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AUDIOBOOKS
Are Libraries Buying The Audiobooks You 
Narrate? Here's What Influences The Decision ...
January 3, 2024

(VOXtra) - Do you find yourself in the library? That is, as an audiobook narrator? 

The answer points mostly to the type and popularity of the books you narrate.

Yet if a substantial number of consumers are allowed a say, your name is important, too.

Last August and September, the Library Journal/School Library Journal worked with representatives of the Audio Publishers Association (APA) to survey library staff at 490 public libraries who are involved in recommending and purchasing audiobooks, to understand their perspectives. Survey questions were framed for both adult and youth audio collections.

WHAT LIBRARIES WANT ...

Recently announced, the Audiobooks and Public Libraries 2023 Survey Report notes that audiobooks account for about 10% of a library's materials budget.

"A general trend is not apparent regarding movement of this percentage over the last few years," the report concludes. "Approximately a third of respondents report that audiobooks' share had decreased, about a third say it had increased, and the remaining third say its share didn't change."

And fiction is king.

The percentage of audiobook budgets devoted to fiction and nonfiction mirrors the circulation breakdown of fiction and nonfiction for both adults (80% / 20%) and children (90% / 10%), the report notes.

INFLUENCING THE DECISION

The report says that when deciding to purchase an audiobook for the library, "selectors consider patron requests, professional reviews, and the popularity of the book and/or the author's previous book most often."

And libraries find that the most essential factors for patrons when deciding what audibooks to borrow are the popularity of the book and specific title.

"The author is third most important to adult borrowers," according to the report. "Availability (of the audiobook) ranks third among young people."

WHAT ABOUT THE NARRATOR?

Narrators play a role in borrowing and enjoyment, too.

While the narrator "may not be a primary factor when patrons decide to check out an audiobook, many open-ended comments suggest that the narrator has a huge impact on the patrons' enjoyment and whether they finish listening to an audiobook," the report concludes.

And it's the human voice that counts.

"AI-voiced audiobooks would negatively influence a library's decision to purchase," according to the report.

DIGITAL INCREASINGLY POPULAR

The report also finds that digital audio "handily out-circulates physical audio for both adults and children.

"Most libraries plan to continue collecting physical audio over the next two years," the report adds, while " 4 to 5 percent had eliminated physical audio purchases as of August 2023."

FOR MORE INFO ...

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) is a not-for-profit trade organization whose primary goals are to promote awareness of the audiobook industry, gather and disseminate industry statistics, encourage high production standards and represent the interests of audiobook publishers. 

For more information about the APA and its programs, visit www.audiopub.org.


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