Technology Once Again Transforms the Audiobook Market
A commuter driving on the freeway. A businessman riding the subway. A stay-at-home mom exercising on an elliptical. If there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that they can listen to an audiobook while going about their business.
From self-improvement and personal finance to blockbuster fiction titles and biographies, the audiobook market is booming. Sales neared the $1 billion mark in 2006, and with increasingly busy lifestyles and the rising popularity of personal audio players, the industry is poised for continued growth.
Bringing Books to Readers With Technology
A 2006 survey by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) found that nearly 25 percent of the U.S. adult population listens to audiobooks. According to the survey, these listeners tend to have higher incomes, more education and read more books than non-audiobook listeners, and almost 35 percent of them have an iPod or MP3 player. Audible.com Senior Vice President and Publisher Beth Anderson says that audiobook listeners are actually avid readers that use the multitasking opportunities presented by audiobooks to consume more books.
“There is sometimes a general perception that people who listen to audiobooks are lazy or not good readers, who are somehow taking a shortcut. It’s exactly the opposite, and they generally just want to fit more books [into] their [lives],” says Anderson.
Audiobooks date back to the 1930s, when they were used on turntables to provide books for the blind. With the development of cassette recorders and players, audiobooks became more popular, and expanded into libraries in the 1960s. Within two decades, the industry became mainstream, bringing fiction works along with self-improvement titles and lectures to tape. The advent of compact discs expanded the market further, because more information and larger books could be put into smaller packages. In 1987, the APA was founded to increase public awareness of the audiobook industry through publicity efforts, consumer surveys, trade shows and the Audie Awards competition.