Audiobook: Quebec is dragging its feet!

You may have seen Joanie Tremblay and Sandra Felteau on the show In the eye of the dragon a few weeks ago. The two entrepreneurs presented their young company Narra, a 100% independent audiobook purchasing and listening platform.


Posted at 1:03 a.m.

Updated at 7:15 a.m.

The dragons listened to the two women in near indifference. Georges Karam tried to find the particularity of their business. Narra only offers books in French. For the moment, the catalog is made up of 10,000 French-speaking titles, including 1,500 from Quebec. That’s the special thing.

Despite this, the dragons unanimously said “I pass”.

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PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Joannie Tremblay and Sandra Felteau, founders of Narra, a 100% independent audiobook purchasing and listening platform

Perhaps the dragons should read the report on cultural sovereignty in the digital age presented a few weeks ago to the Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe. But for these four investors, who find this approach “commendable” on the part of a company that looks like a “non-profit”, this project is not profitable.

However, the audiobook market is growing strongly all over the world. Formerly reserved for the visually impaired or other people with disabilities, it now appeals to the general public. It’s the podcast effect!

Sales surged in the United States, France, Spain, Italy and Norway. Experts believe that this format could represent more than 20% of global book sales in 2030, or $35 billion. Sales currently represent a little over 5 billion.

This market is so attractive that digital giants have jumped into the arena. Audible-Amazon, Apple Books and Spotify dominate this industry. This is why Narra presents itself as “the only Quebec platform truly competitive against these giants”. Hence my allusion to the concern that we should have now to perpetuate this cultural industry.

This market is progressing everywhere, but in Quebec, it is stalling. In 2020, publishers benefited from an envelope of approximately 22 million from Canadian Heritage to promote “accessibility”. Several have launched into the production of audio books.

You should know that an average length work costs around $10,000 to produce in audio format (narration, recording, editing). But as the envelope was not renewed, publishers stopped investing in this direction. As a result, production fell.

In short, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg story! Our market is stagnant because the supply is minimal and the supply is minimal because the industry is not feeding it.

Despite this, Joanie Tremblay and Sandra Felteau are not giving up. They are taking steps to make things happen. By supporting this industry, we are helping a whole range of actors (platforms, production studios, editors, narrators, actors, musicians, etc.).

This is what Sandra Felteau and Joanie Tremblay are trying to make decision-makers understand. And that’s what dragons don’t care about.

At Mathieu Lacombe’s office, we asked the co-founders of Narra what changes would need to be made to help our audiobook industry. First, change the law of the book, they said.

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PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Sandra Felteau

The law does not consider an audio book or digital book to be a book. This therefore means that our platform is not recognized as a bookstore, which is basically what we are.

Sandra Felteau

It should be noted that Quebec bookstores that are established on the street are entitled to certain tax credits.

The other aspect concerns the support to be maintained with publishers to enable the production of audiobooks. They receive subsidies from Ottawa and Quebec to “manufacture” the paper books. The audio book should be able to enjoy the same privilege.

I now ask a crucial question which is at the heart of the battle that the cultural industry and the media world are waging against the digital giants: if increased aid came from governments to produce more audiobooks, should it be used to feed these same giants? I dare to believe that this aspect will be part of the reflection that many are having at the moment in Quebec and Ottawa.

“I’m going to go further and say that if the vast majority of audiobooks were found on platforms like Narra, rather than on foreign platforms, we might not need financial assistance,” says Sandra Felteau. Our redistribution of income would be more equitable and allow this market to be self-sustaining. »

Our music industry is waging a battle against the digital giants by repeating that we acted too late. As for the audiobook, it is not yet too late to make the necessary decisions. “I would like our company to become a Quebec flagship,” says Joanie Tremblay. I think that what we hold has immense potential that can do a lot for our society. Everything is in place to make it a unifying project. »

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