The new reader

Just as publishers adjust to the demand for ebooks in Canada, a new format is changing how Canadian readers consume content. Digital formats have revolutionized the marketing and availability of audiobooks, with 76% of audiobook listeners choosing downloadable audiobooks as their preferred format. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reports that “downloadable audiobooks continued to be the fastest growing format with a 26% growth [in the first half of 2014] over the same period in 2013.”

In our new study, Listen Up: Audiobook Use in Canada, we take a close look at these trends, reporting on who’s listening to audiobooks and why, how audiobook consumers access content, and whether or not consumers are finding all the content they want.

While the growing popularity of audiobooks is likely influenced by podcasts—a trend recently discussed at this year’s Tech Forum—audiobook listeners tend to be converted readers: around 36% of respondents say they either “always” or “often” listen to audiobooks that they’ve previously read, and many show interest in bundling print with audiobooks or ebooks.

As digital audiobooks change how readers consume content, there is an increasing number of ways for listeners to access this content, including subscription, rental, purchase, and borrowing from the library. The Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC) provided us with audiobook checkout data for 2014, which shows an increase in circulation and demand for digital audiobooks.

So why is audiobook content in demand? The obvious benefit is the ability to multitask and to listen on the go. Since many listeners prefer to access audiobook content through digital download, a majority are using tablets, MP3 devices, and their phones to access material on the go, as opposed to using CD and cassette players.

After the success of uber-podcast Serial, many websites began suggesting books for its fans. While these books offer similar content (i.e., true crime), perhaps format is equally as important when attracting new readers or listeners. With this in mind, publishers have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the audiobook format, to ensure accessibility and discoverability of digital audiobooks, and to potentially attract non-readers (like podcast listeners) to the audiobook format.

Read the free report here for more valuable insight into the growing audiobook market in Canada, and “Listen Up” to consumer demand!