The APA (Audio Publishers Association) released a new report last week that showed audiobooks generated $2.5 billion in sales in the USA last year, up 22.7% over 2016.
The report is based on 1,009 online surveys, and numerous focus group polling. The data was weighted to the audiobook market, resulting in the released figures.
Are the figures correct? I do not know, but I can say that publishers are acting like this is a huge market – in some cases audiobook publishers are paying more for audio rights than authors can get for print/digital rights. Whether that is a sign of a huge market or a bubble, I can’t say.
Who listens to audiobooks?
- 54% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45.
- Audiobook listeners consume books in all formats with 83% of frequent listeners having read a hardcover or paperback in the last 12 months and 79% having read an ebook.
- Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”
How and where are they listening?
- Smartphone usage continues to grow with 73% of listeners using these devices and an increase in the percentage of listeners using this device most often: 47% in 2018 vs. 29% in 2017 and 22% in 2015.
- Smart speakers are increasingly impacting the audiobook world with 24% of listeners saying they have listened on a smart speaker and 5% saying they listen most often on a smart speaker.
- 53% of listeners say they most often listen at home and 36% say their car is where they listen most often.
- The top three activities while listening to audiobooks are: driving (65%), relaxing before going to sleep (52%), and doing housework/chores (45%).
- 73% of audiobook consumers agree that listening to audiobooks is relaxing.
- 55% agreed or strongly agreed that they chose to listen to an audiobook “when they want some time to themselves.”
Additional Key Findings
- Of the over 46,000 titles produced on audio in 2017, the most popular genres purchased were Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Science Fiction, and Romance.
- The top three reasons why people enjoy listening to audiobooks are: 1) They can do other things while listening (81%); 2) They can listen wherever they are (80%); and 3) Audiobooks are portable (75%).
- Libraries remain major access channels for audiobooks and important drivers of audiobook discovery. 52% of people said borrowing from a library/library website was important or very important for discovering new audiobooks. 43% of listeners said they downloaded an audiobook from a library and 14% said that most often use the library for their digital listening.
Chris Lynch, co-chair of the APA’s Research Committee and president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio, commented: “In addition to the continued stellar sales growth, the results show that our customers are finding more opportunities to listen. Our heaviest users are book lovers in all formats, and their increased use of audiobooks is allowing them to get through more books, more quickly.”
image by Will Folsom