Further cementing its commitment to break barriers of all kinds in order for a variety of stories to reach the largest audience possible, Audible, world’s largest audiobooks platform has joined hands with Rajpal & Sons, one of India’s oldest literary Hindi publishers, thus giving consumers access to over 230 titles across genres, such as Hindi classic and contemporary literature, self-development, poetry and translations. The catalogue includes over 150 bestsellers, including titles with translations to English, as well as Hindi and Urdu titles.
The deal marks a milestone in Audible’s India journey, which launched in 2018 and has expanded to over 200,000 titles, with over 700 Audible-exclusive deals with Indian authors. This strategic move will allow their consumers to not only access audiobooks in multiple languages, but also further showcases Audible’s ability to understand and cater to the diverse Indian market.
Here, Shailesh Sawlani, Country Head, Audible shares more about audiobooks and this partnership. Excerpts.
AABP: How are audiobooks faring worldwide and in India, in particular?
Shailesh: Audiobooks are a growing segment globally. In countries like the US, Canada and Europe, there is broader awareness of the category; it is faring well and thriving. In India, audiobooks are still considered new. There are multiple services that are coming in and engaging more with authors and talent, which add another dimension to publishing. India has potential for massive growth in audiobooks since it is a country open to various forms of entertainment and learning.
Audiobooks offer a different way of experiencing something that people love and the existing users of audiobooks are extremely passionate and excited by the content available. Additionally, for those who haven’t been readers or have dropped the habit along the way for different reasons including paucity of time, audiobooks are a boon. In India, there is a long history of storytelling which is intertwined with the country’s culture and audiobooks are a natural fit. People have grown up listening to stories, so it is something that feels familiar and comfortable. India is the eighth dedicated marketplace for Audible after establishing itself in the US, Europe, UK and Australia. Since we launched our audiobooks service, the response has been overwhelming.
AABP: What kind of genres are popular?
Shailesh: Audiobooks are very different from reading books and each genre lends something unique to the overall listening experience. Having said that, our two most popular genres are Self-Help and Fiction. With a genre like fiction, there is a lot of room to create a setting. For example, with horror, the setting and background add a lot more drama and intrigue to the story, and that offers an immersive listening experience. It allows you to push the limits of your imagination and the quality of production is extremely high, which people really enjoy.
When it comes to non-fiction, Audible titles related to self-help and biographies are being explored and listened to on a daily basis and are doing exceedingly well. It offers listeners an intimate experience and topics like self-help connect with the listeners on an extremely personal level.
AABP: Who are the target audience for audiobooks?
Shailesh: There isn’t a restriction in terms of who can listen to audiobooks. We believe that audiobooks are for anybody who loves books and believes in the power of audio or anyone that’s looking to be entertained or informed. Audiobooks are for anybody – from book lovers, avid readers, literature enthusiasts as well as people who are interested in learning and listening. Often, people don’t find the time to read books, and audiobooks can be useful for them. It allows people to access literature and stories in a new way, while on the move or even while doing household tasks. Audiobooks allow people to turn their free or down time into new found or productive time.
AABP: How many titles do you have and in which languages? Which language is more popular and why?
Shailesh: In India, we offer over 200,000 titles and over 1000 Audible-exclusive titles by leading Indian authors in English and Hindi. We have taken feedback from thousands of Indian listeners who are already part of the Audible ecosystem and have worked to build a content selection based on what the Indian audience want to listen to, all through the launch and post launch. The language of preference is currently English, but there is strong demand for Hindi and with our Rajpal & Sons partnership, we are looking at expanding the number of Hindi titles available.
AABP: Tell us about your partnership with Rajpal & Sons?
