The audiobook market is an area of publishing that is witnessing unprecedented growth. Discover the opportunities and challenges the global audiobook market presents for exporting Canadian publishers of all sizes and across both languages. Written by industry experts, Michele Cobb and Michael Desrosiers, The Global Audiobook Market offers recommendations and expertise on how to make the most concrete information for Canadian publishers who seek to take advantage of the evolving audio culture.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing some excerpts from our digital report examining the growth in audiobook production, the making of audiobooks, audio rights, and selling content outside of Canada. This week, we review the report’s insights on some of the major factors in the recent audiobook production explosion.
The global audiobook market is approximately a $3.5-billion industry. It has shown the ability to expand in nearly every territory in the last few years and all signs point to continued expansion for the near future. The market is driven by several factors that support continued expansion:
- The number of titles being produced is skyrocketing along with growth in the opportunities for distribution partners and the introduction of differing pricing structures for both existing retailers and new retail entrants.
- An increase in the awareness at all stakeholder levels, from author to agent to the text publisher to the consumer. All now expect that their book or favourite author will be available in audio format.
- With a younger trending listener, the audiobook customer is purchasing over a longer period and over a wider span of topics.
Increased Production, Distribution, and Options
The increase in title production has been astounding over the last three to five years and there are no indications that it will dissipate in the near future. The most important outcome is that audio is now available from more authors and for more varied subject matters. Just as importantly, because the market has gotten substantially larger, there is an audience for these new authors or subjects to be consumed in an economically viable way for the audio creator. By entering into new areas of publication, audio has been grabbing the attention of new listeners who are more likely to listen to future audio productions in various genres in addition to the existing subject matters that have brought them into audio. The explosion in title production is happening on three fronts. First, publishers are delving deeper into their own backlists. Many publishers now feel the need to review the entirety of their publishing output for audiobook disposition and, with the growth of independent audiobook producers, that they should produce every title that can work in audio. Second, independent audio producers are not only producing titles from small- and medium- sized publishers, they are also acquiring more titles directly from authors and literary agents, who are more aware of the value of audio itself and actively looking for it to be produced. Third, authors are being more proactive in producing audio themselves. Several do-it-yourself platforms can facilitate the whole process, including a finished audio product and sales distribution services. All of these items mean that there are more titles available by more authors on more subjects.
New distribution partners and changing business models are spurring an increase in consumer awareness and opportunities to purchase. Not so long ago, you would go to the store and purchase an audiobook that was on ten cassette tapes or ten CDs long in a package larger than the book itself. You would listen to it driving back and forth to work or on an occasional long drive for a vacation. It would be quite an investment in both time and money. Now you can download to a computer, stream through your car’s audio system, or download or stream to your phone. You can purchase individual audiobooks, rent them digitally from the library, or have a subscription service that allows you to consume as many books as you want every month. There’s a plan for every consumer’s taste and economic situation. As well, products are becoming more affordable and available for the consumer to enjoy.
Stakeholder awareness is increasing, and that awareness helps drive production. More authors are asking their agents—who used to just “include” audio with all of the other rights being sold to a publisher—about separate audio deals. Agents are now de-bundling the audio rights from the text rights and establishing a separate value for them, helping to create more potential revenue for themselves and their clients. This push for audio makes more titles available, either from the publisher, from an independent audio producer, or from the author themselves through some of the new production and distribution services. Audio rights are gaining traction and publishers are finding new markets for them all the time.
The trend is towards a younger and growing customer base for audiobooks. This is a significant positive trend for the future growth of the industry. Once you become an audiobook user, you typically continue, which means more purchases over the lifetime of the customer. The younger user can influence their growing family, possibly turning a non-listener into a listener in the process. The younger listener may also influence their peer group, owing to the typically larger circle of friends and greater emphasis on peer opinions among young people. Younger consumers will also have different audio needs. In the early stages of their careers and families, they may be more inclined to listen to titles that guide them or provide an escape whereas a more mature customer may be looking for pure entertainment or base knowledge rather than self-improvement. This listening and purchasing will differ by age group, expanding the breadth of audio products in demand.
Want to learn more? Download the full report for more helpful information on how to enter this exciting market!