The Audio Publishers Association’s annual review of the audiobook market found another year of double-digit sales increases as well as a profound shift in listening habits.

In 2019, 43% of listeners said they most often listened to audiobooks in their car, a percentage that fell to 30% last year when work-at-home orders kept people from commuting to the office. The percentage of people who took part in the APA survey who said home was their preferred listening spot jumped to 55% in 2020, from 43% in 2019.

Despite concerns early in the pandemic that the plunge in commuting would lead to a drop in sales, the APA found that sales from the 27 companies that report results to the APA sales survey increased 12%, to $1.3 billion. The sales gain is in keeping with data from the AAP, whose preliminary figures also show a double-digit increase in audiobook sales.

The consumer part of the survey found that 67% of audiobook consumers said that one of the reasons they enjoy listening to audiobooks is to reduce screen time. Another main takeaway is that parents have been discovering audiobooks as an outlet for their children during the pandemic. The percentage of parents of children ages 17 and younger who say their children listened to audiobooks last year was 49%, up from 35% previously. (The survey measures responses from people 18 and older.)

Audiobook publishers also continued to up the number of titles they produce, with output hitting 71,000 titles last year, up 39% over 2019. Mysteries/thrillers/suspense remained the largest audiobook category, but the APA reported sharp increases in interest for romance, self-help, and business genres.

Other notable findings from the surveys include:

  • The percentage of Americans 18 and over who have ever listened to an audiobook is now 46%, up from 44% in 2020
  • Membership in audiobook services increased, with 38% of listeners indicating they subscribe to at least one such service
  • 56% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45, up from 52% in 2020
  • 70% of consumers agree audiobooks are a good choice for relaxing