By February 16, 2009 2 Comments Read More →

Audiobooks: Digital stepchild?

Last week I spoke with Judith Rosen as she prepared her Publisher’s Weekly article “Taking Steps into the Digital Future.” Rosen provides a careful & thorough look at the opportunities and challenges of digital publishing for children and young adults. Yet the article’s spotlight focuses primarily on eBooks while addressing audio in only three quotes.

From Maja Thomas, senior v-p of Hachette Digital and Audio:

…the company upgrades Web sites for its two most popular brands, the Twilight series ( and its Poppy imprint (, it will link to an iPhone app in the Apple store and offer downloadable audio and e-book samplers

From Sourcebooks publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah:

Sourcebooks became the first major print publisher to release an enhanced digital picture book, Laura Duksta’s I Love You More. The mixed-media edition enables readers to turn off the audio or read along with it.

From Rosen:

Then, too, there’s the issue of author royalties, which cuts across both children’s and adult e-books. In July, S&S sent an e-book amendment to many of its authors in which it tried to set a rate of 15% off the “catalog retail price” of the e-book. Other houses seem to be using 25% of net receipts, which is roughly the same as that for audio digital downloads.

As attention is focused on the transfer of printed text to digital eBook, has the audiobook become a digital stepchild? Or has the audiobook become so firmly entrenched in the publishing world that audiobooks are now mainstream? How many times have you heard an adult refer to their audiobook downloaded onto an MP3 player as a “book on tape?” Does anyone under the age of 16 even know what a cassette tape is?  Have publishers missed the boat in trying to capture the audiobook’s share of digital enthusiasm? Hachette Audio highlighted its transfer from tape to digital with the lighthearted “RIP cassette” wake in 2008. I’m ready for audiobook marketing that will connect with digital natives.



About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

2 Comments on "Audiobooks: Digital stepchild?"

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  1.' Sue-Ellen says:

    Thanks for posting this article, Mary. I have heard that the teen market is often a tough sell in audiobooks so I wonder if teens will take to the eBook format. Plus with the Kindle and other devices so expensive, it doesn’t seem like a feasable venture right now. Interesting.

  2. Mary says:

    I think teens will ignore anything that isn’t doable on their cell phone!

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