Smartphones give new life to audiobooks

(USA Today) Call it easy listening.

Audiobooks are finding a new audience, as listeners discover the ease and portability of downloading recorded versions of books onto their smartphones.

Once known as books on tape (and before that, books on vinyl), audiobooks — from unabridged, 50-hour-long literary classics to current best sellers — are seeing dramatic growth thanks to the digital revolution. They are still a sliver of the overall publishing pie, but the slice keeps getting bigger.

“Audiobooks are surging,” says Amanda D’Acierno, publisher of Penguin Random House Audio, noting that the popularity of podcasts also is adding to interest in audiobooks.

The numbers tell the story:

  • The Audio Publishers Association estimates that audiobook sales in 2015 (the most recent figures available) totaled $1.77 billion, up 20.7% over 2014.
  • Between 2012 and 2015, sales of downloaded audio increased nearly 85%, according to the Association of American Publishers.
  • The number of audiobook titles published each year continues to rise. In 2015, 35,574 audiobook titles were published, compared with 7,237 in 2011, according to the Audio Publishers Association.
  • Last year, 84% of audiobook sales were downloads, while 16% were more expensive CDs, according to the Association of American Publishers.


While the convenience of having a library in your pocket — or pocketbook — is having an impact, publishing remains an industry dominated, perhaps surprisingly, by print books. According to the Association of American Publishers, 75% of books sold in 2015 were print, 17% were e-books, and 3.3% were audiobooks. (The rest were items like books that include toys.) E-book sales have been declining, however, unlike audiobook sales.

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Publication:      USA Today
Author:             Jocelyn McClurg
Publish Date:   10.7.2016