Audio Publishers' Survey Reveals Continued Growth

The APA's sales and consumer surveys reveal continued robust growth in the audiobook market and the importance of libraries to listeners.
The Audio Publishers Association released the results from their annual sales survey, as well as the latest consumer study conducted by Edison Research. Both surveys indicate that the strong growth the audiobook industry has seen in recent years continues. Based on information from responding publishers, the APA estimates that audiobook sales in 2017 totaled more than $2.5 billion, up 22.7% over 2016, and with a corresponding 21.5% increase in units. This continues the six-year audiobook trend of double-digit growth year over year. 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. Of the more than 46,000 titles produced on audio in 2017, the most popular genres purchased were mysteries/thrillers/suspense, science fiction, and romance. Edison Research’s national survey of American audiobook listeners features new data on audiobook consumption patterns, purchasing behavior, podcast listening, and audiobook content. In addition to measuring the size of the listening audience, the study also revealed: Who listens to audiobooks? 
  • 54% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45.
  • Audiobook listeners consume books in all formats. 83% of frequent listeners have read a hardcover or paperback in the last 12 months, and 79% have 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.”

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