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Launch of audiobooks platform in NZ offers significant opportunities for local bookstores and publishers

By July 10, 2024No Comments

Global audiobooks platform has launched in New Zealand and is set to be a major disruptor in an industry that is seeing year-on-year double digit growth.

The Seattle-based social purpose corporation is the only audiobook e-tailer in the world that directly supports local bookstores, with consumers given an option to select a local bookstore of their choice to receive a commission from every audiobook purchased.

Nick Johnson, a co-founder of Seattle-based audiobooks social enterprise is in NZ this month. co-founder Nick Johnson is in New Zealand this month meeting with booksellers and publishers.

Mr Johnson says the idea of partnering with bookstores has been an integral part of’s business from the get-go.

“As avowed readers, we knew the model we created had to be friendly to independent bookstores. We’ve seen 21 percent growth in audiobook sales in the last financial year and we’ve been able to increase the amount we share with bookstores.

“Over the last five years, revenue from audiobooks has more than doubled, making it the fastest growing book market globally.

“This is great for bookstores for two reasons. Firstly, the bookstore selected by buyers receives up to 30% commission on every audiobook sold. Secondly, we do not see the sales of audiobooks cutting into the physical book market. People read audiobooks at times when they wouldn’t be reading physical books, like when they are commuting, doing housework, or walking the dog.

“ is growing the market for book sales overall,” says Mr Johnson.

Launched 10 years ago in the US and Canada,’s international launch gives consumers in the UK, Australia and New Zealand access to more than 450,000 audiobooks.

“Around 99% of new releases are available to audiobooks’ consumers on,” says Mr Johnson.

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand association manager Renee Rowland welcomes’s introduction to the local market.

“We’re thrilled is here and showing interest in New Zealand. As a ‘support local’ enterprise, is a significant and viable alternative to purchasing audiobooks from faceless global conglomerates.

“These mega-corporates currently have 70 percent of NZs audiobook market share. It is in all of our best interests to pull this right back, and instead give business to

“With its bookstore commission model, large range and competitive pricing, buying from is a win-win for everyone,” says Ms Rowland.

There are already 40 independent bookstores across the motu signed up with

“We anticipate that the number of bookstores registered with increase significantly by the end of Nick’s visit. Given that there is no charge to a bookseller for doing so, joining is a no-brainer,” says Ms Rowland.

Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) president Claire Murdoch says’s launch here is a significant opportunity for local publishers.

“It’s expensive to produce audiobooks for NZ titles. We are a small market, so in order for our local authors’ books to succeed, we need to maximise the platform’s economies of scale.

“Making local audiobooks visible – so buyers here and overseas can find them – is absolutely central to this. We know our authors’ books are as good, if not better, than those of large countries, but they need to be seen to be bought in the quantities that make this medium cost effective.

“As a smart and nimble social enterprise, has the ability to offer this visibility for our audiobooks. We’re really excited about that,” says Ms Murdoch.

Independent research carried out by PANZ corroborates with’s assessment that audiobooks do not cut into the physical market. It found commuters were the biggest audiobook buyers; leaving their hands free to drive while listening to a book, or multitasking if taking public transport.

The research found that self-help, business and language learning (particularly te reo Māori) were the most popular genres in audiobooks in New Zealand, in addition to fiction titles.

Penguin Random House New Zealand (PRHNZ) is the biggest publisher of audiobooks in New Zealand, with 30 titles published in two years.

PRHNZs publisher Grace Thomas says the audiobook is their fastest growing book format, so’s launch into the local market is timely.

“We’re keen to work with Libro to amplify our fantastic local authors’ books in this format. There’s huge potential.

“We are finding that books that do well as E-books tend to do well in audio. And audiobooks are growing audiences for books overall, with sales skewing to men under 45 years of age. The core demographic for print books is women over the age of 50,” says Ms Thomas.

She agrees with Ms Murdoch that the biggest hurdle for local audio titles is distribution at scale.

“PRHNZ, like most local publishers, has drawn from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s audio fund, administered by PANZ, to produce audio books for the market.

“Costs vary for each book, but generally include narration, broadcast quality sound recording and editing. We hope that can become a key player in this market, offering greater visibility of our books so that we can produce more in this genre more profitably. It’s a win – win – win – win for authors, audiobook listeners, publishers and our local booksellers,” says Ms Thomas.

Nick Johnson will present the inaugural Audiobook Award for best local audiobook at the NZ Book Industry Awards to be held at the Crowne Plaza, Auckland from 6pm on Saturday 3 August.

He will be meeting with booksellers and publishers in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland and is available for media interviews.