The Audiobook Fad: The 4 Surprising Reasons That Audio Is Hot

The publishing world has seen audiobooks explode recently. In the past year, we’ve seen an almost 20% rise in audiobook unit sales–by far the fastest growing book medium that the industry has seen in recent times.

The audiobook fad, as many call it (though I think it will remain popular for longer than the word “fad” implies), has been met with a lot of speculation and excitement from big-time industry thinkers. It certainly points to a shift in audience preferences and a new age for the publishing industry.

Don Katz of Audible told The Wall Street Journal: “We’re moving toward a media agnostic consumer who doesn’t think of the difference between textual and visual and auditory experience.”

And Alexandra Alter, who covers the book world for The New York Times, says that audiobooks are “coming into their own as a creative medium” in the publishing industry.

So, why the move toward audio? I’ve thought a lot about why audiobooks are so hot--because the clear shift in reader preference must be taken into account and accommodated by those of us marketing in this space.

As audiobooks explode, marketers must shift to accommodate the change in reader preference. Click To Tweet

The 4 Reasons That Audio Is Hot:

1- Multitasking rules.

Audiobooks are the only form of a book that can be consumed while a “reader” also does something else. Multitasking rules our busy society, so it’s no surprise that listening to a book takes the cake for those of us with a desire to engage with new information–but who have very little margin in our lives. Why not “read” while you drive and work out and type and cook? This obviously coincides with the rise we’ve seen in podcasts, as well.

2- Celebrities are on board.

As audiobook business has grown, the storytelling element (think: drama, accents, music, sound effects) has gone deeper and wider. The whole experience of the audiobook is now taken into account as a source of entertainment, as an art form. And so, of course, that attracts celebrities–namely, actors. We’ve seen numerous Hollywood stars record audiobooks in the past few years, including Reese Witherspoon, Amy Poehler, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep. With big names, come big sales.

3- Access is easy.

While an audiobook used to be a physical product (Remember those giant cases of like 10 CDs each?) that was purchased/borrowed ahead of time, they’re now available immediately–digitally, at the click of a button, through your phone, no forethought or library required. The prevalence of Audible and its competitors (Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, etc.) on any handheld device has opened the doors wide for the masses to get easy, immediate access.

4- Prices are low.

Technology–both in the form of smartphones and in the form of digital audiobook distributors–means that prices are low in this realm. Competition drives prices to be relatively reasonable for access to audiobooks. Consider the cost for subscription services these days: Audible is $14.95 for one book a month with access to 170,000+ titles. A Scribd subscription is $8.99. Kindle Unlimited is $9.99. The list goes on. In general, audiobooks are less expensive than they’ve ever been.

I’ve seen most industry experts predict that the audiobook market will not slow down any time soon. And indeed, it doesn’t show any signs of halting. Commentary predicts that audiobooks, currently holding 10% of market share–may likely rise to 20%.

The coolest part of this audiobook fad is that it opens new opportunities to authors and book marketers. Book “listening” allows publishing, potentially, to find a new audience. We’ve seen that audiobooks can easily be used to promote physical books and vice versa. It’s a new frontier, and the need for innovation and creativity is endless.



  • philrothschild

    Thanks for your insights Chadwick. This looks promising. Would love to see you write on the audio publishing process. Go it alone or go with amazon/audible production services?

  • Julie

    Timely content! I’m sorting through the best options for recording for my book, (released January 2017). I would also be interested in @philrothschild:disqus question: Go it alone or go with amazon/audible production services? With the perk of living in Music City I have a friend with a small recording studio and I’m thinking about asking him to help out.