[App Fridays] Storytel is a must-have app if you like audiobooks, especially Indian titles

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If you can’t read it, you can hear it. On the go!

Swedish audiobook service Storytel launched in India, its first market outside Europe, last November, and signed up local publishers like HarperCollins India, Karadi Tales (which specialises in audiobooks), Penguin Random House, Duckbill, and others.

While India is not a prominent podcast or audio-streaming market, Storytel reckons the country’s rich oral traditions will lead to the adoption of audiobooks. Then there are those who understand a language through the spoken word, but cannot read the script. Storytel fits in well with that audience, and it wants to go after them.

The service, which is a global audiobook major along with Amazon’s Audible, counts over half a million subscribers on its platform. It beat Audible to the India launch; Amazon is rumoured to be bringing the service here in 2019.

But, is India a reader’s market?

According to the National Youth Readership Survey, about 83 million Indians considered themselves to be “book readers”. More than 55 percent read English books, followed by Hindi (35 percent). But, audiobooks, despite being a $3.5 billion market globally, occupy an insignificant share in India. Mainly because there has been no supply so far.

Yogesh Dashrath, Country Manager, Storytel India

Storytel is confident that the market will grow. While announcing tie-ups with Indian publishers, Country Manager Yogesh Dashrath said,

“In just two months of our presence in India, we have already had a very encouraging response to the app. The interest it has generated only strengthens our belief that Indians love books – no matter what the format.”

He also believes that Indians, who are now warming up to paid streaming services, will start paying for audiobooks too. A Storytel monthly subscription is priced at Rs 499 and comes with a 14-day free trial.

The app looks similar in all markets, but the content is localised. In India, the platform stocks over a thousand titles in English, Hindi and Marathi. More regional languages will be added soon. About 100 titles are being added each month.

YourStory digs into the app.

You have to create a Storytel account first, and then select country. The app localises content based on the selection.

A pop-up on the screen asks you to sign up for email newsletters, personal reccos, app notifications, latest book news, offers, etc. You may or may not opt for this.

The homepage is titled Book Tips. It lists audiobooks under new releases, most popular, coming soon at Storytel, top ebooks, and bestsellers, and the highest rating.

Audiobooks are slotted language-wise and theme-wise (parenting, best of monsoon, Hindi bestsellers, etc) too.

Collections are listed publisher-wise too given Storytel's exclusive partnerships.

You can either scroll through the entire Book Tips section or skip to ‘Categories’ from the left-sliding menu. You can Search for a title directly as well.

The Categories page is rich and visually appealing. It lists books under multiple genres: biographies, children, classics, crime, economy & business, erotica, fantasy & sci-fi, fiction, history, lyric poetry, non-fiction, personal development, short stories, teens and young adults, and thrillers.

When you click on a category, you are taken to all audiobooks tagged under that. The book list can be sorted as per reader's choice.

In each category, you can filter your search based on the book format (audiobook/ebook) and language (English/Hindi/Marathi).

Several books are serialised. You may or may not listen to them chronologically. Audiobooks plays out like a music file. You can bookmark and resume from where you left playing, and slow or speed up audio.

From within each audiobook, the reader can do several things - save a title to a bookshelf, mark a book as finished, download it for offline reading, gift it to a friend, review it, or share it on social media. These are great features that improve reader engagement with the app, and increase minutes logged in.

The ‘Gift a Book’ feature also allows senders to add a personal message to the receiver.

 

As you explore Storytel, you go on creating your own audio bookshelf.

 

Storyel has done well to add a ‘Support’ section too. It has FAQs and tips to make the most out of the service.

 

Storytel works, really

Storytel is a beautiful app. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call it the most aesthetically pleasing of all reading/book apps. The concept is great, the navigation is seamless, images alongside book titles are inviting. The app even allows cross-device syncing, unlimited downloads and offline hearing.

The audio is distinct and has been produced in high-quality recording environments. The narrators are professionals, sometimes even celebrities like Stephen Fry (who’s narrated the entire Harry Potter series) or Sanjay Manjrekar (who’s the voice behind his own book Imperfect) and local actors and voice artists reading out Marathi/Hindi titles.

Storytel has put in a lot of effort in Indianising its offering. They have made available literature gems like Munshi Premchand’s Godan, Gaban, and Nirmala, Bhagwaticharan Verma’s Chitralekha, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas - books one would have possibly encountered in high school. Hence, the nostalgia it evokes in the Indian reader is unmistakable.

The content will only improve as the days go by. If you can’t read it, you can always hear it. On the go!

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