Audiobooks are a $1 Billion+ Industry and Showing Steady Growth
FEBRUARY 21, 2013— The Audio Publishers Association released the results from two concurrent studies of audiobook sales patterns and consumer behavior which revealed that that total net sales of audiobooks in 2011 were up from the previous year and that, in general, the audio format is thriving.
According to the independent research firm Lewis&Clark who conducted the 2011 Annual Sales Survey, 3.8 million more audiobooks were sold in 2011 than were sold in 2010, representing a 2.6% increase in total revenues year-over-year.
Some of the growth in the sales can be attributed to a wider selection of titles available to audiobook fans. The total number of titles published in the audio format has doubled over
the past seven years and publishers continue to increase their output to ensure that the most popular trade books are available in audio at the time the print book is released.
Adding to the positive outlook is a 3.2% decrease in returns of audiobooks from 14% last year to just 10.8% this year. Returns as a percentage of overall gross sales have never been this low. In fact, the average rate of returns a decade ago was nearly three times higher than it is today.
The rise of the digital download is no doubt the biggest contributing factor in the growth of sales and the declining rate of returns. The study shows that for audiobooks, the digital download format has eclipsed the CD format with slightly more than 60% of all audiobooks sold today being digital.
So who is listening and what are their preferences?
While adult fiction reins supreme as the top-selling category in audio (with mystery/thriller/suspense at the top of that heap) according to the Lewis & Clark sales survey, non-fiction is seeing nice growth with an 8.4% spike in sales of nonfiction audio titles last year. More children and young adults are listening, too: survey results show a 20% increase in the number of kids’ and YA audio titles sold in 2011.