The Growth of Audiobooks

By Dieaxtimwald (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dieaxtimwald (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks back, I wrote an essay for LARB about reading in the multimedia age. A big part of the essay focused on audiobooks, which are growing in popularity each year.

According to QZ, audiobooks are growing more than ebooks. MarketWatch wrote that some audiobooks are selling more copies than their print counterparts, and according to The Digital Reader, “audio can outsell print when audio is treated as its original format and not produced as an after thought.”

Audio may be growing because of accessibility, according to The Bookseller and DBW. In just one year, between 2014 and 2015, audiobook sales grew 20% to about $1.78 billion, according to Publisher’s Weekly.

According to the WSJ and DBW, audiobooks are the fastest growing format in publishing. Edison Research found that 43% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook, and that audiobook consumers listened to an average of 6.7 audiobooks in the past year. More people are recommending audiobooks, even the NY Times. Audiobooks are also popular among children, who are used to using mobile devices, according to this slideshare. Audiobooks are also gaining popularity globally, in countries such as India, according to DBW. Free audiobooks are also available online, through sites such as Librovox, according to Wired.

Some audiobooks do really well. The Harry Potter audiobooks, for example, sold 345 copies per hour at one point when they were first released on Audible, according to MarketWatch.

So why are audiobooks becoming so popular? Well, in addition to accessibility and being able to listen to books on your commute, Amazon has been pushing audiobooks, by buying Audible, creating ACX in 2011, discounting audiobooks if the ebook was purchased, syncing with Whispersync, and promoting audiobooks through Goodreads and Audible’s Send a Book program, according to DBW. There’s also Audible Clips, where you can share samples of audiobooks via email and social media. Plus ACX teaches classes to make it easier for authors to convert their books. And Amazon Echo may make it possible to annotate and connect audiobooks, according to Joe Wikert.

As an indie author, it’s becoming more and more important to produce audiobooks, in addition to print and ebooks. BookWorks breaks it down into parts one and two, on how to decide if you want to make audiobooks, how to create them, and how and where to distribute them. Publisher’s Weekly points out that distribution is important, especially since there are exclusive and non-exclusive options on Audible. The Digital Reader points out that there are a group of authors who are unhappy that Audible/ACX is the biggest option when it comes to audiobooks, but perhaps there may be more competing services at some point (eStories recently relaunched with an audiobook aspect and is an audiobook company that supports indie bookstores). There’s also Big Happy Family Audio, which distributes audiobooks.

The price of creating an audiobook varies a lot depending on your narrator and production quality, and DBW walks through the questions you should be asking. Reading a book silently is also different from reading aloud, so it’s a good idea to plan your audiobooks accordingly, according to DBW. If done right though, you can win an Audie Award.

Marketing audiobooks is also different from marketing other types of books. Joanna Penn recommends using ACX promo codes and sharing snippets via SoundCloud and Audible Clips.

You can do some cool projects with audio. Just for fun, here’s a few that I’ve found:

What audiobooks do you like to listen to? Have you heard of any cool audio projects? Please share in the comments!


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