SEOUL – Genie Music, the online and smartphone-based music subscription services wing of South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, KT, has acquired a controlling stake in Millie’s Library, a national subscription service leading online book market, targeting the audiobook market estimated at around 30 billion won ($ 25.6 million)
While audiobooks became popular in schools and libraries throughout the Western world during the 1970s to the late 1990s, it took a long time for South Korean readers to get used to the way ” listen to “books. Audiobooks were first introduced in South Korea around two decades ago for the visually impaired, but the real talking book market formed after 93% of the country’s population carried smartphones.
Audiobooks gained popularity in South Korea in 2020 after scores of people chose to stay at home due to a coronavirus pandemic. Readers enjoyed listening to books told by famous actors and storytellers. Millie’s Library, launched in 2016, has some 3.5 million registered users. In 2020, Millie’s sales were 19.2 billion won, up 75 percent from a year ago. With a monthly subscription of 9,900 won, users can get unlimited access to various types of eBooks, including texts, audios, and interactive chatbooks.
Genie Music said in a statement on Sept. 10 that the company had invested 46.4 billion won to acquire a 38.6 percent stake in Millie’s Library to become the largest shareholder. Genie said the online music service operator is looking to become South Korea’s leading artificial intelligence-based audio platform.
“We decided to acquire Millie’s Library to overcome the downturn in the online music services market and gain competitiveness in the global market,” said Jo Hoon, CEO of Genie Music. He said the company would improve its brand value by expanding Genie’s business areas to connected cars using AI technology.
According to Genie, an AI-powered audio platform is a platform that offers various audio services, including music, audiobooks, and audio broadcasts integrated with AI technology. Millie’s Library contains approximately 3,000 audiobooks with some 1,000 audiobooks to add to the library each month.
Genie said that through the acquisition, Millie’s Library audiobooks will be delivered through Genie’s music platform by the end of 2021. The online music service said users can enjoy audiobooks on a variety of platforms including smartphones, wearable devices, and an automotive infotainment system. Genie will also release a bundle-style subscription plan that leverages the Genie and Millie’s Library subscription plans.
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