Will Audiobooks save Reading?

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From CNBC:

“Sales of books, in both print and digital formats, are struggling around the world, despite the efforts to promote reading on World Book Day. However there is one area that’s bucking the trend: Audio books.

World Book Day is promoted (sic) a worldwide celebration of books intended to encourage reading, but revenue from book publishing is falling worldwide.

Statistics from Euromonitor released in 2015 show that turnover from book publishing has experienced sharp declines in recent years. Between 2011 and 2014, revenue fell from $165 billion to $145 billion. The harshest decline was 2011-12, when the global book market contracted 7.4 percent

Part of the reason for declines in print book sales was the rise of e-books and e-readers, but this sector is now falling. According to business magazine “The Bookseller”, e-book sales by the U.K.’s five biggest publishers dropped 2.4 percent between 2014 and 2015, to 47.8 million.”

Well, this sucks for those of us who want to sell our published works.

So why are print sales falling?

  1. Books aren’t cheap. A hardcover is like $30. Some good paperbacks are $7.99 or less, but I rarely buy any book over $8.
  2. I can get a lot of books free at the library or cheap from a discount store. Since most novels are timeless, who cares when i read them? As for non-fiction, I buy non-fiction if I think it has value. For example, “starting an E-commerce Business for Dummies” has information I want to have for a while. But a book that has neat but not critical information or info that changes every year? Checkout. Even Wattpad has some decent stories that cost nothing.
  3. People don’t read as much anymore. More specifically, anything with depth. That’s why news articles are shorter and less thoughtful (a notable exception is americanthinker.com, which is very thoughtful). Some of this is technology, but I think publishers have been very poor at predicting what people want to read. For example, publishing books that fit political agendas but don’t have a wide audience. I’ve written this here  and here  and here about the decline in reading.
  4. Authors are just not “cool”. Even John Green and Neil Gaiman, who are about as cool as it gets by author standards, are nothing compared to the Kardashians in terms of “trendy”, and I have yet to see any reality TV shows starring authors (movie studios, TV execs, publishers, agents: I am TOTALLY DOWN to do this for you and max out ratings. Just give me a contract). Why does this matter, because pop culture drives trends and if books and authors are just not cool, then a potential reading audience will not be persuaded to pick up books.

The question  is then, why are audiobooks sales going up? We should be happy that people are still consuming literature, even if they listen in, right?

Yes!

  1. If you’re like me, and you’re on the road a lot, I can listen to an audiobook while I drive. I can also listen to an mp3 at the gym. This is great because talk radio is boring a lot of the time, and even Pandora is tiresome after 4 hours. Also great for parents with kids, because you can play something in the car to not only get the kiddos to be quiet, but to not be too attached to their Gameboys or smartphones.
  2. Unlike reading, which requires focus, Audiobooks don’t require as much attention. This is due to some cool science about how our brains process sound versus visuals.
  3. Audiobook packages are expensive, so my guess is a lot of the rise is in people switching from say a paperback to an audiobook.

Overall, if I have a story to tell, I don’t really care how they engage in it, as long as they do. And as long as I get paid. Speaking of, I’ve gotten 1500 Wattpad reads in 4 days and a lot of new fans. And of course I get zilch. But this book has been plowing through the 5-digit reads so it’s a good sign for me that this book will sell well when published. The question is, will a traditional publisher want this? Or will I end up self-publishing?

To be determined.

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