By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
French Publishers Aim ‘Audio Month’ at ProfessionalsOn the eve of the Festival du Livre de Paris at the Grand Palais Ephémère (Friday to Sunday, April 22 to 24), the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE-France) has announced that May is to be “Audio Book Month” in France.
As many Publishing Perspectives readers will recognize, this is an interesting development in the French market because there’s a near-fabled resistance there to digital publishing and consumption of literature by digital means. Some reliable observers say that this has been overblown, others say that the preference for print may be even stronger than is often recognized. A reluctance to engage in digital reading and listening is sometimes thought to have as much to do with the perceived hegemony of Amazon and other tech platforms as actual consumer preference.
The French publishers today are messaging the news media, however, that there are 9.9 million “audio readers,” as they term it, in France this year, and that means 800,000 more French consumers are availing themselves of audiobooks than were counted doing so last year.
The Gallic way to put this, per material provided to us by SNE today is to say, “the audiobook is undeniably progressing in the reading habits of French people.” That’s the kind of well-turned phrasing the French market is known for, you must admit.
And what le Mois du Livre audio means for May, we’re told, is a program from SNE designed “to stimulate the growing interest aroused by this oral and downloadable artistic form of access to the book and further establish its visibility with new audiences.”
‘To Be Animated by the Voices’
Throughout May, the hashtag #moisdulivreaudio will be appearing in various social media, as the SNE’s partner associations and book publishers organize “meetings, master classes, and other digital events”—and/or physical programs in bookstores—”to invite all audiences to hear the most beautiful texts, to be animated by the voices and discover the joys of a story told aloud.”
In Strasbourg on May 13 and 14, an association called La Plume de paon (the Peacock Feather) is scheduled to provide an overview of the market and “problems of the sector in the French-language world,” this coming at the end of an online audiobook festival.
And a “new edition of the Vox Festival, an audiobook and reading-aloud festival,” the SNE’s note says, “will close this special month with a reading marathon on May 22″ at Paris’ Maison de la Poésie.”
The French publishers are planning to launch a special audio-promotional site, they say, “entirely devoted to audiobooks, with a theme that basically translates to, ‘Books can be listened to.'”
A key to all this is that it’s aimed at the professional publishing industry. The new site is to have a major catalogue in place of audio titles and “professional resources” on audiobooks, all intended not only to encourage audio development among industry players but also to help them put across the value of audio formats to their consumers.
And this is where the French approach is especially interesting. In many English-language and other markets, the rise of audiobook popularity—fueld by the arrival of streaming and digital downloads, of course, the escape from CDs and tapes—has been something that publishers largely watched with pleasure for a fast-rising sales graph.
Audiobooks in the United States, for example, continued to grow by 5 percent in January, the latest month in which the Association of American Publishers has produced a StatShot report. While still representing only 8.6 percent of the US market that month, the growth factor continued as it has for years. Needless to say, US publishers have taken note, ramped up more production of audiobooks, and have enjoyed seeing a welcome response.
But in France, the publishers are gearing up to drive this campaign, themselves—boosters, not just beneficiaries, of a given format sector.
We anticipate some new statistics coming in from the French market around the doings at this weekend festival, and will update you as we have the information.
More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.