Growth chart of the audiobook industry

Dec 5, 2022

As screens continue to grab our attention with complex algorithms that are wired to make us spend our days hooked onto screen-based applications. Audiobooks and podcasts have acted as a lifesaver. Today, we discuss one half of these two platforms as we try to map the growth of a game changer in the audio and literature segment: Audiobooks.

For a 10th straight year, the Audio Publishers Association’s annual sales survey has revealed a double-digit increase in audiobook sales. The 28 member companies reporting to the APA had revenue gains of 25% in 2021 bringing the estimated industry total to $1.6 billion in sales last year. This 2021 jump bested a sales increase of 12% in 2020. The number of audiobook titles published in 2021 was also up, to nearly 74,000 titles, representing a 6% increase over 2020’s output. Based on percentage of sales, the science fiction and fantasy genre were most popular category, with mysteries/thrillers/suspense a close second. The romance category experienced the largest sales boost in the year with a 75% jump in revenues. Over the course of the previous year, an approximate 5x rise has been witnessed in the user interface of audiobooks to almost 25 million users. From purely an engagement standpoint, a grand total of 2 million users have been added per month to the registry of new audiobook listeners, with all the new users listening to about 110 minutes of audio content on an average.


The global market for audiobooks was valued at a measly $4 billion dollars, at the end of 2020, but shoot to 2030, the industry is expected to grow to almost $20 billion. With this visible change in the consumption patterns from the consumer’s end, the industry is planning to undergo measures from the supply end as well, with the authors planning to go above and beyond just producing written books into audiobooks, authors have now also decided to focus their attention on bringing out audio only books or audio-first books. There has been a new trend where authors are warming up to writing audio content. May authors have switched to producing audio-only content almost exclusively .


Meanwhile, Audible chartered to play the game of relatability during lockdown by launching a covid related audio series to hike their user base furthermore. Leveraging the rise in listenership during lockdown, Audible was prominent in launching multiple covid-related stories for their different markets in different parts around the globe. Further, they saw the traction that the mythological genre was gaining and rolled out audio series in that genre to accommodate for the same. Audible claims to have over 200,000 hours of premium content, quiet a number for an industry that’s yet to hit its prime. Additionally, the consumer survey suggests that at least one listening behaviour that shifted significantly during the height of the pandemic may be taking stronger root. In a sharp upturn, 61% of parents say their children (ages 17 and younger) listen to audiobooks, compared to 49% reported in 2020. This particular increase falls in line with the nationwide trend of families’ and students’ expanded use of digital materials in the wake of pandemic-related school disruptions/remote learning situations.


However, the market is not without challenges. From raising awareness regarding the segment to encouraging consumers to pay for the audiobooks, the sector has its path laden with roadblocks. For instance, locally despite India being one of the largest countries to consume audiobooks, the per capita spends on books in India vis-a-vis other nations has been low. As per industry stakeholders, this amounts to high burn-rate for the platforms.


All said and done, the audiobook market is a market that seems destined to grow and evolve the way we consumer both art and literature, and if you’re still one of the few people who don’t have the time or energy to read a physical book, we suggest you head to an audiobook streaming platform and just pop one of those in, the next time you head for a run.


Until Next Time!