Technology Once Again Transforms the Audiobook Market
As a market significantly impacted by technology, audiobooks have evolved from records to highly compressed digital files that can now be downloaded directly from a publisher’s Web site. Anthony Goff, publisher/director at Hachette Audio, says that audio publishers need to stay on top of new technologies, and that new formats are always emerging. While CDs remain approximately 85 percent of Hachette’s business, Goff says that many consumers still listen to cassettes, while even more are moving toward digital files. Keeping an eye on the future, while still producing current formats, calls for versatility.
Dan Balow, associate publisher at Oasis Audio, says that what’s selling at electronics stores may ultimately dictate the format of audiobooks. Although a 2006 sales survey by the APA showed that 77 percent of audiobook sales were on CD, downloads are rapidly increasing, and are expected to be the preferred format of the future.
“It’s pretty much accepted across the publishing industry that at some point, the majority of sales will occur as downloads instead of visible product sales, whether that is three, five or 10 years from now,” says Balow.
Big Productions Behind the Scenes
Many audiobooks carry retail prices that are significantly higher than that of the print versions. A downloaded audiobook that requires no packaging, distribution or shipping may appear to have a higher profit margin, but audio publishers say that production costs can be high. Whereas a print book involves a writer and a team of editors, an audiobook expands on that with sound production and narration that may include guest speakers, musicians, high-tech recording equipment and time at expensive recording studios.
“There is very high production value in [the blockbuster-type] books. We really take care of them, and make sure that they’re well-produced and have all of the effects,” says Goff.