The Audiobook Market - Listeners, Habits, Book Discovery

Every Last Word audiobook written by Tamara Ireland Stone, read by Amy Rubinate
In the growing audiobook marketplace, popular fiction is high on listeners' lists. Ideal Audiobooks

Audiobooks can bring an author's print or ebooks into the hands — or rather, into the ears — of a whole new audience. But who are the audiobook "readers"? What are their buying habits? What are their listening habits?

A consumer behavior survey conducted by independent research firm Edison Research and released by the Audio Publishers Association in spring 2015 gave some insights. Michele Cobb, Executive Director of the Audio Publishers Association (APA), summed up the most recent findings: "More listeners, younger listeners, adoption of the format outside of [moving] vehicles."

For those authors and others who want to know more about the where to find audiobook readers, here's an overview of the APA survey:

How big and how dedicated is the audiobook marketplace?

Forty-one percent of Americans have listened to an audiobook at some point in their lives and 55 million people have listened to an audiobook in the last year.

And these listeners appear to be a dedicated audiobook crowd. According to the survey, 70 percent of audiobook listeners reported having listened to three or more audiobooks in the past year, and 30 percent reported listening to five or more audiobooks in the same timeframe.

Learn more about the growth in the audiobook marketplace from this study from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The rise of digital has boosted the sale of audiobooks

"Talking books" and "books on tape" have a history dating back to 1877 when Thomas Edison envisioned "phonographic books" for the blind.

However, the more recent rise of digital has greatly impacted the audiobook marketplace, allowing listeners to easily download books from audiobook publishers, audiobook distributors (like Audible.com and Audiobooks.com) — and even directly from the websites of self-published audiobook authors.

Read more about the history of audiobooks.

How old is the typical audiobook listener?

While previous APA surveys have found that the audiobook listeners skew 30+, the audience is getting younger. The most recent survey found that one third of frequent audiobook listeners are between the ages of 25-34. The APA attributes the falling age range to the prevalence of digital downloads of the books, which brings us to…

How do audiobook listeners usually get the books?

The days of physical "books on tape" are largely behind us — 73 percent of all listeners and 82 percent of frequent users download their audiobooks digitally. The study also found that the younger the listener, the more likely they are to go digital.

Where do audiobook listeners typically listen to their books?

Previous APA studies have indicated that people like to listen to books while doing repetitive tasks such as gardening, crafting, exercise, etc. and the most recent survey confirms that 61 percent of people tune into their books while "relaxing at home."

Traveling time — car rides and other trips — are also high on the list of preferred audiobooks listening times.

And, again, reinforcing the influence of digital on the audiobook market place, one out of every four frequent listeners uses their laptop, a new statistic for the audience.

What are people listening to on audiobooks?

Sixty-three percent of all audiobook buyers said that the subject of the book was the most important factor when choosing a title for purchase.

Mysteries, Thrillers and Suspense are the most popular genre followed closely by History, Biography and Memoir, and Popular Fiction.

(And, fyi, judging from the APA Audie Award winners, the authors who are popular in print and ebooks are also popular in audiobooks.)

How do listeners "discover" audiobooks?

It's been established that the average listener is a frequent book reader who considers audiobooks an alternate way to "read." So it's not surprising that, as in print books and ebooks, a word-of-mouth recommendation from a family member or friend is the top influencer, with reviews following by a close second.

However the audience comes to their audiobooks, and wherever they listen, it's clear from the survey that, as Cobb remarked, the future of the market "Continues to look bright."

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