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Digital download of audiobooks tops physical CDs

It’s official. Downloads = 52% of sales in 2010, while CDs = 43%, as reported in the newest industry survey conducted by the Audio Publishers Association. That leaves 5% for other formats such as cassettes (yes there are still a few produced) or Playaways. Yet the statistics also show that the shift doesn’t necessarily mean more dollars for audio publishers – there’s more revenue from physical media. But the shift to digital has also triggered a huge jump in the industry’s growth – 2010 had twice as many audiobooks published than just three years before. You’ll see the survey highlights below, but only members of the Audio Publishers Association can see the full survey results – and librarians are welcome to join 😉

These statistics mirror the reactions from five industry insiders I recently interviewed for my upcoming January “Voices in My Head” column titled “Digital Shift Happens,” which will include the abridged version of fascinating insights into the changing world of audiobook creation. I’ll be featuring my complete interviews here on Audiobooker over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more on the subject from Johnny Heller, Paul Gagne, Tavia Gilbert, Barbara Rosenblat, and Paul Ruben.

2011 Industry Sales Survey Report reflecting sales data from the 2010 calendar year

Survey Highlights:

  • Unit sales were up nearly 10% in the past year, showing continued consumer interest in audiobooks.
    • Based on the companies who reported (representing 61% of the industry), total net sales (after returns) are up by 2 million units and $2 million.
  • The total number of audiobooks being published doubled in the past three years, from 3,073 in 2007 to 6,200 in 2010.
  • Audiobook downloads continued on a growth trend representing 36% of dollar volume (up from 29% in 2009) and 52% of unit sales (up from 48% in 2009).
    • In the past five years, downloading has grown 300% by dollar volume (from 9% in 2005) and 150% in terms of units (from 21% in 2005).
  • The CD format still represents the largest single source of dollars but showed slight declines overall in 2010 – 58% of revenue (down from 65%) and 43% of unit sales (down from 46%).
  • Unabridged editions (89% of the market by dollars; 85% of the market by units) continue to lead in sales.
  • Returns are down for the third straight year.
  • There has been an increase in the number of companies with sales over $10 million.




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.

1 Comment on "Digital download of audiobooks tops physical CDs"

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  1.' Karen Wolfer says:

    Thanks for this overview. We have just entered into the download world via Audible and hope to do more soon.
    Miss the direct contact with customers, but if it increases sales, then will use other social media to stay in touch.
    Looking forward to January’s “Digital Shift Happens”. (cute title)

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