The state of audiobooks: Interview with Bardowl

By Chris Lee

During September 2013, the first meet-up of its kind for audiobooks entitled Audiobook Lovers of London brought together award-winning author Sally Gardner, audiobook consumers, publishers, narrators, producers and even an audiobook historian under one roof to discuss and learn about audiobooks. With publishers producing more than ever, listeners buying more than ever and authors giving them more consideration than ever, Chris Book of Bardowl believes that now is the time to take audiobooks seriously. So, what’s now and what’s next for audiobooks?

What’s the current state of Audiobooks?

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that as print publishing continues to shrink, there is a new explosion in audiobooks that sees them re-emerging as a rare bright spot in the publishing business. So what’s behind this explosion in audiobooks?

“Gone are the days when you had to listen to audiobooks on clunky tapes or CDs – now you can just carry them in your pocket on your smartphone. This digital revolution has helped audiobooks to go mass market,” Book told NMK. “Then there’s the cost element, as the production of audiobooks used to be an expensive process, but with the advancements in technology, audiobooks can be produced for as little as £1,500.”

As a result, Book says, audiobooks are produced more and sales have jumped by double digits in recent years, broadening the pool of listeners to include anyone with a smartphone. Unit sales of downloaded audio books grew by nearly 30 per cent in 2011 compared with the previous year, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

“The digital innovation and accessibility of audiobooks is slowly bringing about a change in the connected consumer’s mentality about reading,” he added. “In our busy day to day lives, finding the time to read is sometimes easier said than done but the growing popularity of audiobooks show that readers are starting to recognise audiobooks as a solution to the problem.”

What’s next in the world of audiobooks?

As popularity of audiobooks continues to soar, the connected consumer will want more convenient and innovative ways of listening to audiobooks all in one place, according to Book.

“We think the streaming model of audiobooks, similar to the Netflix of audiobooks, right on your phone or tablet, is the answer in a truly post-PC future. Going a step further than this, maybe one day 20 years in the future we’ll even see synthetic computerised voices taking over narration in consumer audiobooks,” he argued.

Book said that we are already seeing some novelists bypassing print and releasing novels as audio exclusives. For example, novelist David Hewson released his book The Flood straight to audio without print edition.

“Audiobooks are a hot medium and show no sign of waning. Although audiobooks will never replace hardbacks, they are now its own standalone thing; no longer a simple add-on, but rather a new way of storytelling,” Book concluded.

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