From Publishing Perspectives:
Amid so many programs and events last week at the 56th Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, a new first-time effort at sizing up the international audiobook marketplace was introduced during a session called “Listen Up.”
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[T]here are obvious pitfalls in trying to assess audio in world publishing markets today. There’s no consistency or standard in data collection from nation to nation. And in some cases, online retailers withhold sales data as proprietary information, which means the industry can’t see and count everything.
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For example, the new report cites 54 percent of American audiobook users being under the age of 45, and 74 percent of listeners preferring their smartphones as a leading device. In China, by comparison, available data indicates that an online audiobook platform like Ximalaya had as many as 40 million users daily at the end of 2018.
In putting together a first attempt at an overall picture, Cobb and her colleagues have identified several categories of geographical consideration.
Three “macro-areas” of key importance, for example, are:
- The United States (with an estimated 2017 consumer spend of US$2.5 billion)
- Europe (an estimated 2017 publisher data coming to $500 million)
- China (an estimated 2017 publisher data of $470 million)
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“Key areas” of growth are identified as:
- The United States (46,000 titles in annual production, 375,000 now available)
- China (7,000 new audio titles annually, 25,000 available)
- Nordic countries (5,800 titles annually, 32,000 available)
“Audio strongholds” are a classification comprising:
- The UK (some 14 million units sold in a year, 18 percent of them for children)
- Germany (about 16 million units sold in a year)
“Developing markets” identified include:
- France (1500 titles annually, 4,000 available)
- Russia (1,800 titles annually, 16,000 available)
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Cobb’s APA has become the leader in describing and analyzing the fast-growing audiobook sector in the biggest market for the format, the United States. The organization’s annual reports are a key gauge in understanding the new popularity of this “reborn” format. Once hobbled by the inconvenience and expense of tapes and CDs, audiobooks are the big beneficiary of downloads and streaming distribution in many parts of the world. The plethora of devices—smart phones, smart watches, smart speakers, tablets, and others—has facilitated rapid adoption even among “reading-reluctant” audience segments such as men and boys.
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“More availability. There are so many titles being produced that a reader will try an audiobook,” seeing that something he or she was interested in reading, “and then they stick with it. It doesn’t mean that is all of their reading, but a healthy portion.”
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Cobb has been explaining for years now the attractions many audio fans cite of being able to listen while doing other things, or—among some Americans studied—stopping other activities and focusing on listening to a book as a means of relaxation. What’s more, the digital disruption of how many books re released—with “windowing” various formats all but a thing of the past—has meant, as Cobb points out, that “If someone is going to take a book for the weekend to the beach, now they have options” of being able to pick up a new release’s hardback or ebook edition, or the audiobook.
“And audio really has been simultaneously released” in many instances “for more than a decade,” Cobb points out.
And one of her more interesting observations is that audiobooks for children may move much more quickly if retailers learn to create “safe” spaces for them to shop and select what they want to hear without parents having to worry that they’ll wander into adult content.
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
PG is interested in hearing about the experiences of indie authors with the production and sales of their audiobooks.
His impression (which may be wrong) is that there isn’t a path to audiobook publication that is nearly as friction-free as ebook publication is. He’s also interested in hearing about the financial returns for author and voice talent.