Audiobook Industry Surveys Show Growth

Sales Grow as More Consumers Discover the Convenience of Audiobooks

The Audio Publishers Association recently conducted two surveys that show the industry’s continued growth and highlighted the value of audiobooks to the consumer marketplace.

The annual APA Sales Survey compiled reports from audio publisher sales in the year 2011. Additionally, the 2012 Consumer Survey, “Understanding the Audiobook Buyer in the Digital Age,” was conducted to find out more qualitative information about the behaviors and attitudes of the audiobook listener.

“What these surveys confirm is that audiobooks continue to tap into consumers’ need for a convenient way to support their active lifestyles. Audio publishers pioneered the digital publishing movement and we continue to grow and produce more every year in this era, while continuing to support the formats long appreciated by the listening public,” said Michele Cobb, APA President.

Results Overview:

What is the size of the audiobook market?

·        According to the consumer survey, audiobooks’ appeal has expanded. 46% of consumer survey respondents have listened to an audiobook at some point (compared to 37% in the previous study in 2010) and 24% have listened to an audiobook in the last year (compared to 19% in the previous study).

·        The results of the sales survey showed unit sales of audiobooks in 2011 were up 13% since 2010. The estimated size of the audiobook industry is now $1.2 billion.

Who is listening?

·        Audiobooks continue to appeal to well-educated, affluent adults of various age groups. The survey revealed that audiobook listeners spend more time reading print books and less time watching TV than non-listeners.

·        The average age of an audiobook listener (in any format) is 51; and their average income is $76,000. The average age of download audiobook listeners is 44; their average income skews higher at $84,000. The 25-34 age range shows a slight preference for the digital format.

The Age of Audiobook Listeners by Format Preference

What do they do while listening?

·        The top three reasons respondents said they listen to audiobooks were “to listen in my car” (62% of recent listeners, 57% of total sample), “it is portable” (46% of recent listeners, 30% of total sample), “it helps me multitask” (31% of recent listeners, 25% of total sample).

Reasons Respondents Chose Audio Over Other Formats


  • Audiobook buyers are quick to praise the convenience and ease of the format, especially during car travel, citing them to be perfect entertainment for a long trip.

How are they listening?

·        Both surveys revealed that the CD format continues to be popular. Two-thirds of respondents to the consumer survey listen to audiobooks using a CD player and 46% say it is their main device.

Devices Used to Listen to Audiobooks

·        The sales survey also confirmed the majority of sales come from CD purchases. Revenue from the CD format represents 54% of the market. Download revenue is up 25%, representing 42% of the market.

Audiobook Sales by Format

·        When asked about their preferred format, 47% of audiobook buyers said CD and 18% said digital download. More recent audiobook buyers were more likely to say digital download (31%). Interestingly, regardless of whether they prefer CD or digital download, the main reasons are “convenience” and “easy to use.”

·        Nearly half of recent audiobook buyers are interested in integration with e-books.

·        The consumer survey provided interesting insights into the MP3CD format. 51% of all audiobook buyers have MP3CD capable car stereos, which are common features of most of the top 20 selling automobiles sold in the U.S. this year. 57% of that group has purchased an MP3CD. 52% of those with players say they would purchase more MP3CDs if they were more widely available. 

·        42% of recent audiobook buyers are interested in streaming audio (e.g. from Pandora, Spotify).

What are they listening to?

·        The vast majority of sales (90%) continue to be in the unabridged format.

·        Mystery/Suspense (47%), general fiction (43%) and “bestsellers” (42%) were the top genres preferred by respondents in the consumer survey.

The Types of Books or Genres Listeners Prefer


The sales survey results are based on responses from 25 audio publishers, which represent between 50% and 60% of the industry. It was conducted by independent research firm, Lewis & Clark. The consumer survey was conducted by Bowker Market Research and analyzed responses from a sample size of over 2,000 audiobook buyers and 2,000 non-buyers.

For more information about the surveys, please contact Kaitlin Friedmann, (609) 297-2215 or