Be it music, movies, or books, one trend remains constant throughout—digital revenues are up while physical revenues continue to fall.
Just look at the book publishing world. While overall sales for the first half of the year are down 3.4%, audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book business.
According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales jumped 21% across the U.S. and Canada in 2015. As a result, digital revenue in the U.S. increased 38%, compared to physical book revenue growth of 8% for hardcovers and 3% for paperbacks.
While 2016 data is not yet complete, the same association reports that for the first half of the year, digital audiobooks grew by over 32% from the same timeframe last year. In June alone, that figure was over 50%.
Book publishers have responded by increasing their audiobook activities in both quality and quantity. On the quality side, production budgets have swelled, with producers hiring such A-List actors as Resse Witherspoon as narrators to increase audiobook’s appeal.
On the quantity side, there were over 35,000 audiobook titles released in 2015 across the U.S. and Canada, compered to just over 7,000 in 2011.
Smartphones are almost solely responsible for this growth. From a single device that people carry with them nearly everywhere, you can now search, download, and stream any audiobook on demand. What’s more, these devices are increasingly integrating into car audio systems.
It’s one of the reasons Amazon.com acquired audiobook subscription service Audible in 2008. Audible told the Wall Street Journal that “customers around the world are on track to listen to 2 billion hours of programming this year, double the 2014 figure.”
Audible, which saw its membership increase by 40% last year, is doing its part to increase audiobook consumption by innovating around the listener. Just this year, it introduced a feature that allows listeners to create audio clips to share on social media. Another feature allows users to gift audiobooks to friends through email or text message, simply containing a link.