Publisher’s Forum: BBC Audiobooks America

Make your opinions heard – sound off so that publishers will know what the buyers and consumers need and want from the audiobook producers! This first open forum on a current topic of interest in the audiobook community arose from a conversation with BBC Audiobook America’s Marketing Director Michele Cobb. We pondered the constraints that libraries are forced to operate under in these times of tight budgets, and what this means for publishers who provide library edition audiobooks. Will libraries forgo the heavy-duty packaging and free replacement of damaged CDs from a company that has a strong library sales force and instead purchase lower-cost trade editions? Is it possible that titles that aren’t mega-blockbusters won’t be cost-effective without the income from solid library edition sales, and that a deep backlist might dry up to a few big sellers? Read Michele’s comments below. You can sound off on the topic by taking the following survey, targeted toward those who purchase for schools & libraries – I’ll post the results soon. If there are any other publishers that would like to climb onto the Forum soapbox to see what readers think of your burning issue, email me using the contact info on the blog sidebar!

Library media collections have long seen fantastic response to and correspondingly fantastic circulation in their audiobook sections. Over the past few years, a lot has changed in the world of audiobooks – more non-publisher distributors have entered the marketplace, digital downloads have been added to library collections and, well, the economy hit a bump or two in the road (maybe you’ve heard that).

For audio only publishers who don’t have a direct pipeline of print books as source material, the new world order is creating some interesting challenges. The big costs for any audiobook’s creation lies in obtaining the right to record and then actually producing the recording. Those costs are constants, even if the title is available digitally only or there is no retail edition.  Questions arise as we try to balance the rising costs and shrinking budgets with the addition of more vendors and more formats in the library marketplace:

-Will libraries continue to support low volume titles with a corresponding higher price point in the hard goods?

-Can publishers continue to support quality recordings across a wide and diverse range of titles?

-Does the sturdier packaging, free replacements and top of the line customer service offered by library edition publishers provide enough value to counteract the lower prices of retail versions?

-Are libraries narrowing the list of titles they are interested in carrying or interested in maintaining breadth of collection?

As we struggle for the answers to these questions and others, I can only say that as a listener, I certainly hope library edition audio continues to have a place in the market. So many of the titles I’ve enjoyed on many a day of commuting or longer travel are from new, emerging authors. Will libraries continue to act as a marvelous breeding ground for lesser known authors in many formats? I’m hopeful and curious to see what the future brings.

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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.

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