Shailesh: Rajpal & Sons is one of the most reputed Indian publishing companies that has an Indian connect and also a global legacy. We believe that this exclusive partnership will allow our consumers to access a whole new world of stories in Hindi. It not only gives people the ability to listen to various languages, but also provides a variety of content. We have access to over 230 titles across genres, such as Hindi classic and contemporary literature, self-development, poetry and translations. The catalogue includes over 150 bestsellers, including titles with translations to English, as well as Hindi and Urdu titles. It’s a collection of much-loved stories in Hindi and also includes translations of popular English works such as Adultery and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This opens up a new avenue for people who feel more comfortable listening and consuming content in Hindi. We’re extremely proud to work with Rajpal & Sons and look forward to further strengthening our range of titles with them.
AABP: What kind of books are you interested in adding to your platform?
Shailesh: Audible is committed to finding culturally rich and powerful stories and turning them into high-quality Audible productions in the near future. We are constantly looking to invest in Indian authors and their content. Making Indian content accessible on Audible is extremely important to us and we are always looking to promote indigenous talent on the platform. A wider range of vernacular languages is important to connect to the Indian audience, since India is deeply rooted in and driven by language and culture. We spend a lot of time curating content that works specifically well in a particular market.
AABP: What is your subscription model?
Shailesh: Our subscription model is extremely straightforward and easy to access. It’s a monthly subscription of Rs. 199 which gives you one credit for purchasing a title of your choice. Any other books are available for purchase separately. In addition, you also get access to multiple audio shows and Audible originals.
AABP: What features of Audible have been well liked by your customers?
Shailesh: Audible is renowned for an easy 1 month or 3-month free period to experience the service before paying for a subscription at an economical price point for the value. Equally, our hassle-free return policy and customer experience have been well-received in India too.
AABP: How do you foresee the market in next 5 years?
Shailesh: In the last few years, there has been a shift in acceptance towards audiobooks due to social media and increased internet penetration. That will continue to take shape and we expect to see a lot of more people accessing audiobooks, during their commute, when they have free time, etc.
AABP: Any other information you would like to mention.
Shailesh: In addition to Audible Premium, we also launched Audible Suno, our India-exclusive app with original audio shows and exclusive content. It is available for free on Android devices which offers unlimited, free access to hundreds of hours of audio entertainment, enlightenment and learning featuring many of India’s favourite celebrities and personalities. Audible Suno offers more than 60 original and exclusive series in both Hindi and English. Each show is comprised of short, easy-to-digest episodes featuring stars like Amitabh Bachchan (Kaali Awaazein), Katrina Kaif, Karan Johar (Picture Ke Peechhe), Anil Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Mouni Roy, Anurag Kashyap, Tabu, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Diljit Dosanjh, Vir Das and Vicky Kaushal.
With most schools being shut due to the coronavirus pandemic, Audible has launched a service that will help keep children and teens occupied through this self-quarantine phase. Audible Stories is a completely free web-based service where a variety of global titles, hand-picked by our editors, will be available to all for streaming. This free service is available to anyone worldwide. Simply visit stories.audible.com, choose a title, and start listening! You don’t have to be a member or sign up – it’s a completely anonymous experience. We intend to keep offering Audible Stories to people around the world for as long as the current situation continues. There is no specific time frame in mind for suspending the service.
“Since India has a culture of story-telling, it will take well to audio books”
says Pranav Johri, Partner, Rajpal & Sons, in conversation with AABP.
AABP: In your opinion, how are audiobooks faring worldwide and India in particular?
Pranav: Across the world, audio books have been increasing in popularity quite rapidly in the last 3-4 years, and exceeding the sales of ebooks in some countries. In India, audio books are in a very nascent stage, but are expected to grow well in the next 5 years. In India we have a long-established culture of story-telling, and I think we will take well to audio books.
AABP: Tell us about your partnership with Audible?
Pranav: Our partnership with Audible is one of the largest audio book initiatives in Indian language publishing. More than 235 book titles, which includes some evergreen classics of Hindi literature like the books of Kamleshwar and Mohan Rakesh, Vishnu Prabhakar’s Awara Masiha and Vishnu Khandekar’s Yayati, as well as some recent bestsellers like Kashmirnama, Mallika and Zindagi 50-50 by contemporary authors, are going to be available as audiobooks soon. 60 audiobooks are live already, and the rest will follow soon.
