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Audiobook Unit Sales Soar 33% in 2016
To $2.1 Billion; Smartphones Power Up

June 7, 2017

(VOXtra) - The fast-moving audiobook train has become a rocket.

Audiobook unit sales soared 33% in 2016 over the previous year, and more than 67 million Americans listened to at least one audiobook last year, according to the findings of two surveys conducted for the Audio Publishers Association (APA), and announced today.

Those unit sales pushed the industry's revenue 18.2% to more than $2.1 billion, according to the APA's annual member sales survey, conducted by Management Practice Inc. It's the third consecutive year that audiobook sales have expanded by nearly 20%.

And a separate consumer survey found that more than 67 million Americans listened to at least one audiobook last year.

Since nearly half of that survey's "frequent audiobook listener" respondents are under 35 years of age, that indicates plenty of recording hours ahead for audiobook narrators.

Also from the consumer survey: smartphones are increasingly powering up to enjoy audiobooks.

The industry survey reports that in 2016, unit sales of audiobooks jumped to 89,558,322 from 67,4341,630 in 2015 - and the 2016 figure was more than double the number of units sold in 2012.

Also, downloads accounted for 87.4% of audiobook sales in 2016, continuing the growing popularity of downloads in both units and sales dollars. Meanwhile, the CD format experienced a comparably equal decline in unit sales and sales dollars.


The industry association also shares the following highlights from its consumer study, which was conducted by Edison Research to determine audiobook consumption patterns, purchasing behavior, content preference and more.

Who listens to audiobooks?
  • Nearly half (48%) of frequent audiobook listeners are under 35.
  • Audiobook listeners are often also podcast listeners. Respondents who consumed both podcasts and audiobooks listened to twice as many audiobooks in the past 12 months as nonpodcast consumers.
  • Avid readers are also listening. Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year, and 77% of frequent listeners agreed or strongly agreed that "audiobooks help you finish more books."
How and where are they listening?
  • Far more listeners are saying they use their smartphone most often to listen to audiobooks than ever before 29% in 2017 vs. 22% in 2015.
  • A majority of audiobook listening is done at home (57%), with the car being the second most frequently-cited location (32%).
  • 68% of frequent listeners do housework while listening to audiobooks. Other multitasking activities among frequent listeners include baking (65%), exercise (56%) and crafting (36%).
The 2017 survey also asked about voice-enabled wireless speakers (such as Amazon Echo or Google Home) for the first time, with 19% of all listeners reporting using them to listen to an audiobook in the last year. Among frequent listeners, that rises to 30%.


  • Libraries remain major access channels and important drivers of audiobook discovery. 27% of people said borrowing from a library/library website was very important for discovering new audiobooks.
  • Of the more than 50,000 titles produced on audio in 2016, the most popular genres were Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Romance.
  • The top three reasons why people enjoy listening to audiobooks are:
    • 1) They can do other things while listening;
    • 2) Audiobooks are portable and people can listen wherever they are; and
    • 3) They enjoy being read to.

"The audiobook market continues to grow, with more people than ever before indicating that they have listened to the medium in the past year," notes Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy for Edison Research. "That growth, combined with the growth of the podcast market and the strong relationship between the two, are all part of a renaissance for spoken word programming."

Anthony Goff, VP and Research Committee Chair for the APA, and SVP, Publisher at Hachette Audio, adds that 2016 was "another banner year for audiobooks."

"It has been exhilarating for everyone involved in audio to see such healthy growth maintained, year in and year out," Goff says. "Learning more about audiobook listeners by digging deeper into the metrics of consumer behavior is one of the key ways we can help that growth continue."

For more about the APA and its programs - including an annual conference (APAC), the Audie Awards® competition and other member services, visit


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Comments (1)
4/7/2018 at 11:36 PM
Great article!
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