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It was printed books on a screen, not remotely exploring digital’s potential, and at worst a small threat to bricks and mortar retailers.Sure self-publishers could earn a notional 70% royalty, and that sector bloomed and boomed, but never enough to seriously challenge the existing order, even if some seemed to think otherwise in those heady days of 2010-13 when some seriously believed self-publishers would inherit the Earth. Big Pub learned it could contain the ebook beast it had fed and nurtured by the simple expedient of keeping ebook prices at a level that would not cannibalise print sales.
And there are numerous smaller subscription players thriving in Europe.For consumers, readers and listeners pay less and get to read or listen to more.It’s counterintuitive, and at the heart of Big pub’s wariness of the subscription model. But Storytel has also demonstrated that less is more for publishers.But as Storytel prepares to go head to head with Audible and Kindle Unlimited in Germany, one of the world’s biggest book markets, the book industry seismometer will be registering activity.
This is the first rumbling of a seismic shift in the publishing landscape as publishers in a major book market prepare to give Amazon a run for its money by backing a model they have long chosen to keep at arms’ length.
But with the move into Germany, the home of Audible, and only possible with the active engagement of Germany’s publishers, we see Big Pub finally ready to seriously test-drive and evaluate the twin offerings Storytel brings to the table: a viable challenger and counter-balance to Amazon’s dominance of the digital market, and the prospect of seeing the Storytel model in action in a fully mature market.