Books

Narra, a showcase of local audiobooks

Narra, a showcase of local audiobooks

In the world of audio books there is of course the titan, Audible, owned by the Bezos empire, but there are also diehards. Or rather, platforms like Narra, which try their luck and want to occupy a market that the digital giants mostly leave aside: that of local authors.

Narra, launched just a few weeks ago, therefore aims to bring together, under one roof, a good portion of Quebec’s literary works in the format of… well, narrated.

“Sandra and I met while she was working for a large publishing group, the HMH group, and we started making audiobooks together in 2019,” explains Joanie Tremblay over the phone. , co-founder of the platform, discussing her first contacts with colleague Sandra Felteau.

“Sandra was actually my first client… Big audio book enthusiast! And when I approached the Quebec publishers, the audio books, it wasn’t something that was being done on a large scale yet. We met, then quickly started working on projects together, it clicked. I believe that there was an opportunity, in the Quebec market, to do something to promote our works, which did not exist. Working in this environment, creating audio books, we wondered what to do with them, where to sell them… We saw that there was actually a missing link. »

“In Quebec, I think people are more and more sensitive to the issue of local books, independent bookstores,” adds Ms. Felteau.

“For audiobook fans, there was really no choice but to encourage the big players,” she continues, before specifying that if there was a specific offering, for Quebec novels, there was no dedicated mobile app that particularly allowed you to quickly transfer your purchases on your phone.

“We thought there was an opportunity there… We wanted to offer something competitive and significant. Because the demand was there. It took us two years, and we’ve been on a constant path of improvement since launch. »

Faced with competition already present, namely foreign platforms, Joanie Tremblay believes that creating a storefront in Quebec is also “a matter of value and choice.”

“The Quebec selection, the local selection that people would like to make, may have been difficult to make, because there was no listening app, for example,” she reiterates.

“Just having a reader” makes a big difference, Ms. Felteau adds. “Imagine receiving MP3 files compressed in a zip archive and then trying to play them on your phone…”

“We said to ourselves that we really need to be a gathering place for all these works, because our audiobooks from Quebec have been drowned in American or English content” on existing platforms, he mentions again.

“Even if yes, there are platforms like Audible, our market is small, and who better than ourselves to promote them and our works? »

Two years of work

The two young women say they were surprised by the amount of work that needed to be done and the obstacles they had to overcome to achieve their goal and create Narra. Funding from Quebec and Ottawa made things easier, but the development of this platform required several years of continuous effort.

“We are part of a chain of books,” says Sandra Felteau. “After that, you have to create a multi-level system, which allows royalties to be paid to publishers, then to authors. What you also need to know is that in the traditional book industry, distributors bridge the gap with bookstores; there is a digital equivalent, which therefore required agreements with these entities. It really is a machine, but we also wanted to design a business model that worked, within the industry, but also aligned with what we wanted to do, which was to reward creators in a fairer way. »

For their first year of existence, the two women are certainly setting a goal of profitability, but they are not giving more details. However, they outlined the different options offered to obtain the titles, either by purchasing audiobooks individually, or by taking out a monthly subscription that gives access to “credits” that allow them to fill their digital library.

“It’s hard to tell ourselves that we want to get that much market share, since there’s very little data and Audible doesn’t share their sales numbers,” laments Joanie Tremblay.

But despite the uncertainties, the two creators of Narra are convinced that they have found a good lifeblood, that of local literary culture, and will be able to continue developing a platform adapted to the needs of Quebec readers (or listeners?).

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