The results of the latest annual sales survey from the Audiobook Publishers Association are in, and they show big jumps in both sales and title output in 2014. According to the APA, retail sales of audiobooks totaled over $1.47 billion last year, an increase of 13.5% compared to 2013. And unit sales were up 19.5%. The sales estimates are based on reports from 17 APA members and have been projected to cover the entire U.S. market.
On the production side, the number of audiobook titles published by the 17 companies in 2014 climbed to nearly 26,000, a 4.2% increase compared to 2013.
As might be expected, the audiobook industry’s growth is largely fueled by the increasing popularity of the digital download format. In 2014, dollar sales of digital downloads increased 7.3%, and unit sales of digital downloads increased 10%. Overall, 76.9% of units sold by the 17 companies in 2014 were downloads.
The lion’s share of audiobook sales still comes from adult titles, which make up 87% of the market, although the survey found growing interest in children’s and young adult titles. Taking a closer look at which types of audiobooks are selling, fiction still leads the pack with a 77.4% share.
In June, the APA also released the results from a consumer behavior survey, which was conducted by Edison Research, an independent firm, in March and April of this year. The data provide some additional information about who is listening to what, and why. Fifty-five million Americans listened to at least one audiobook in 2014, and 41% of Americans aged 18 and up have listened to at least one audiobook in their lifetimes.
One-third of respondents who identify as frequent audiobook listeners fall into the 25–34 age bracket, indicating that younger listeners are buying audiobooks. This change is likely due to the prevalence of the digital download format. Meanwhile 73% of all audiobook listeners, and 82% of frequent listeners, report listening to titles downloaded digitally.
As to what appeals to listeners, the responses will look familiar. Mysteries/thrillers/suspense was the most popular listening genre, followed closely by history/biography/memoirs and popular fiction; 85% of respondents said that the most important factor in their decision to purchase an audio title is its subject. And 25% of all audiobook listeners currently subscribe to an audiobook service such as Audible or Scribd.
Audiobook Title Output, 2010–2014
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