The number-one market for audiobooks in Spanish published by companies in Spain and Latin America used to be the U.S., but that has changed in recent years. A study conducted over the winter by Javier Celaya, founder of Bilbao, Spain–based Dosdoce.com, revealed that consumer behavior is quickly shifting and publishers are adapting.
The study, “Profile of the Spanish Audiobook Market,” was published in March and surveyed publishers in Spain and Latin America that account for about 95% of Spanish-language audiobook sales. In 2018, the reporting publishers’ biggest market was the combined markets of Spain and Mexico, then the U.S. The publishers surveyed predicted that in 2019, Spain alone will be their biggest market, with sales there estimated to be as high as €7 million. They predicted that Mexico will be the second-largest market, followed by the U.S., then the rest of Latin America.
The sales growth in these areas is being spurred by the same factors that have led to strong audio sales gains in the U.S. With better technology and more streaming options, consumers have greater access to digital audiobooks than they used to, and that has led audio publishers to significantly increase their output in the past couple of years, with virtually all audiobooks produced in digital format. In 2017, 6,000 audiobooks were published in Spanish; 8,000 were published in 2018; and more than 10,000 are expected to become available in 2019. These figures might seem small compared to the roughly 50,000 audio titles released in English last year, but the English-language market is larger and more mature.
Celaya tells PW that where the titles are being produced is also changing. In the past, most of the titles came from Spain, and audio readers tended to have Castilian accents—not necessarily the most appealing for the Latin-American market. “In 2019, 60% of new titles in Spanish will be produced in Latin America with Latin American accents,” he says. “This should also be more appealing for the U.S. market, as most Hispanics come from Latin America.”
Celaya explains that the categories that are popular for Spanish-language audiobooks tend to mirror the categories that sell well in print in each of the markets. “In the U.S., nonfiction does much better than fiction, which is not surprising since nonfiction books in Spanish do better in the U.S. than fiction,” he notes. In Spain and Latin America, fiction is the top category, followed by self-help/business and romance/erotica. Celaya cautions publishers looking to expand into Latin America or Spain not to consider the U.S. Hispanic market as representative of all Spanish-speaking markets.
The research revealed that subscription platforms such as Audible, Kobo, Scribd, and Storytel have become the main sales channels for audiobooks in Spanish in Spain and Latin America. The second-most-popular sales channel is apps such as Downpour, Google Play, iTunes, and Libro.fm, which allow users to buy individual titles. Streaming platforms—such as Apple Music, Deezer, Napster, and Spotify—come in third. Unlike in English-language markets, libraries are still a very underdeveloped channel for sales of Spanish-language audiobooks, placing them in fourth place. But efforts undertaken by library-lending platforms such as eBiblio and eLiburutegia in Spain, as well as Findaway, Hoopla, Odilo, and OverDrive in the U.S., are rapidly increasing sales of audiobooks in this channel.
Celaya notes that he is planning a second study of the Spanish-language audio market that will include about 40 U.S. publishers that produce audiobooks in Spanish. The study will include traditional publishers as well as companies that specialize in audiobooks. Results of the survey are due to be released in the third quarter of this year.