The popularity of audiobooks in regional languages is also driving the growth of Indian audiobook platforms.
When Anu first started listening to audiobooks, it was a new and exciting experience for her. Till then, she was used to reading physical copies or digital copies of the books.
“A friend introduced me to audiobooks and it was an exhilarating experience. I could listen to a book anywhere, just like music,” she said.
She has been listening to audiobooks for a long time now. The addition of a large portfolio of books in regional languages in new applications (apps) as well as updates in existing apps have made her a religious listener of audiobooks.
“I enjoy listening to the audio content in my mother tongue. Nowadays, there are many sites and apps where I can listen to audiobooks in Hindi whenever I like, which was not the case earlier. Listening to audiobooks is very entertaining and listening to them in my own language is an added bonus for me,” said Anu.
Audiobooks are books converted to audio files. They are not a new phenomenon but in recent years there has been an increase in platforms that have been providing readers with a large collection of audiobooks, especially in Indian regional languages. Research by Redseer states that India was expected to gain 95 million monthly active users for audio OTT (Over The Top) consumption by end of 2021. It shows a 34 percent increase from the 71 million active users India had in 2020.
Deepika Arun, a voice artist for many Tamil audiobooks says that nowadays there is a big push for audiobooks in regional languages as it increases the customer base for the platforms.
“I think many people cannot read or write in their mother tongue for various reasons. Hence, audiobooks are a great medium for people to consume content in their mother tongue. With a lack of time for reading and more time spent on commute, audiobooks become a great source of entertainment as well. I feel the future is audio, especially in regional languages,” she said.
She added that the response she received for regional audiobooks was phenomenal. She says that regional audiobooks are a great way for people to consume content in their mother tongue.
A recent report states that Kuku FM, a regional audiobook service based in Mumbai, secured funding of 19.5 million USD. There are also platforms like Storytel which also provide listeners with regional language content. Other popular sites for regional audio stories are Pocket Fm (over 50 million downloads on Play store) and Aawaz (over five lakhs downloads on google play). Currently, apps like Storytel and Pocket FM are promoting more regional audiobooks and adding a larger collection. Storytel is trying to attract more Kannada audiobook listeners by getting actors and personalities like actor Ramesh Aravind to record the audio content. They are also adding content written by popular names like Girish Karnad in their audiobook collection.
These new regional audiobook platforms charge a lesser amount than sites like Audible which can be a reason for the popularity of the applications. Platforms like Audible charge their customers Rs. 200 per month while Indian apps like Pocket Fm has free content streaming with ads and a subscription for ad-free listening comes for a price of Rs. 120 per month. Apps like Kuku Fm are also trying to get listeners by providing an annual subscription for Rs. 400.
“Regional audiobooks are now available at many platforms like Pocket Fm. The cost of these new platforms is also lesser than established platforms like Audible. I have to pay less and I like listening to the content in my own language apart from English,” said Kiran, a Pocket FM user.
Thejaswini Shivaprakash, another artist who records for Kannada audiobooks says that she feels regional audiobooks provide information to readers along with being entertaining which is a reason for their increasing popularity.
“Reading a physical copy of a book is a habit long gone. People are more inclined to audiobooks. It’s entertaining and informative and since it’s audio there is space for imagining the narration. That’s the catch point why audiobooks are a success.”