Audiobooks in the Headlines: Wooing Guys in the UK, Winning Over Publishers in Canada

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The UK reports that audiobooks are most popular with men 25 to 44, and in Canada, there’s a big jump from 2016 to 2017 in publishers producing audiobooks.

Image – iStockphoto: Halfpoint

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Loud Gains for Audio
Arriving in the inboxes of new media people almost simultaneously Monday (June 11), messaging from both Canada and the United Kingdom again extols the audiobook sector as the digital apple of publishing’s collective eye for growth. These, after the Association of American Publishers last month reported a fifth year of double-digit growth for audiobooks in 2017.

BookNet Canada has released its “State of Digital Publishing” report for 2017.

And in the UK, the Publishers Association is offering some statistics from its annual publishing yearbook, to mark the start of “Love Audio Week” in that market.

Earphones On in Canada

The nonprofit industry service organization BookNet Canada reports in its 2017 “State of Digital Publishing” that 61 percent of Canadian publishers “are now producing digital audiobooks, which is up from 37 percent in 2016.

“Increasing production,” the report says, “may be related to the confidence felt by firms, with 73 percent [reporting] believing audiobook sales will increase in the coming year.”

As BookNet’s discussion about the report indicates, the 2017 report also points to “a drop in the percentage of ebooks available in the market that went unsold.

“Though methodology changed slightly between 2016 and 2017,” the BookNet staff writes, “the survey found that 30 percent of ebooks had no sales in 2017, versus 46 percent in 2016.

“Meanwhile, 69 percent of publishers reported that their year-over-year digital sales were either growing slowly or staying flat. According to BookNet’s quarterly consumer surveying, unit sales of ebooks have fluctuated over the past three years, accounting for 19 percent of book purchases in 2015, 16.9 percent in 2016, and 18.6 percent in 2017.”

Image: BookNet Canada

The newly released information is from the fifth annual such study of digital publishing in the English-language market of Canada, and points out that new questions have been added to the survey for 2017.

“When asked who they believed had benefited the most from the digital transformation of the last five years,” BookNet reports from one of its new questions, “the top three responses were Amazon (72 percent of respondents), self-published authors (63 percent), and readers (52 percent).”

As in previous years, the study tells us, Kobo—based in Toronto and owned by Japan’s Rakuten—is the ebook retailer most used by Canadian publishers, “with Amazon coming in a close second.”

Some of BookNet’s media materials include an interesting look at the “ebook vs. print” debate in that market.

Image BookNet Canada

“When it comes to unit sales of books in Canada, according to our quarterly consumer surveying,” the organization writes, “18.6 percent of purchases in 2017 were ebooks. This is a slight increase from 2016, when ebook sales made up 16.9 percent of purchases. At the same time, the number of publishers producing ebooks also increased: 94 percent of publishers reported that they are currently producing ebooks, up from 91 percent in 2016 (a 3-percent increase).

“The number of ebooks with sales has also grown since 2016, although we changed our methodology slightly in the 2017 survey,” BookNet’s staff reports. “In previous years, we asked publishers to report the number of ebooks with sales in the Canadian market over the last 12 months. This year, however, we asked them for an overall percentage.

“Keeping this in mind, we found that 30 percent of ebooks had no sales in Canada in 2017, while 46 percent had no sales in 2016.

“On top of this, 65 percent of publishers reported that year-over-year sales are growing (either slowly or rapidly), citing marketing efforts and/or a maturing market as the possible reasons.”

Image: BookNet Canada

BookNet Canada makes available a 35-page Issuu edition of its report here.


Revving the #LoveAudio Campaign in the UK

As the UK’s second #LoveAudio Week campaign gets underway, the Publishers Association—its Audio Publishers Group produces the campaign—is highlighting pertinent statistics ahead of the rollout of its annual publishing yearbook.

We learn from these several signal factors seen in audiobook performance in the UK:

  • Audiobook downloads hit a record £31 million (US$41.5 million) sales last year, up 22 percent, according to new figures released Monday (June 11) by the association.
  • Audiobooks remain the fastest growing area in digital publishing, the association is saying, with publishers reporting sales more than doubling (148 percent) since 2013.
  • “The statistics reinforce the growth shown in Nielsen’s recent 2017 UK Books and Consumer Survey,” according to the association’s release, “which show that 5.7 million people had bought or listened to an audiobook across all formats (CD, tape, download or streaming) in the last 12 months—an increase of 7% on 2014.

And in what some in publishing see as a particularly encouraging figure, the Publishers Association’s figures also show that audiobooks continue to be most popular with men aged 25 to 44 years.

While no one wants to see a single female reader or listener leave publishing, the industry has never had as strong a male consumer base as it has among women, and audio’s capacity to bring males to publishing’s content is particularly promising.

Nielsen’s information, as purveyed by the association, indicates that “The proportion of 13-to-84-year-olds buying and/or listening to audiobooks in 2017 [rose] to … 15 percent of males aged 25 to 34, and 17 percent of males aged 35 to 44.

Another interesting statistic: In 2017, the number of consumers buying and/or listening to audiobooks through downloads or streaming was 25 percent higher than in 2014.

In a prepared statement, Publishers Association CEO Stephen Lotinga is quoted, saying:

Stephen Lotinga

Stephen Lotinga

“It’s great to see strong growth in audiobook sales and our latest figures show the sector is going from strength to strength.“Publishers are investing and innovating in audio so that audiences can experience books in new ways and that is why it continues to be the fastest growing digital format.

“Audiobooks are vital in allowing a wider audience of readers to discover and experience storytelling on their own terms. It is this type of digital innovation that is at the heart of supporting nationwide literacy.”

Sarah Shrubb, audio publisher at Little, Brown UK, chairs the association’s Audio Publishers Group, and is quoted, saying, “Audio publishers are thrilled to see that their hard work and investment is continuing to produce record-breaking market statistics.

“It’s a very exciting time for the industry, and every audio publisher has contributed to these fantastic results.”

Overall, in 2017, the association is reporting, 10.6 percent, or 5.7 million members, of the UK’s population aged 13 to 24 had bought and/or listened to an audiobook in all formats–CD, tape, downloads and streaming.

Love Audio Week programming is to run through Sunday (June 17). The audio group chaired by Shrubb at the Publishers Association comprises audio publishers Bolinda, Bonnier, Canongate, Creative Content Digital, Faber & Faber, Hachette UK (Headline Publishing Group, Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press, Little, Brown, Orion and Quercus), HarperCollins UK, Listening Books, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House, RNIB, Simon & Schuster UK, Strathmore Publishing, Talking Books, and W. F. Howes Ltd.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.