I recently came across Bardowl, a British startup that is looking to become the ‘Spotify for audiobooks’. Bardowl provides a streaming service for audiobooks, currently only available as an iPhone app. This new service is looking to upset established audiobook download business Audible (owned by Amazon). How is Bardowl looking to do this?
- Streaming - Bardowl streams audiobooks directly to your (iPhone) device rather than downloading audiobooks (like Audible does).
- Subscription - Users will pay £9.99 per month for a Bardowl subscription which entitles them to unlimited streaming of audiobooks (applying exactly the same model that the likes of Spotify and Rdio use). In comparison, Audible offers a subscription model for its download products, with users paying £3.99 per month for any audiobook download.
- Social features - Bardowl users are able to extract 30 second clips from an audiobook (think of a favourite quote or a good line) and to share these with others via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. As a user, I can select and share a quote that has already been generated by another user or simply create my own.
- Instant streaming - An important factor in Bardowl’s future success will be the overall user experience, particularly thinking of the instantaneousness with which users can stream their audiobooks (after purchase) or the ease with which a user can continue to listen to a chapter even when he has lost 3G or Wifi access. Bardowl says that the app saves chapters in the “cache” so that users can listen to a book for up to 3 hours even without a signal. I liked the app’s “sleep timer” function, whereby a user can set the time after which the app should pause play. This feature will come in handy for those users who tend to listen to their audiobooks before going to sleep …
- Catalogue (1) - Like with all these subscription-based streaming services, the breadth and depth of Bardowl’s catalogue will be critical to its success. Typically, users expect the assortment of audiobooks to be pretty comprehensive; if what they are looking for is not there, they are likely to go and look elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what happens when Audible launches its own subscription-based streaming service; I can imagine that this Amazon owned competitor will have a head start on Bardowl when it comes to breadth and depth of audiobook catalogue.
- Catalogue (2) - At launch, Bardowl only offers business audiobooks but is looking to extend its catalogue soon. Publishers like Penguin, Macmillan, AudioGo, Wiley and audio-focused publishers Summersdale and Creative Content are already on board. As much as I enjoy listening to “The Maverick” by serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson, the group of people who share this pleasure is likely to be to be fairly small in comparison to, let’s say, people wanting to listen to bestsellers like “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
Main learning point: it will be interesting to see if Bardowl can indeed become the ‘Spotify for audiobooks’. I believe a lot will depend on Bardowl’s ability to quickly ramp up its catalogue as well is cross-platform reach (think tablets and different mobile operating platforms). Irrespective of what happens with Bardowl, I defintely think it is a very interesting service with a lot of potential.
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