracks new and old every month so, for me, Spotify represents great value for money.  Setting paid-download options alongside streaming options within the Spotify app has never made much sense to me, so it's not really a surprise to see it disappearing.

In discussing this on Twitter earlier, I entered a conversation where it was implied that streaming was an effective model for the distribution of audio-books too. With the assumption that the user can store local playlists in the same way as Spotify, I'd agree.  However, for me the subscription model for audio-books is a much more thorny problem.  With Spotify Premium I might listen to hundreds of tracks over a month, plus many albums in part or in full... with the equivalent cost of purchasing individual tracks averaging 99p each and albums between £7.99 and £9.99 Spotify Premium is well worth my £10 per month subscription.

With the streaming of audio-books, however, the subscription value is less clear-cut.  An audio-book might cost £10 or more, but given that they are often hours long, I'm unlikely to get through more than one a month.  What's more, with music and actually reading books competing for my time and attention, there's a good chance it might take me even longer to get through it.  Suddenly a £10 per month subscription doesn't look that attractive.  

I suppose that some of the problem is down to the fact that audio-books have a very specific demographic... including, for example, people with regular lengthy commutes, whereas music fans are more widespread.  You can listen to a track in three minutes and then move onto doing something else, you can treat it like radio and let it roll on in the background all day, or you select a specific album and dedicate an hours attention to it... either way, it fits in more people's busy lifestyles than an audio-book streaming service might.  

If they had a model where for, say £2.99 per month, I could stream a maximum of one or two books per month, that might be more interesting.

Case in point for me is the fact that I undertook Bardowl's 14-day trial last year and started listening to a great book.  However, after a couple of reasonably efficient listening sessions (whilst watching local cricket I seem to remember) I then went to the app to find that my free subscription had expired before I'd reached the end of the book.  Instead, of opting for the subscription, I simply bought the book for my Kindle instead, in the knowledge that I would never realistically listen to enough audio books to warrant the monthly subscription fee.  

I should add, that this is a shame really because I love the concept and I love the Bardowl app, but it comes down to the subscription model not meeting my needs really.  If they had a model where for, say £2.99 per month, I could stream a maximum of one or two books per month, that might be more interesting.


photo: bjmccray

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