The boss of Spotify has criticised Apple for stifling its big break into audiobooks, calling its rules around customer access “kafkaesque”.
The music streaming firm first announced that it would be pushing into audiobooks back in September, offering a potential rival to Amazon’s Kindle services in the US market.
However, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told the New York Times that whilst Apple had initially approved the new feature on the app, Apple’s processes mean that iPhone users are faced with a clunky system to buy ebooks, directing them away from Spotify.
Spotify said this “cumbersome” purchasing process puts it in a “Kafkaesque world” where Apple are setting the rules of the game that are ever-changing.
Speaking with City A.M., Spotify’s vice president and global head of audiobooks Nir Zicherman said that the real impact of the “confusing purchase flow we’ve been forced into” is that fewer people are buying and listening to audiobooks from the company.
“Despite this setback, we’re continuing to focus on innovation in the technology around audiobooks, which we believe has a lot of room for growth,” he said.
The global audiobooks market is expected to balloon to $35bn by 2030.
While Spotify has already made an EU antitrust complaint against Apple, Ek is now urging regulators to give app developers the freedom to tell customers about purchase options beyond Apple’s payment system.
An Apple spokesman told the New York Times that it had no objections to Spotify adding audiobooks, but said it couldn’t do so by circumventing rules against providing web addresses and language that encourages customers to make purchases outside its app.
Long-standing music analyst at Enders Analysis Alice Enders said Ek’s comments sit within a long-standing saga between tech firms, which hinges on owning “the direct relationship with the customer”.
She told City A.M. that Spotify has a “frenemy” relationship with Apple, which means despite its flurry of criticism, it knows Apple is the ultimate gatekeeper to the army of iPhone users that it needs to keep happy.
Apple has caused headaches for a number Big Tech firms that have criticised its operating system updates, which have made it harder to track user’s data.