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Audiobooks - still seeking an audience?

3 December 2012

 Audiobooks have long been the Cinderellas of the publishing business, with many anticipated new dawns which have failed to produce much bigger sales.

In the US has long had a good business out of renting audiobooks and has moved seamlessly over to using the benefits of digital to download books to play on your mobile or other device. The American market has always been much more promising because it is largely made up of commuters, with so many people commuting long distances by car that audiobooks have been a strong option. Self-improvement titles, such as business books, have always done well, but fiction of all kinds, with a focus on bestsellers, is always strong.

In the UK the publishers of audiobooks have struggled to find a market that goes beyond those who have impaired vision, and audiobooks simply haven't caught on in a big way, although some people buy them for journeys. Certain kinds of writing, such as poetry, lends itself to the poets recording their own work, as in 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. The result of the market not being all that big is that there isn't the range of titles available that people would like and which would stimulate sales.

Listening to a book rather than reading it takes a certain kind of patient mindset, so that although audiobooks lend themselves well to whiling away long car journeys and accompanying the more boring household chores, most people don't have the patience to sit down and listen to them, relaxing though they are. The three hour abridgements, which have been quite popular in the UK, are challenged by full-length recordings and for those you definitely need time on your hands.

For most people audiobooks are simply too slow. They prefer to read the book themselves, which is very much faster.

The Poetry Archive

The Poetry Archive CDs