The Bologna BookPlus Audio Forum, held at the Bologna Children's Book Fair last week, hosted a panel discussion titled "Voices from the Diaspora," which brought together industry experts from India, France, and Spain. Panelists discussed the current landscape and future potential of the audiobook market across different regions and languages, and how each region is finding success developing audiences abroad. The panel, which was moderated by Nathan Hull, chief strategy officer at Beat Technology in Norway, featured panelists Ajay Mago, founder of OM Books in India; Liza Faja, director of AudioBooks at Lizzie in France; and Raúl Perez, head of digital at Grupo Planeta in Spain.

Mago provided an in-depth look at the Indian audiobook market, highlighting the differences in consumer preferences based on language and geography. "English language audiobooks, primarily, they sell in the main tier-one cities among the young, who are more cosmopolitan. Whereas the Hindi titles are more popular in tier-two and tier-three cities, where the local audience prefers to read in long-rated language," Mago explained. He also pointed out the significant role of the Indian diaspora in driving international sales, noting that "the major buyer for our content is part of the Indian diaspora, educated and living abroad, often in the U.S. or U.K. or another part of the world."

The Francophone listeners abroad, particularly in Quebec, sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa are also fueling growth in the French market, Faja said. The roughly 20,000 audiobook titles currently available in the French-speaking market account for 2-3% of its overall sales. "Currently, we sell around 12 percent of our catalog outside France," she said. However, she acknowledged, there are challenges to reaching these markets: "When it comes to marketing and content, we really have to find a way to work with these countries."

Perez discussed the complexities of the Spanish-language audiobook market, which spans Spain and Latin America. "Each market has specific needs, both in terms of accent, of course, and in terms of content," Perez emphasized. He underscored how Spain does not always drive the market, and that some books—here, he cited James Clear’s Atomic Habits—catch on in other markets, especially in Mexico, before sales transfer to Spain. Perez added that Grupo Planeta also sees the United States as a key market, with significant potential for growth following the publisher's reentry to that market in recent years. A prior session in the Audio Forum presented by Giulia Lo Monaco of Bookwire Spain revealed that according to their studies, Spain remained the largest market for Spanish audiobooks for the distributor, representing a 55% share, with the U.S. coming in next at 26% and Mexico at 9%. The remainder of Latin America taking up for 8%.

The panelists also addressed the potential impact of emerging technologies on the audiobook industry. Mago expressed optimism about the role of text-to-speech and AI in reducing production costs and encouraging more Indian publishers to enter the audiobook market. "I feel it's going to be be a blessing to some extent, and has the potential to further reduce the cost of each audiobook," he said.

In discussing future opportunities, Mago highlighted the potential of autobiographies from Indian cinema stars, while Perez emphasized the need to engage children with audiobooks. Faja mentioned the challenges and opportunities of expanding into new languages and formats, such as audio dramas.