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The book publishing industry has seen huge change in the past few decades: the launch of ebooks, the evolution of print-on-demand, experimentations with subscription models and, of course, the rise and rise of the audiobook format. With new consumer technological developments have come opportunities for innovation within multiple formats. Few however could have foreseen the explosion of growth in our consumption of audio content. In March 2019 the Bookseller magazine reported that audio downloads had grown by 13 per cent in 2018, as major distributors such as Walmart (in partnership with Kobo) and Google began distributing audiobooks. Here we take a look at some of the reasons behind audio’s increasing popularity.
Ease and accessibility
With the majority of consumers accessing audiobooks through their smartphones and 3.5 billion users worldwide, audio is arguably one of the easiest ways to consume quality content. Audiobooks can be bought and enjoyed instantly, rather than waiting for an online physical delivery or browsing in a bookshop.
Good storytelling is timeless, and some research suggests that listening to, rather than reading, a story, can make it easier to imagine and visualise the content. In a study conducted by Audible people were shown to have a stronger emotional reaction after listening to audio content, as opposed to watching a video adaptation of the same story.
Cost of quality production
It used to be that you needed a team of text abridgers and dedicated experts within special recording studios to produce a multipack of CDs on sale in high street stores or motorway service stations. Now, costs have come down, expertise is readily accessible, and more actors and writers have been schooled in how best to deliver an entertaining story. And the actual ‘physical’ book is simply a larger downloadable file rather than more CDs in a box.
Although audiobooks have been around since the 80s, people feel a lot busier now. If it seems more difficult to dedicate the time and space to reading a physical or digital version of a book, you can take in an audiobook on public transport, whilst driving, exercising or even at work. What do you think your fellow passengers are listening to on those headphones?
You can’t discuss audio without mentioning podcasts. In 2019 ‘the number of people who have listened to at least one podcast in their lives increased by 20 million’ in the US. Podcasts have rapidly become an indispensable platform for communication as authors, thought leaders and brands use the medium to offer exclusive and entertaining content on a regular basis and to a growing user base.
While physically printed books show no signs of losing their popularity, particularly in key sectors of the market, maintaining their status as valuable gift and authoritative content marketing, the ubiquity of the downloadable audio file is proving a welcome additional word-spreading and revenue-generating opportunity. Thinking of converting? Take a look at this list of some amazing audiobooks and podcasts to get you started.