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Audiobook to download

27 July 2015

According to some sources, the audiobook market is growing rapidly. Orion audio publisher Pandora White called the sector "the fastest-growing in publishing" and Booktrack is growing exponentially, but is the quality of the recordings being sacrificed in order to achieve the lowest price? The download has injected new life into a rather quiet corner of the book world, so what are the issues?

The concern about quality was voiced by Nicholas Jones, Audio Producer at Strathmore Publishing in the UK in an article in May. He wrote that at a conference: ‘The consensus was that the fees paid for the creation of audiobooks were half to two-thirds what they were before the market moved almost entirely to downloads, and that standards were suffering as all concerned had to pack more in to maintain a reasonable income. It was asserted that the prices were set by what the consumer will pay, although I did not receive an explanation of why it was that the Audible price in the United States is more than 20% higher than in the UK (£7.99 UK, $14.95 US, which at the exchange rate at the time of writing is £9.93). Twenty per cent more revenue into the production industry here would make a considerable difference to the morale of those involved.'

So there is a quality issue with consumers not able to judge the quality of what they are buying until they have bought it, although publishers' lists might have given some guidance if they knew who was publishing it.

Audible has created a near-monopoly in audiobook content and now of course has a way to extend its reach through being part of the Amazon empire.

The New Zealand start-up Booktrack creates soundtracks for ebooks that sync with the reader's pace. It has grown very rapidly and now has a library of 15,000 tracks available for 2.5 million users.

Founder Paul Cameron says: "There are so many ebooks gathering digital dust on digital shelves, and we can bring them to a new audience of readers. We're able to get the Xbox, Netflix and Spotify generation interested in reading again by pairing it with another main form of entertainment."

It is amazing that a format which has always been in the shadows, beloved by some but never really hitting the big time, can deliver books to a new audience through downloads and new ventures reaching huge audiences such as Booktrack.