This article is part of an ongoing series profiling participants in the New York Rights Fair, running May 30 through June 1 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York in conjunction with BookExpo.
Downloadable audio sales jumped nearly 30% in 2017, and on the first day of the inaugural New York Rights Fair, audiobooks will receive their fair share of attention. Curated by the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), the 3:45pm panel “The Audiobook Heard ‘Round the World: How Publishing’s Hottest Format Has Taken the Globe By Storm, And What it Means for the Future” will bring together Helena Gustafsson from Storytel and Nathan Maharaj from Kobo to discuss the audiobook business and how it is becoming an international sensation.
First founded in 2005, and becoming Storytel in 2007, the Swedish digital service is steadily becoming the European alternative to Audible. As a monthly subscription app, Storytel is “reminiscent of Spotify,” streaming thousands of books as mp3’s, with 11 languages available and the ability to listen offline. With over 12 years of audiobook publishing experience, panelist Helena Gustafsson, Storytel’s head of global publishing, oversees audio production, development of original content, and is always on the lookout for expanding Storytel globally. At this year’s Bologna Book Fair she said, “We plan on launching in five more countries this year, starting with Turkey.”
Canada’s Kobo, offering millions of titles in eBook and audio since 2009, has succeeded with its open platform and extensive content. Panelist Nathan Maharaj, Kobo’s senior director of merchandising, stated on the Kobo blog that he is “the kind of reader seeking out technology to solve problems of shelf space,” as evidenced by his consumption of nonfiction audiobooks while running. With his passion for the mixture of storytelling and technology, Nathan has plenty to tell about audio’s future.
Moderator Jennifer Weltz, president of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, will lead the discussion, touching on such topics as subscription models, how the rise of smartphones have changed the audio business, and which territories provide the most potential for further growth.