When I impulsively re-subscribed to Spotify Premium last week it was for listening to and finding new music. All the more I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered a bigger-than-expected selection of audio books being available on Spotify these days. I found myself thinking about weather this could even justify canceling my Audible subscription and stick with Spotify for the long run (I’m not sure yet if I want to pay for both services on a constant basis).
Browsing for audio books on Spotify
The joy didn’t last long, though. First of all, browsing and finding audio books just isn’t fun on Spotify. For example just have at the genre listing for Crime & Thriller books:
It’s nothing but a playlist listing each and every freaking chapter (that is: track) of any book that is considered to belong to that genre.
Whats worse is that after opening a book (that is: a album) there’s no further description about its contents. So you have to switch between book description and reviews elsewhere and Spotify all the time.
While is not a great user experience I could live with jumping around between Audible and Spotify to discover the books I want to hear. But then there’s the real deal breaker:
Listening to audio books on Spotify
When it comes to listening to audio books Spotify’s primary focus becomes painfully apparent: it’s build for listening to music. I dare saying there no way anybody consumes a 6+ hours audio book in a single session. Yet Spotify doesn’t offer any kind of functionality to save your listening progress. It’s just gone after you stop for a while or decide to listen to some music in between. And there are more features I’ve grown accustomed to in apps that are build around listing to audio books: playback speed control, bookmarks and a sleep timer. I use those on a daily basis and miss them dearly on Spotify.
As my billing address is German Spotify decides to only make German audio books available to me. I can’t even tell how stupid this is. And don’t bring up excused about deals with international copyright. Your users don’t f**king care. And Audible manages to show me the English library along the German content, too.
I love to have my podcast in one place and I love to use the app ecosystem that best fits my needs. And I love that good old regular, RSS-based podcasts are available for a bazillion different apps and devices. My drug of choice has been Pocketcasts for quite a while, others might enjoy Overcast, Castro or Stitcher. Any of those offers features far superior to the experience on Spotify, from saving and syncing listening progress across devices, trimming silence and speeding things up (or down). Not to speak of the way bigger selection of available podcasts.
So why am I ranting about the inferiority of Spotify as a Podcast player instead of just using my preferred alternative? Because there’s this bothersome trend of releasing content exclusively for Spotify (yes, I’m looking at you, Fest & Flauschig). I get that Spotify pays for their exclusives to push their platform. But why not releasing podcasts additionally in a traditional way, consumable by Podcatchers that your users actually love to use? You could still put some ads in there and tell people about your awesome product. No sarcasm in there, I do think Spotify is a fantastic product. But as RSS feeds are (yes, still) far better than any proprietary news aggregation system I don’t see anything good coming out of trying to push podcasts into proprietary silos.