AABP: What was the reason for choosing Audible?
Pranav: Our reason for choosing Audible is two-fold: one, they share our philosophy and views when it comes to delivering high quality content, and two, their distribution reach. We have been internally discussing audio books for the last couple of years, and were approached by a few audiobook companies during this time. After many meetings with the publishing team at Audible, we were confident of Audible’s ability to prepare high quality audio books of our content. The next step was to make sure that they would be easily available to customers across India and around the World. In this regard, Audible distribution reach across India, USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc is unmatched, and this convinced us that they would be the right audiobook partner.
AABP: How will it help Rajpal & Sons in reaching more readers?
Pranav: This partnership will help us in reaching a group of customers who appreciate quality literature, but may not necessarily have the time to read. There is an increasing number of people that want to read Kamleshwar’s Kitne Pakistan or Faiz’s Shayari or Mohan Rakesh’s Ashad Ka Ek Din, but do not have the time to read. Instead they prefer to listen to audio books, maybe during their daily commute or while exercising. This partnership will help our content reach these customers. Additionally, there is an increasing number of Indians in countries like USA, Canada, UK, etc who want to read literature by Indian authors, but are unable to find books by these authors easily available at their local bookstores. This partnership will make audio books of that content available to them through an easy to use Audible app. As a publisher, we consider it to be our fundamental responsibility to ensure that our content can reach the maximum number of people across different mediums like print, digital, audio, etc, and across different geographies.
Audiobook is a new medium for Hindi and I am quite excited about this initiative between Rajpal & Sons and Audible. Audible is an international platform and I hope this will help in taking my books, Kashmirnama and Is Desh me military shasan laga dena chahiye, to a new audience who are not so comfortable with reading Hindi but can understand it.
-Ashok Kumar Pandey
This new initiative of Rajpal & Sons is truly commendable where you can hear the books instead of reading them. My book, Ladies Circle, is already available as an audiobook. When I heard it, I felt that the age of stotytelling is back with us, just as in older times where people would listen to stories. Now my books can be heard by people across the world in different countries. People will be able to listen to books just as they listen to music, while walking, travelling in the bus or metro. I am eagerly waiting for my other book of short stories, Litti Chokkha, to be converted into an audiobook soon.
The audio book initiative between Rajpal and Sons and Audible has opened up new vistas for the literature enthusiasts. It makes the literary work easily accessible to a whole new generation which doesn’t have time and patience of reading serious literary musings. It gives them an opportunity to listen to the work of their choice, while commuting to work and home. It has opened a larger audience for writers like me. From various corners of the world, people have identified themselves with my writings and expressed their heartfelt gratitude for my writing touching deep into their own stories. The reach and power of audio books is really going to be amplified in the days to come and it will establish as a significant form of literary medium in the future.
As a writer and a tech guy, I always wanted my book to be available in various forms, such as ebooks, Kindle, audio books etc. I am very happy that the oldest publisher of India, Rajpal & sons has collaborated with Audible for audio books. I can understand the importance of this initiative. This will help my work to reach people who get little time to read. Now, they can listen to my writing while doing other activities like driving. I am very excited to reach a bigger audience through this collaboration.
Being an author of Rajpal and Sons, this partnership means a lot to me. An author writes to make his words reach the maximum number of people and places. A new platform being provided with the collaboration between my publisher and Audible is certainly welcome and in turn will make my creative endeavour spread around the world. I am a longterm subscriber of Audible and have been listening to my favourites books in audio format while travelling. Now my book Hari Muskurahaton Wala Collage is also available as an audiobook and some of readers in India as well as outside India have purchased it on the Audible app and have given amazing compliments.