Storytel Arabia, is a newly launched division of Sweden-based Storytel, Europe's leading platform for audiobooks. Ammar Mardawi, Country Manager for Storytel Arabia said in a statement, he was confident on the growth of the audiobook industry in the GCC and the greater Middle East region, and that digital technologies will help drive the audiobook service in the steadily rising market.
The company has made available a rich catalogue of Arabic and English audiobooks, including bestselling books in both fiction and non-fiction, to book lovers in the Emirates and other parts of the Arab region. Storytel’s entry to the UAE this year reflects its intent to optimize opportunities in the local and regional industries.
Ammar Mardawi, Country Manager for Storytel Arabia, commented on the launch: “The UAE is the 11th country in which Storytel becomes available in following our global expansion plan which we started last year after successfully capturing the Swedish and Scandinavian markets. Our move is premise on the huge potentials of the Arabic audiobook market and the UAE is the fitting headquarters to launch our growth strategy in the Arab region. It is also a plus that Arabic is the 4th most spoken language in the world with over 400 million speakers.”
Mardawi pointed to the success of online subscription services such as Anghami in the region as validation that the market is ready for Storytel. “Additionally, we were also drawn to the fact that the region has high smartphone penetration rate, easy access to online payments, and successful online music and video subscription services. The UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are among the highest countries with smartphone penetration rates in the world, while online payment methods are available and growing rapidly in the region."
Mardawi further stated that Storytel is introducing more and more people in the region to the experience of the audiobook, and their launch will help boost the entire local audiobook sector.
“But we have to consider the fact that the Arabic audiobook industry is at its very early stages. There are very few professionally produced Arabic audiobooks titles, and of course, very few people have listened to an audiobook before. With Storytel entering the market, we've introduced over 600 Arabic titles in audio for the first time with over 5,000 listening hours. This is a big leap for the Arabic audiobook industry and we are committed to building the most extensive Arabic audiobook catalogue through the launch of at least one Arabic audiobook per day throughout the rest of 2018,” Mardawi said.
The audiobooks segment is one of the fastest growing sectors of the digital publishing industry according to industry analysts. In 2017, the Audio Publishers Association reported over USD 2.5 billion dollars in sales in the US alone.
Mardawi said: “The main challenge is building awareness on both sides -- the consumers and the publishers. Very few Arabic book publishers are investing in creating audiobook editions of their publications. For the Arabic audiobook industry to reach its full potential, publishers should participate by producing audiobooks and distributing them on the available platforms such as Storytel. Today, more than 95 per cent of the Arabic audiobooks on Storytel are from its own production.”