Why Audiobook Sales Have Been on the Steady Incline

Posted by Wrightspeak  /   November 28, 2013  /   Posted in The Industry, The Latest  /   808 Comments
Photo by Lori L. Stalteri

Photo by Lori L. Stalteri via flickr.

For part two of our three part audiobook series, let’s take a look at the rise in sales of this growing industry over the past few years.

The audiobook business has become a $1.2 billion industry, according to the Wall Street Journal, up from $480 million in 1997. The Audio Publisher’s Association’s annual sales report mirrors this growing consumer trend. These numbers are expected to continue to follow this upward trend next year as new listeners discover the convenience and affordability of audiobooks. Looking ahead, the APA believes the biggest potential for future growth lies with digital format. Companies like Audible are racing to meet consumer demands. The company offered over 150,000 in 2012.


Penguin Random and other publishing houses are investing in this market because they are able to reach more consumers. Research shows that more everyday readers are becoming listeners due to transformation within the industry. Busy readers can fit in more time for books with mobile devices and accessible subscription packages. The way the books are recorded, the shift in the way they are sold online, and the way they are consumed are just a few of the reasons that can be attributed to audiobook industry success.

Which genres generate the most audiobook buzz? Allen Pierleoni, a writer for the Sacramento Bee and Online Athens contributor says that audiobook consumption tends to follow the print-book trend with the Mystery/Thriller/Suspense titles making up a good portion to top rated and best-selling.

One of the biggest challenges for the industry in recent years has been the steady competition from radio and podcasts. Like the print-book industry, audiobooks also face revenue issues due to the high production cost associated with hiring voice actors, generating demanding recordings and the like. Even so, sales continue to climb and it’s clear that the popularity of audiobooks won’t be dwindling in the foreseeable future.


Scott Wasinger, Vice President of Sales for eBooks and Audiobooks at EBSCO Publishing, predicted that most libraries will convert their book and media resources to a completely digital format within the next three years, allowing them to become “gateways to less mainstream electronic content, for example institutional eBooks and documents, recordings of local performances, interviews with local figures, and other content of particular relevance to the library.” Audiobooks are certainly prepared to make the leap alongside these platforms.

This article was written by Ja’Neil Jackson, a Wrightspeak Intern.