‘France Is Like Sleeping Beauty’: Bookwire’s ‘All About Audio’

In News by Eric Dupuy

Amid growing opportunities for audio development, Bookwire’s look at the French market included challenges, as well. (Sponsored)

Ads for Editis’ Lizzie audio platform in the Paris Metro, as pictured by the company. Image: Editis

By Eric Dupuy | @duperico

‘A Dynamism for Audio’
When the Frankfurt-based Bookwire presented its second digital program on the audiobook market in France on Thursday (March 7), presenters spoke about the market’s pitfalls and opportunities.

“France,” said Laure Saget, president of the audiobook committee at the French publishers’ association—the Syndicat national de l’édition—”is like Sleeping Beauty” for its audio-market potential in Europe. Saget is also the director of Audiolib, a subsidiary of Hachette Livre and Albin Michel.

In a highly diverse audio market estimated by the program at €1 billion (US$1.1 billion)—compared to a US$1.8 billion market in the United States—Saget included production among challenges facing French publishers.

Marion Létoublon

Consolidated data for the audio sector in France isn’t yet widely available, but Marion Létoublon, head of audio development for Bookwire, pegged market growth at 11 percent since 2018, with “two-thirds of sales on Audible,” a subsidiary of Amazon.

Audible’s director for France, Isabelle Mauté, offered an analysis of the market, citing “a slower adaptation of the French to digital, who are still very attached to paper.”

She said the most popular publishing genres in France are thrillers (47 percent) and novels (46 percent), followed at a distance by histories and biographies.

Isabelle Mauté

“The French book market is driven by comics and manga,” Mauté said, “segments that are more difficult to handle in audio.”

She indicated that with a catalogue of some 19,000 audio titles, France has a more limited offering than Germany, which has roughly 85,000 titles.

“We need to forge links with the entire publishing sector,” according to Mathilde Davignon, director of Ecoutez Lire, the audio subsidiary of the Madrigall group.

Mathilde Davignon

That’s the fourth largest player in the French publishing sector.

Davignon said she estimates the average production cost of an audio title in France at “between €6,000 and €7,000 (US6,564 and $7,658).”

Virginie Lancia launched the Albin Michel Group’s Charleston Audio last year and it now has 10 titles.

Virginie Lancia

She said she estimates the life of a title’s profitability to be “at least three years.”

In such conditions, with “a very compartmentalized French publishing market,” she said, audio is a major industrial challenge, with a significant investment in marketing.

“We still need to educate the French public on the subject,” the SNE’s Saget said.

Editis’ Lizzie Program, With Voice Switching

Davignon told Bookwire’s audience, “The average audio reader is  10 years younger than the average reader in France,” Davignon pointed out.

Lisa Faja

For the first time, in January, Editis’ Lizzie brand, created in 2018, ran an advertising campaign in the Paris metro. Editis is now the second largest French group after Hachette Livre and reportedly 25th in size worldwide.

“We’re sensing a dynamism for audio,” said Liza Faja, the Lizzie program’s director. “Even authors are paying more and more attention to the audio version of their titles.”

To support this development, some French publishing houses may find themselves counting on artificial intelligence.

Constance Parpoil

“All audio players have opportunities to find in AI,” said Constance Parpoil of Stockholm’s Storytel, a company very familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers.

Storytel has developed what ‘s described as an AI-enabled “voice switcher” service in partnership with American start-up ElevenLabs.

To date, the service is said to have been tested in Poland on 25 titles, and in Sweden since last week.

This addresses a number of issues, not least business: According to one study, 89 percent of audio readers who stop listening to a book do so because they don’t like the voice. This service also addresses a production issue. The average creation time for an audiobook is three months, with a real challenge in choosing the right track.

“Thanks to the ‘voice switcher,'” said Storytel’s Constance Parpoil, the service “can integrate one or more human voices … and then we see who wins.”

A recording of Thursday’s program with English subtitles is being created, and readers interested in being notified with it’s ready can register their interest here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, more on the French market is here, more on Bookwire is here, and more on digital publishing is here.

More of our coverage of the 2024 London Book Fair:

About the Author

Eric Dupuy

Eric Dupuy is a French journalist based in Paris. After more than 10 years as an economic and politics reporter for several news media including Agence France-Presse (AFP), Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), and Europe 1, he joined the team at Livres Hebdo in 2022 to follow the book industry in France and abroad.