Audiobooks are on the rise: why I love them, but who loves them even more
Updated: Feb 28
I admit it – I am an audiobook obsessive. I listen to audiobooks when I’m walking, running, cleaning, and especially when I’m sorting out the bits of paper that have fallen behind the filing cabinet…
But I’m also a massive book lover, so here’s how I use audiobooks. Because I can do something else whilst listening, it means I can listen to more books than if I read them, particularly in our peri-Covid world when I no longer commute. But if I find a book really fascinating and I want to underline it in red pen and turn the corners down, then I buy the paperback. I don’t see audiobooks as an alternative to printed books, I see them as a way to discover more books and then enjoy the printed version better. Audiobooks feel a bit more like a film: if I watch a bad film, I’ve only wasted two hours of my life but if I read a bad book, I feel more invested, like it’s robbed me of precious time. Because an audiobook has seen me through a long walk in the fresh air or a particularly grimy bathroom, I can forgive it if it’s not all that.
I also record audiobooks for other people to listen to, so I realise I’m biased. But think on this, audiobook sales went up by 43% in 2019 while print book sales went down by 5%. Given how much I love them, I was interested to discover that I am not their typical listener. The average consumer is a man between 18 and 34, with above average income, who listens to at least four audiobooks a year. They do this for entertainment and brain stimulation apparently, and listen whilst working, commuting and running outdoors (not whilst cleaning, strangely….)
So, there we are. Don’t get me wrong – nothing is better than reading a paperback. Print is not going out of fashion but authors need to start thinking about how their books are going to be heard as well as read, particularly for those genres popular with the young affluent male. In my next weekly post, I’ll give some thoughts on how they might do that.