The audiobook industry is digitizing more frontlist and backlist titles and every year there are around 25,000 new audio editions that are available to purchase. Half of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook in the past year, which is up from 44% from last year.
Edison Research and Triton Digital for Audio Publishers Association have released a national annual consumer survey. They found that 56% of audiobook listeners say that they are making “new” time to listen to audiobooks, and subsequently consuming more books and ebooks.
Growth can be partly attributed to increased listening in cars, which surpassed the home as the #1 audiobook listening location in the 2019 survey. According to the APA survey, 74% of audiobook consumers listen in their car, up from 69% last year. The home is the second most popular spot at 68%, down from 71% in 2018. Technology is playing a major role, as the Infinite Dial survey also shows 19% percent of Americans age 12 and older have an in-dash information and entertainment system in their vehicle, up from 15% last year. Sixty-two percent of respondents who have in-dash systems have listened to an audiobook.
Smart speaker proliferation also bodes well for future listening growth, as penetration among audiobook consumers is nearing twice the US average – 42% of audiobook listeners age 18 and older own a smart speaker. Just over three in ten of these owners report listening to an audiobook on their smart speaker, which points to a significant opportunity to grow the medium using this important new technology.
The APA annual consumer research study also reveals that 40% of audiobook listeners agree that audiobooks help them get through more books, and 56% of those who both listen to and read books agree that audiobooks are the preferred format to get through books quickly.
Some other notable points
- 55% of all audiobook listeners are under the age of 45, and 51% of frequent listeners are between 18-44.
- Mystery/Thriller/Suspense remains the top genre for audiobook consumers, followed by History/Biography/Memoirs and Humor.
- Over half (55%) of audiobook listeners have also listened to a podcast in the last month, continuing the strong historical association between podcast listeners and audiobook listeners.
- Audiobook consumers listened to an average of 6.8 audiobooks in the last twelve months, up from 6.5 in the previous survey. Twenty-four percent of consumers have listened to 10 or more in that time.
“This new data continues the positive trends we’ve seen the last few years. Audiobooks are becoming more mainstream, and most of the growth is coming from people using technology to find time in their day to consume more books,” said Chris Lynch, Co-Chair of the APA’s Research Committee and President & Publisher, Simon & Schuster Audio. “Hitting the 50% mark in audiobook consumer penetration is a major milestone, but the even better news is that the data points to significant upside in the future.”
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.