Audiobooks are transforming the publishing industry with a fast-growing audience of younger listeners and have moved from being a marginal product to being at the forefront of publishing strategies.
A panel discussion among publishers at this week’s London Book Show saw executives from Macmillan and Penguin Random House say audiobooks have become a primary publishing format.
US Audio Publishers Association executive director Michele Cobb said the number of audiobooks published by APA members annually doubled between 2013 and 2017.
Smart speakers and podcasts are helping to drive the growing popularity of audiobooks and research from the APA for 2017 also shows that audiobook customers today are younger, with 54% of US listeners in the 18-44 age range.
That audiobook audience are also overwhelmingly readers as 83% of audiobook listeners read a print book during the year and 79% read an ebook while the non-book readers tend to be drawn to audiobooks through podcasts and the research notes that podcast listeners listen to twice as many audiobooks than non-podcast listeners.
Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that “audiobooks help you finish more books.” Smartphones are used for audiobooks by 73% of listeners while smart speakers are used by 24% of listeners.
The APA also says the home is now the most popular place to listen to an audiobook, with most listeners using audiobooks to relax during the evening.
The most popular genres for audiobooks were Mystery, Thriller, Suspense; Science Fiction; and Romance and the top three reasons why people enjoy listening to audiobooks are: They can do other things while listening (81%), They can listen wherever they are (80%); and Audiobooks are portable (75%).
Amazon recently revealed that its Alexa smart speakers were helping to power a boom in audiobook listening, with J K Rowling’s Harry Potter audiobooks amassing a total of 393 million minutes listened to on Echo devices during 2018.
Indie authors have had some notable successes in publishing audiobooks in recent years. Both Dennis E Taylor and Craig A Falconer have hit the Amazon Charts with science fiction titles on the strength of their audiobook sales while many others are reporting audiobook business that is exceeding their ebook sales.