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Audiobooks: Americans Are 'All Ears'
As Sales Surpass $1 Billion, Says APA
Sept. 16, 2008
If you're already voicing audiobooks - have you found a growing niche? Most certainly. Hang onto it!
And if you're thinking about training for this genre and cutting a demo to showcase your skills - hop to it.
According to recent surveys by the Audio Publishers Association (APA), the audiobook industry is enjoying "unprecedented growth." Covering the year 2007, the surveys found that:
  • 28% of adult respondents listened to at least one audiobook that year, and
  • annual sales jumped 12% over 2006, reaching over $1 billion.
Following are details of the survey findings, as reported by the APA.
The 2008 APA Consumer Survey and the 2008 APA Sales Survey were conducted to measure the growth of the audiobook industry as well as gain an accurate picture of audiobook listeners’ behaviors.
Independent research firm LewisClarkBoone Market Intelligence surveyed a sample of American consumers, as well as audiobook publishers, who reported sales data from 2007.
This year’s Consumer Survey showed that 28% of adult respondents have listened to an audiobook in the last year, showing a growth of 3% from the survey results in 2006, and a growing comfort with the audio medium among a broadening base of users.
This year’s Sales Survey showed a 12% increase over 2006, with audiobook sales now estimated at $1,033,760,000.
Thanks in part to blockbuster audiobook releases in 2007, the growth rate doubled since the previous findings, which showed a 6% increase from 2005.
Audiobook listeners are avid readers of printed books.
According to the Consumer Survey, audiobook listeners are more likely than the general public to read and purchase printed books.
92% of audiobook listeners reported that they have read a printed book in the past year - a third of them have read 16 or more.
Listeners are also most likely to be college-educated.
The majority of audiobook listeners are college educated (88%), according to the Consumer Survey.
Young listeners are the fastest growing market segment.
The Consumer Survey reported that 53% of teens have listened to an audiobook. Also, 52% of people aged 18-24 listen to audiobooks, according to the Consumer Survey.
Children of audiobook fans are more likely to be listeners, too.
According to the Consumer survey, 63% of respondents said a child in their household has listened to an audiobook.
Audiobook listeners are most likely to be listening in their cars.
In addition to being the most frequent reason for why audiobook consumers begin listening, entertainment for a long drive is also the most frequent reason (40%) why they continue listening.
The opportunity to listen while engaging in another activity (23%) and while commuting (18%) are also common reasons, according to the Consumer Survey.
For audiobook consumers, CD continues to be the preferred format.
CD sales continued to rise. In 2007, CDs made up 78% of sales by format (measured by dollar volume). By comparison, CDs represented 77% of revenues in 2006, 74% in 2005, 63% in 2004, and 45% in 2003.
Cassette sales continued to decrease, representing only 3% of sales, compared to 7% of the sales in 2007.
The declining trend shows cassettes represented in 16% of the revenue in 2005, 30% in 2004, and 45% of the revenue in 2003.
Download sales continued to increase.
Downloads represented 17% of sales in 2007, compared to 14% in 2006, showing a steady growth trend, increasing from 9% of sales in 2005 and 6% of sales in 2004.
The Consumer Survey also showed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of audiobook listeners own an MP3 player. 40% have downloaded a digital file of an audiobook, including 8% who were first-time listeners.
Audiobook listeners are most likely to obtain titles at their local libraries.
According to the Consumer Survey, audiobook listeners look for titles to listen to first at:
  • the library (43%),
  • a retail book store (27%),
  • an online retailer (15%),
  • an online downloading web site (9%),
  • an audiobook-only store (3%),
  • through an online audiobook rental website (2%),
  • through a file-sharing website (2%), or
  • through other means (2%).
And what do audiobook consumers listen to?
Audiobook listeners prefer full-length, unabridged works. More than 70% of the audiobooks purchased and listened to in the past year were unabridged, according to the Sales Survey and the Consumer Survey.
The top five favorite audiobook genres reported by respondents of the Consumer Survey were:
  • 1. Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
  • 2. General Fiction
  • 3. Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • 4. Biography/Memoir
  • 5. Classic Fiction
According to the Consumer Survey, different age brackets prefer different genres.
The fastest growing age bracket, 18-24 year olds, showed a preference for comedy and science fiction/fantasy.
Listeners over the age of 35 showed a preference for mystery/thriller/suspense and general fiction.
Sales Survey: Twenty-six APA member publishers participated in the survey, which looked at sales data from a range of sales channels from January 1 through December 31, 2007.
Consumer Survey: A web-based survey was completed by 2,363 U.S. adult (18+) consumers from May 2008 to July 2008. The sample was chosen to reflect U.S. Census data related to age, gender, education, household income, region of the U.S. and number of people in the household.
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.
Since 1986, the APA has worked to bring audio publishers together to increase interest in audiobooks.
For more about the APA, visit
LewisClarkBoone Market Intelligence is a full-service market research and competitive intelligence firm founded in 1983. The firm serves publishers, associations, and businesses through a combination of mail and online/interactive surveys, knowledge management, consulting, and outsourcing services, provided in a timely and cost-effective manner.
For more information, visit
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