November 20, 2023
The Audiobook Boom: How Modern Readers Are Embracing Storytelling in Sound

Brand Insights in 3 Sentences: The boom in the audiobook market underscores contemporary consumers’ growing demand for convenience, urging brands to prioritize accessibility in their strategies. The rise of audio content also signifies a desire for all-encompassing sensory experiences, a trend that all brands should try and embrace. Lastly, the audiobook and streaming industries have not been exempt from the ongoing debates around asset ownership, so brands may consider emphasizing and safeguarding their own unique assets more.

It’s reported that the global audiobook market is now worth over $5.3 billion, and is projected to reach $35 billion in 2030. This means that while the book publishing market will grow by only 1.9%, the audiobook market will grow by 26.4% every year over the next 7 years.

The rise of the audiobook makes perfect sense in the world we live in today. Many of us don’t have the luxury of time to sit down and read a book as often as we would like, so an audiobook gives us access to stories whenever and wherever. Having a book read to you by a seasoned voice actor, or even the author themselves, is also engaging and comforting to listeners, making it the modern day, adult equivalent of a bedtime story. 

Using Sphere, we wanted to find out what actually makes a good audiobook, where people are listening to them, and any insights we could find from audiobook reviews and bestselling lists.

Sphere’s search analysis first found that Amazon’s Audible and are the most popular platforms that people tune into the most, followed by a newer addition to the list, Spotify. The streaming service began offering more than 150,000 audiobooks as part of its Premium subscriptions in the UK and Australia earlier this month, followed by the US later this year.

This move has caused some concern in the literary world over the streaming of audiobooks competing with sales, especially since “books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times”, as stated by The Society of Authors (SoA). The union also revealed that none of the “authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms.”

This new service has certainly opened a Pandora’s box for authors and the publishing industry, and its effects remain to be seen. Given the sheer size and reach of Spotify, it will definitely be a formidable competitor against Audible and if they continue their expansion around the globe.

Aside from well-written prose, a good narrator is essential to an enjoyable listening experience. They set the tone for the story and brings the characters to life. Some of the factors referenced in review was how articulate the narrators sounded, their pace of reading and ability to put on different accents or voices to differentiate the characters. A narrator can be the make or break of whether someone finishes the book, and even become the reason why someone would want to listen to a book in the first place.

We also wanted to see if there were any differences between Amazon’s list of bestselling books and Audible’s bestsellers. Our data revealed that while many of the books were similar, especially the popular new releases that would inevitably make both lists, there were certain categories of books that appeared more in one list than the other.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Generally, there seemed to be more diversity in categories amongst the bestselling books than audiobooks. Some categories surprised us, while others didn’t. Picture books or children’s books where illustrations are key were obviously not included in the audiobooks list, however we did predict that categories like Fiction & Literature, Sleep and Religion & Spirituality would make an appearance on the list or rank higher. 

There was also a higher percentage of audiobooks in the Science Fiction and Fantasy category, as well as Biographies and Memoirs, as compared to regular books. The former has always been a popular genre, with Fantasy topping this year’s list according to a survey conducted by OnePoll. It’s the type of genre that allows people to venture into their own imagination, which may make the audio format more appealing since listening can be much more passive than reading.

On the other hand, Biographies and Memoirs in the audiobook format tend to be read by the authors themselves. We get to hear someone tell their own life story in exactly the way the words were intended to sound, which can add so much more depth and meaning over just reading their book. 

Memoirs read by their authors:

While some literary people argue that the audio format isn’t as rewarding as reading, or even considered “cheating”, we don’t believe that to be true. Audiobooks have traditionally been used by people with learning difficulties, non-readers and second-language learners, and successfully given them access to literature and taught them to not be afraid of prose.

While the act of reading is a crucial skill for anyone in the modern world, the purpose and many benefits of it can still be reaped through audiobooks. Skills like expanding your vocabulary, strengthening analytical capabilities, developing the ability to communicate and emphatize and improving concentration can all be gained through listening as well.

Considering the decline in book consumption, which includes both printed and audio formats, we believe that any form of reading should be encouraged. Furthermore, if contemporary readers find audiobooks to be the most convenient and feasible option, then the publishing industry should be rallying behind them. 

Follow our page for more such insights. Write to [email protected] to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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