Audiobooks: it’s still a costly business!

Akhil Mehta, Director, Mehta Publishing House, shares his views on the audiobooks market in India.


Audiobook is the talk of the town and everyone is talking about it. “Although, there are lots of advertisements and many efforts to make them visible to the readers or the listeners, many times we think, look around and don’t see that in reality. Ofcourse free content on Youtube is most welcome,” says Akhil Mehta, Director, Mehta Publishing House.

Audiobooks status in India…

“We can perhaps say, audiobook market will increase even in the language publishers, yet there is a gap in the subject and topics which could be explored. At the moment Storytel or Audible are only and only limited to promoting bestsellers, which in our opinion is not going to make a huge difference. People think of the budget, time and many things. If there are about a million copies sold for a book, we don’t think it is a viable idea to actually convert it to the audiobooks,” says Akhil.

Directly vs assigned rights for production…

“Directly assigned production with the percentage share workout is a good option. This actually saves a lot of capital investment for the book publishers. The con is, the control of the production and all the creative liberties that the production company might take in producing it. When we talk about language publishing or Marathi specifically, we can say there are many people working on it. Infact many a times we observe, there is more number of production houses and artists than the listeners themselves,” tells Akhil.

Do celebrities voice help?

“Audiobooks in general are an expensive affair, hence getting on the celebrities is just additional cost to the publisher. A celebrity voice can be a good marketing strategy, although it is not necessary it will affect in the sale of the books. For example, Akshay Kumar has so many flop movies and yet has been a megastar, so it might to be the same for the audiobooks. If the content is good, if the voiceover is decent on the checklist, it should be enough,” he adds.

Piracy: a major concern…

“Backlist audiobooks can be something which we all publishers need to work on, also including all that is said above, piracy is a concern. Many a times agencies and international author demand à la cartesystem than the subscription model,which is fair. But if the audio books are pirated, it’s a huge loss as compared to ebooks, considering the cost of production. Just the increase of audiobook production is going to result in more piracy as well. In addition, the audiobooks are expensive to buy individually. This is stressing out the pockets of the readers, which will eventually result in less production,” tells Akhil.

Trends in audiobooks in India…

“India is a market, where everything and anything sells. But when it comes to the atmosphere and the ambience, audiobooks are not the best of the options. It will be very hard for someone to sit in a garden are listen to an audiobook,unlike Europe. Although with audiobooks, we are also talking about the new formation of a group who have started caring about books,” Shares Akhil.

“Moreover, we should also think about the actual royalty an author might take home, after paying agencies, production houses, publishing houses and the artist. We have even observed that a few celebrities demand a royalty cut. If this becomes the common practice going ahead, there would be more people associated with the audiobooks than the listeners themselves.

“All the production houses at the moment are actually seeing the catalogues of book publishers and see a volume business. I am sure, we are just around the corner to form the technological invention, where one can record themselves in a small corner than some fancy studios and equipments,” concludes Akhil.

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