The NAB Blog
Audiobooks: An Upward Revolution
By Anthony Anderson
12 December 2017
Naxos AudioBooks was present at the Audiobook Revolution sessions at the recent FutureBook conference in London. The strong attendance was a sign, if one were needed, of the impressive growth that the audiobook market is currently enjoying. It was unsurprising therefore that the mood was bullish, with most commentators predicting double-digit percentage growth for some years to come. With this market growth has come a proliferation of new recordings, with the major publishers producing audio versions of most of their new fiction titles, in tandem with the release of the hardback and electronic versions.
The choice of audiobooks is larger than ever and will continue to grow apace
Naxos AudioBooks starts in a very different place from most other audiobook publishers. While The Naxos Group has published a limited number of printed books (on musical subjects), we are a specialist audio publisher, recording either books that are out of copyright or, under licence, selected titles not yet in the public domain. This focus means that the audiobook version of the text is at the heart of what we do – rather than piggybacking on the release of the print version.
The sizeable growth in audiobook consumption has largely come from access to digital versions of spoken word. While listening in the car is important, consumption of audiobooks now goes far beyond alleviating the boredom of a long car journey. The largest retail platform is the Amazon-owned Audible, but, as the market matures, other retailers such as Audiobooks.com and Kobo are entering this space. The last few years have also seen the emergence of several subscription-based streaming platforms such as Storytel and our own Naxos Spoken Word Library. The unlimited subscription model dominates the digital space in recorded music and is likely to play a growing part in the audiobook world.
The heightened interest in the audiobook has triggered certain issues in the world of publishing, which were hotly debated at the Audiobook Revolution conference. In their negotiations with literary agents, larger publishers are tending to insist that audio rights are included in a single ‘package’ with the print and e-book rights, while, on the other hand, some agents feel that the audiobook version is quite different to other versions and the audiobook rights need to be kept separate. However rights are dealt with, it is important that the audio version is not just seen as an obligatory ‘add-on’ by publishers, but as a unique product (and consumer experience) in its own right. Again, this is a non-issue for Naxos AudioBooks as our sole interest is the audio version.
Furthermore, in these times of strong growth in digital sales, we should not completely write off the physical market. Audiobooks on CD still form an important part of sales, notably in certain territories such as Germany and in particular genres such as children’s titles. Thus, Naxos AudioBooks remains committed to releasing all its new recordings in both CD and digital formats.
What is undeniable is that the choice of audiobooks is larger than ever and will continue to grow apace. Furthermore, the different ways in which a consumer can access spoken word is also diversifying with the establishment of various platforms, each with their own consumer proposition, whether it be download or streaming. As we approach the end of another year the consumer can look forward with anticipation to another twelve months of great listening. At Naxos AudioBooks we have put together what we think is an ambitious and exciting schedule for the year and hope that you will follow us as it unfolds.
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