When Audiobooks.com launched last January, the company had high hopes for a cloud-based streaming service that would let users listen to unlimited audiobooks for a monthly charge of $24.95. Unlike the Amazon-owned Audible.com (s AMZN), which requires users to purchase credits for access to downloadable audiobooks, Audiobooks.com presented itself as an on-the-go listening service.
A year later, though, the company is switching to a cheaper, subscription-based model that puts it in direct competition with Audible. Instead of offering unlimited audiobooks (from a catalog that started at 11,000 titles in January 2012 and has since grown to about 25,000 titles), Audiobooks.com will charge $14.95 for one audiobook a month and $22.95 for two audiobooks a month. Users can download the books or stream them. “After multiple concept tests, our findings showed that we were alienating a significant portion of the market by only offering a high-end plan,” general manager Ian Small said. And since most audiobooks are many hours long, only the heaviest users would find an unlimited plan cost-effective.
Audiobooks.com’s new model costs the same as Audible.com. For a user choosing between services, Audible’s benefits are that it offers a much larger catalog (over 100,000 titles), it allows burning to CDs and it provides a larger range of subscription plans. (For one or two books a month, Audible charges the same as Audiobooks.com.)
Small says that Audiobooks.com’s advantage over Audible is that it offers “much more mobile convenient service” — streaming, which Audible doesn’t have. As I wrote when Audiobooks.com launched last year, though, streaming may be a questionable benefit for audiobook listeners: Since a lot of people listen to audiobooks while they are in transit, a streaming service may not be reliable, and streaming audiobooks, most of which are many hours long, can also eat up a lot of data. Still, Audiobooks.com is hoping that this will be enough of a benefit that users will overlook a smaller catalog of available titles.