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Free audiobooks on Spotify suggests Audible will soon have a new rival

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(Image credit: George Dolgikh / Shutterstock.com)

Spotify wants the monopoly on your ears. First, it introduced the world to the concept of all-you-can-eat music streaming, and then recently started scooping up exclusive rights to podcast stars. Now, it appears it's exploring the audiobook market too.

A number of free literary listens are headed to Spotify, and while all are in the public domain (meaning the contents can be accessed for free anywhere, being out of copyright), Spotify has still invested in its own original recordings of the works, including attaching some big-name stars to the project.

The exclusive narrations include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, read by David Dobrik, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, read by Forest Whitaker, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, read by Hilary Swank.

Other titles headed to Spotify include Jean Toomer's Cane, narrated by Audra McDonald; Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, narrated by James Langton; Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, narrated by Sarah Coombs; Nella Larsen's Passing, narrated by Bahni Turpin; and Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, narrated by Santino Fontana.

Audio expansion

Not only will Spotify by offering the books themselves, but each will be accompanied by an educational talk by Harvard professor Glenda Carpio. The series 'Sitting with the Classics' will offer "a deep-dive on each book, exploring the history and breaking down the narratives and themes for a modern audience."

Spotify admits that the collection is its attempt to test the waters of the audiobook space before considering a more substantial investment, but it's a market worth exploring – the audiobook business was worth an estimated $2.7 billion in 2019, a figure that's likely grown due to new lockdown entertainment habits forming.

The audiobook space is currently dominated by Apple's Books and Amazon's Audible, but Spotify's heavy investment in podcasting shows that it can make waves in established places if it puts the effort in. The convenience of having your music and podcasts in one place is already proving fruitful for Spotify (22% of its active users tried a podcast in the third quarter of 2020) – keeping them glued to Spotify for lengthy audiobooks seems the next natural progression.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves his gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Based out of TechRadar Towers, London, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK. He dreams of the day when he can pop on a VR headset and meet Lawnmower Man-era Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, Pierce doesn't share the dream.