An audio book is the same work, but in a different format from the traditional book (paper or digital) which can be read with the eyes.
It is an adaptation, in the same way as a film based on a book or a distribution of the same book in other countries.
An audiobook is a recording of a book or other written work being read out loud, without the written text being provided. It may also be delivered in the form of a podcast or created by voice synthesis.
As part of Pro day at the 2022 Montreal book fair, we attended a panel on the value of books and new distribution methods (Réinventer la valeur du livre — Les nouveaux moyens de diffusion). That’s where we discovered Narra, Quebec’s first digital platform for audiobooks in French.
We spoke with Sandra Felteau, Narra’s executive director and co-founder, to find out more about the platform.
It’s important to note at the outset that Narra offers audiobooks in French from various countries.
You can find works from Europe and of course Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Copyright and intellectual property
Issues related to intellectual property were actually fundamental to the project’s genesis.
Literary content in audio form is surging in popularity.
Regardless of the format, the creative content remains the same: the audiobook is simply an adaptation, like a movie based on a book or a translation distributed in other countries.
Copyright owners prioritized
Sandra explained how the project got off the ground. Audiobooks were gaining market share but the licences for platforms such as Audible and Radio-Canada didn’t seem very favourable for authors and publishers.
After Sandra teamed up with business partner Joanie Tremblay, co-founder and marketing communications director, the two entrepreneurs wanted to take a long-term approach and stand out from the competition.
The other platforms usually pay a flat fee. However, you don’t know how many people will have access to the books. That compensation model pays the authors and publishers a lump sum, regardless of how many copies are sold.
Narra’s model is designed to more closely match the traditional bookselling model in order to help nurture the entire local book chain, as the company explains on its website.
The platform’s co-founders consulted industry players such as the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres (ANEL) to learn more about creators’ needs and the conditions that would be acceptable for the industry.
Downloading rather than streaming
One of Narra’s unique features is that it promotes downloading rather than streaming (e.g. Spotify).
An individual buying an audiobook on Narra becomes the owner of the copy, as if it had been purchased in a bookstore.
That’s different from having access to a catalogue that can be modified at any time.
Publishers and authors are paid according to the number of copies sold.
On other platforms in the market, copyright owners sign agreements paying them a percentage of net sales.
Those sales figures vary widely because the platforms regularly offer promotions to build customer loyalty, sometimes with books made available free of charge.
Narra is different because the publishers receive a set percentage of a price they’ve determined themselves. They therefore know what to expect.
Both payment methods
To ensure that Narra remains competitive, they needed to offer a monthly subscription option.
Subscribers are given credits, which is how the Audible and Kobo platforms work.
By paying a monthly fee, users are allowed to download one audiobook per month.
To be continued...
Literature is adopting new forms, including audio books. We follow the evolution of this adventure, hoping that it contributes to the valorization of the contents of the creators of here!