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Downloads lead the audio revolution

28 May 2007

Audiobooks are finding a new market amongst the iPod generation. Last week News Review looked at recent developments in audio, including rental, but it is downloads which offer the biggest growth opportunities.

The largest operator in this area is the US company Audible and Eileen Hutton, Associate Publisher, says: 'We think the future of the industry is in downloads to MP3 players, iPods, etc. A recent survey of young people in America found that many people were dispensing with traditional media altogether in favour of downloadable audiobooks and music.'

Audible's sales grew fourteenfold over five years to $63 million (£31.75 million) in 2005. The company set up its British operation in June 2006 and has recently been joined by a new website selling downloads to the British market, Spoken Network. This has the backing of nearly 50 international publishers operating in the British market, including BBC Audiobooks, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, who are concerned about online incursions into their market.

Its founder, Paul Smithson, said: 'Now it is much easier for people to come across these audiobooks. One thing we were constantly surprised by in the research we've done was how many people who wouldn't have previously considered buying an audiobook as a CD or tape said they would be interested in downloading one.'

BBC Audiobooks, which has 1,000 titles available to download, believes that its digital book business will double every 12 months for the next few years. Their view is that: 'The market for audiobooks on CD is not necessarily a growing market. But downloads are growing massively. We have found new audiences for our titles through the downloadable market.'

For authors, audio downloads offer another way to reach their market and an additional potential source of income. As well as selling the full audiobook, they can be used to give an online taster of the complete recording, as the Poetry ArchiveOnline archive with recordings of over 130 living poets' voices, mostly from the UK; you can listen to excerpts on their wonderful site or go to to buy hour-long recordings on CD. has done with its 90 one-hour recordings of living poets.

Audio downloads are a new way of reaching a fresh audience and the outlets are developing rapidly for both full and condensed recordings, and also for using audio for promotional purposes. Writers need to seize the new opportunities offered by audio and the download revolution. Whether you're a published or an unpublished author, you can start recording your own audio material now, to be ready to make the most of the rapid growth in the download market.

WritersServices audio section with step-by-step instructions

Spoken Network

Poetry Archive

Poetry Archive CD sales (