The Audio Publishers Association’s annual sales survey found that sales from 24 reporting companies rose 16% in 2019 over 2018, reaching $1.2 billion. The survey also found that unit sales increased by 16%. The gain in 2019 was the eighth consecutive year in which audiobook revenue rose by double digits, the APA said.
“Eight straight years of double-digit revenue growth is simply phenomenal,” said Chris Lynch, co-chair of the APA’s research committee and president & publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio, in a statement. “Even more encouraging are the continued upward trends in consumer listening behavior—both in how many titles they listen to per year and in their finding more time in their day to listen.”
Publishers who took part in the survey also reported that audiobook production rose 18% over 2018, with the companies producing 60,303 new titles last year. Among the companies that provided data to the APA were Audible, Hachette Audio, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
A survey of American audiobook listeners ages 18 and up, which was conducted in January and February of this year, found that the average number of audiobooks listened to annually increased to 8.1 in 2020, up from 6.8 in 2019. The most popular audiobook genre continues to be mysteries/thrillers/suspense. More younger people started listening to books last year, with 57% of frequent audiobook listeners now under the age of 45, up from 51% in 2019.
Other notable findings from the surveys include:
- Audiobook consumers place a high priority on quality of narration. Nonfiction and fiction listeners alike prefer a professional voice actor to the author as a narrator.
- For the third year in a row, more than 50% of audiobook listeners say they are making “new” time to listen to audiobooks and consuming more books.
- A clear market for shorter audiobooks exists, with 43% of audiobook purchasers saying they would buy an audiobook that is one to three hours long.
- 60% of respondents own a smart speaker, and 46% of smart speaker owners have used it to listen to an audiobook, up from 31% in 2019.
- 37% of respondents say they listen to Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense the most, up from 27% in 2018 and 31% in 2019.