HarperCollins has just made a smart business decision, only for the wrong reasons.
PW reports they have started pressing audiobooks on vinyl records:
Following successful vinyl record releases by Amy Poehler and others, HarperAudio plans to produce a series of spoken word vinyl audiobook titles (with accompanying digital editions) in 2018.
The vinyl audiobook series will launch in April with Wild Horses Vinyl Edition (including an MP3 version) by Joe Hill. The title is, as HC put it, a “vinyl-first” release. The short story, read by Nate Corddry, is about four teenagers who take a ride on an antique carousel. The seemingly innocent lark results in disastrous consequences.
Other vinyl-first editions coming this year include Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning and poet Nikki Giovanni’s Love Poems. HarperAudio vinyl titles will be distributed by Wax, an indie record label that specializes in the format.
HarperAudio v-p and publisher Ana Maria Allessi noted that audiobooks is “the fastest-growing format in publishing.” She went on, adding that, in particular, “vinyl album sales are surging,” making this new line a logical step for HC.
While their justifications are bad, the idea is sound.
Almost 90 million units audiobooks were sold in 2016, compared to 9 million vinyl records. The latter market is so much smaller that the idea of selling “vinyl-first editions” is just silly, but this is still a market worth getting into.
The thing about vinyl records market is that it is less about the content than the medium. The people who want the content will buy a high-quality audio file, while those who want the feel of a physical object will get a record.
This is more of a collectibles market than a content market, and as we all know people will pay more for collectibles if they have an emotional connection.
Vinyl record sales won’t be hugely profitable compared to print revenues but the per-unit revenues could look very nice on the spreadsheet.
So getting into this market is a good idea.
HarperCollins’ explanation, not so much.
image by stevecadman