Why Audiobooks are so Popular

Agnete Steine
Oct 14, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

From the first audiobook recording in 1952, to audiobooks on cassettes and Sony Walkman’s in the 80s, to digital formats today (voices.com, 2017). The audiobook industry has experienced drastic change. Nielsen UK book survey showed how in the first quarter of 2018 downloads of audiobooks had gone up 32% from the previous year (as cited by Cowdrey, 2018). Audiobooks is now the fastest growing sector in the industry. And has for many become the preferred medium. How come? What is the reasons behind its success?

One is time. Many simply lack the patience or means to create enough space in their busy schedules to read. Compared to print and e-books, audiobooks enable an opportunity for listeners to multitask. In fact, APA’s 2017 report revealed that as much as 60% of listeners do activities such as homework, baking and exercising while listening to an audiobook (as cited by Kozlowski, 2017). No wonder why audiobooks has gained so many followers, as it is a format that can keep up with the pace of today’s society. Winning the ongoing battle of people’s time and patience.

As rewarding as reading a book can be, audiobooks are able to provide the listener with a new dimension to their reading experience. It gives the stories a voice. And readers are left with a more intimate and emotional tie to the story. By hearing it through an actual person, listeners are able to receive information verbal and non-verbal (UCL, 2018). This creates a deeper level of understanding as the listeners can create images through the story, and also from the voice they are hearing. The voice of a narrator provides a personality to the text. Research measuring this kind of narrative engagement done by UCL, discovered that ‘listening to audio narratives engaged greater cognitive and emotional processing’ than for instance visual imagery. Additionally, participants heart rate was higher when listening to audiobooks (2018). In result, storytelling through digital audio can leave the listeners with a richer experience than other formats.

Due to the rise in audiobook downloads, publishers have realized that the sector has tremendous potential. Therefore, during recent years many publishers have invested a lot of effort and money into the sector, in order to reach larger audiences. Penguin Random House released 1000 audiobook titles in 2017, 20% more than in 2016 (Kozlowski, 2017). Audible launched in 2017, a subscription based romance service on their site, giving romance lovers unlimited access to a large number of audiobooks (Maughan, 2017). Amazon released a new Kindle, that had the Audible bookstore on it (Kozlowski, 2017).

The audiobooks success does not seem to be fading away anytime soon, as more and more people prefer to listen to a story, rather than reading it.


Cowdrey, K. (2018). Audiobook downloads rose 22% last year, PA stats show | The Bookseller. [online] Thebookseller.com. Available at: https://www.thebookseller.com/news/audiobook-sales-hit-record-31m-pa-stats-reveal-love-audio-week-802446

Kozlowski, M. (2017). Global Audiobook Trends and Statistics for 2018. [online] Goodereader.com. Available at: https://goodereader.com/blog/audiobooks/global-audiobook-trends-and-statistics-for-2018

Maughan, S. (2017). Audible Launches Dedicated Romance Service. [online] PublishersWeekly.com. Available at: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/audio-books/article/75249-audible-launches-dedicated-romance-service.html

Richardson, D., Griffin, N., Zaki, L., Stephenson, A., Yan, J., Hogan, J., Skipper, J. and Devlin, J. (2018). Measuring narrative engagement: The heart tells the story. [online] Experimental psychology, UCL. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325888541_Measuring_narrative_engagement_The_heart_tells_the_story?enrichId=rgreq-f9b08c1734f91d78bb9ffd665c991022-XXX&enrichSource=Y292ZXJQYWdlOzMyNTg4ODU0MTtBUzo2NzIwNjQ2ODM5Mjk2MDRAMTUzNzI0NDExNTI5Mg%3D%3D&el=1_x_2&_esc=publicationCoverPdf

Voices.com Blog. (2017). The Evolution of Audiobooks from the First Audiobook to the Digital Age | For Clients — Industry History | Voices.com Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.voices.com/blog/_evolution_of_audiobooks_continued/

Agnete Steine

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