The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. If you haven’t entered the audiobook market yet, now is the time. Author member Dawn Brookes is here with a look forward at where she thinks future audiobook trends are heading.
Reasons for growth
As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets, and more recently the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.
The original audiobook provided a welcome way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%. This has rapidly changed in recent years, partly because many older people are more tech savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.
Future Audiobook Trends…
Will bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.
There is a general shift from the early days when the audiobook CD was available as a physical product on loan from the local library towards the ever expanding digital market.
The rise of the podcast has in part been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across the ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.
Versatility will gain traction as people utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things. People already listen to podcasts and audiobooks in their cars, in the office, on public transport and in the gym. This is just the tip of the iceberg as the potential to listen to books while doing the gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting and multi-tasking in so many other ways attracts new listeners.
While some people remain resistant to listening to audiobooks, many will be drawn in by the versatility it offers. Plus the ability to try before you buy is bringing new listeners to audiobooks every day.
Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing! Audiobooks are an obvious choice for holiday reading and multi-tasking. Eye strain caused by people sitting in front of computer screens all day is an issue for many and one of the reasons people may stop reading. The audiobook offers a solution to this problem with obvious benefits.
Massive Potential Market Ripe for Explosion
The flexibility and versatility of audiobooks means there’s an enormous market potential out there. For example, audiobooks have room to grow in the following market areas:
- All ages
- People who read and watch less television
- Non-English speaking markets
Huge Marketing Shift
The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on the future audiobook trends. In otherwords, growth in this sector will continue for years to come.
The Major Players
The major players pumping money into marketing audiobooks are:
- Audible/Amazon with audible celebrating its 14thbirthday in 2019
- Big Five publishers with huge marketing budgets
There is potential for growth into the Spanish speaking market hardly touched to date. One shouldn’t discount the German market either as it is often a second language in Eastern Europe.
Growth Set to Continue
There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations. Ultimately, they are the audience of tomorrow. Many marketers believe that once people start listening to audiobooks, they will become listeners for life!
Initially, there were fewer audiobooks available. But, like the early days of the eBook market, the early audiobook adopters have made a lot of money fast. As more publishers and Indies move into the market there will be more choice of books available. Of course this will mean more competition and that may force the prices down. Currently, audiobooks tend to be in the higher price bracket at $15 and above. Amazon already offer discounts to purchasers of eBooks.
A Price war is inevitable and although at present the monopoly of just a few players has kept the prices fairly static. This will inevitably change as more players enter the market.
What Does it Mean for Indies?
Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production being prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.
Audiobook sales have increased market share in some of the top fiction genres too, especially science fiction & fantasy, teens, and mystery, thriller & suspense but these genres still have a massive potential for growth.
The additional profitable, high-growth markets offer long-term gains for indie authors. Authors should write with audio in mind, taking into account characters, accents and grammar. My first fiction book included a peek inside the mind of a killer who I originally intended to be British but the main red herring in the book was Italian. For the written word, this worked perfectly but not so much for audio. I ended up having to change a few paragraphs and asking the narrator to re-record parts in order to keep the reader guessing. This might be an extreme but its worth thinking about whether the writing will sound good in audio.
The Audiobook Market is Hot!
The audiobook is already well established in the non-fiction market and is likely to become much more established in the fiction market as both authors and narrators perfect their trade.
The next decade is likely to see ‘the rise of the audiobook’. This is only the beginning. Advances in AI and smartphone technology are ripe for the audiobook market. The question indies should be asking is: Can I afford not to get involved?
OVER TO YOU
What do you think the future audiobook trends are? As a listener, do you listen to more fiction or nonfiction audiobooks?
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