Audiobook sales generated $2.8 billion dollars in the United States in 2017 and this is an increase of up 22.7% over 2016, and with a corresponding 21.5% increase in units. This continues the six-year audiobook trend of double-digit growth year over year.
This new sales data stems from the Audiobook Publishers Association and Edison Research. The two companies found that audiobook listeners consume books in all formats with 83% of frequent listeners having read a hardcover or paperback in the last 12 months and 79% having read an ebook. Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that audiobooks help you finish more books. The vast majority of people who purchase an audiobook are under the age of 45.
How and where are they listening?
- Smartphone usage continues to grow with 73% of listeners using these devices and an increase in the percentage of listeners using this device most often: 47% in 2018 vs. 29% in 2017 and 22% in 2015.
- Smart speakers are increasingly impacting the audiobook world with 24% of listeners saying they have listened on a smart speaker and 5% saying they listen most often on a smart speaker.
- 53% of listeners say they most often listen at home and 36% say their car is where they listen most often.
- The top three activities while listening to audiobooks are: driving (65%), relaxing before going to sleep (52%), and doing housework/chores (45%).
- 73% of audiobook consumers agree that listening to audiobooks is relaxing.
- 55% agreed or strongly agreed that they chose to listen to an audiobook “when they want some time to themselves.”
Additional Key Findings
- Of the over 46,000 titles produced on audio in 2017, the most popular genres purchased were Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Science Fiction, and Romance.
- The top three reasons why people enjoy listening to audiobooks are: 1) They can do other things while listening (81%); 2) They can listen wherever they are (80%); and 3) Audiobooks are portable (75%).
- Libraries remain major access channels for audiobooks and important drivers of audiobook discovery. 52% of people said borrowing from a library/library website was important or very important for discovering new audiobooks. 43% of listeners said they downloaded an audiobook from a library and 14% said that most often use the library for their digital listening.
- Audiobook listeners consume books in all formats with 83% of frequent listeners having read a hardcover or paperback in the last 12 months and 79% having read an ebook.
- Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”
There are a few trends this year that Good e-Reader Research has gleaned. Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are seeing more audiobook integration and this is positively impacting sales. Publishers are also making vinyl editions of audiobooks and including a free digital download. Spotify also is getting involved in the audiobook space, filling the void that TuneIn left when they abandoned the space.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten 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.