APA Report: US Sees Double-Digit Audiobook Sales Growth for 11th Year

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Audio Publishers Association finds in its annual report that audiobook sales generated US$1.8 billion in the United States in 2022.

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

Parents Cite More Children Listening to Audiobooks
In an exuberant report issued today (June 1), the United States-based Audio Publishers Association says that audiobook revenue in the American market grew by 10 percent in 2022 to US$1.8 billion—the 11th year in which the format has performed at double-digit advances, per sales survey work done for the organization by Harris Interactive.

The report arrives just days before Michele Cobb, the association’s executive director will appear at the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez‘s (FGSR) Readmagine industry-facing conference in Madrid. She’ll speak in a round table discussion on audio, a conversation chaired by Dosdoce‘s Javier Celaya. (Our program preview is here.)

The association’s Edison Research again has conducted the body’s consumer survey, which is annually seen as the industry leading guide to US market patterns in regard to audiobook consumer trends.

Once again, Edison’s data indicates an expanding market for audiobooks, with 53 percent of American adults surveyed saying that they have listened to an audiobook, up a substantial 7 percent from 45 percent in the 2022 survey. The association points out that this translates to nearly 140 million Americans (of a total population of 334.2 million, per federal census projections) who say that they have tried listening to an audiobook.

Image: Association of American Publishers, ‘StatShot Annual 2022’

It is worth noting that in its 2022 “StatShot Annual” report issued by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Wednesday (May 31), the digital audio share of the US book publishing marketplace is seen as being 10.4 percent, with the rapidly fading physical-audio element down to just 0.2 percent.

Not to diminish the consumer popularity of audiobooks represented by today’s report but as a point of perspective, the overall US market in 2022, per the AAP StatShot estimates, had revenues of $28.10 billion.

It has been interesting to note that, despite years of double-digit audiobook sales growth, the format has remained within a narrow band of market share in the ongoing StatShot analysis series, ranging from roughly 9 percent to 11 percent, and in 2022 at that 10.4 percent mark.

The Audio Publishers Association consumer study is a survey Edison makes of US citizens 18 and older who say they’ve listed to at least one complete audiobook. Edison completed 1,000 online interviews in February.

The data “was weighted to the audiobook market, as measured by the Infinite Dial,” which is described as “a nationally representative survey of the American media landscape conducted by Edison Research, Amazon Music, Wondery, and ART19.”

Key Highlights of the Consumer Report

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Much of the Audio Publishers Association report is not publicly available and is not offered to the news media, the proprietary research being a service provided to the association’s membership.

We are, however, offered these highlights today:

  • The majority of audiobook listeners surveyed by the research identify themselves as young, with 57 percent saying they’re between the ages of 18 and 44, significantly higher than the 49 percent of the US population which falls within the same age range.
  • Audiobook listeners today closely match the US population, the association reports, based on the survey’s responses, with 29 percent of responding audiobook listeners self-identifying as either African-American or Hispanic, compared to 27 percent of the American population, suggesting increased diversity among listeners.
  • As audiobook listeners’ lives return to pre-pandemic routines, so has their audiobook consumption, the report indicates.
  • For those who say they listened in the last year, the average number of audiobooks they report listening to has returned to the pre-pandemic number of 6.3–down from 6.9 in 2022.
  • One area that has not receded to pre-pandemic levels among respondents is the number of parents who say they have children listening to audiobooks. Fifty-six percent of responding audiobook listeners who say they have children say that their kids listen to audiobooks.
  • That number, while down from the 61 percent measured in 2022, is nevertheless higher than the 35 percent reported in the pre-pandemic study of 2020.
  • By category, audiobooks for children had the fastest respondent-reported rate of growth in 2022 (+41 percent), but remain a small component of the total market (3 percent).
  • Similarly, non-English language titles are expanding rapidly in the US market (+37 percent) but are still just 4 percent of the total market.
  • Fiction at a reported 64 percent has increased as a proportion of total sales for the second consecutive year.
  • The fastest growing genres are humor, nonfiction, and romance.
  • Fiction and science fiction/fantasy remain the two largest genres overall.

The association’s sales survey—again a proprietary report the details of which are reserved for association members—was conducted by Harris Interactive for the Audio Publishers Association, gathering industry sales data by formats and genres.

That survey looks at association members who publish audiobooks.

Twenty-eight publishers provided data for that one—contributing to that conclusion of there being 10-percent growth in 2022 at $1.8 billion—including Audible, Blackstone, Brilliance Audio, Hachette Audio, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Podium Publishing, Recorded Books, and Simon & Schuster.

More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, more on the Audio Publishers Association is here, and more on its Audie Awards is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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.com, 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.