Are people listening to books and podcasts more than they are reading books and articles? The rise of audiobooks and audio products seems to be growing but is this true?
Audible International Executive Matt Gain talks to Dr Jon Drane about the rise of ‘listening to books’.
Matthew Gain spoke at an I2N Innovation Network Event about his career in Audible and Amazon.
He was asked by Dr Jon Drane who is a member of I2N ‘are people listening to books more than reading books?’.
Matthew noted the rise of ‘listening to books’ was increasing and depended on different genres and situations.
A common thread across all Audiobook offerings is the trend of being ‘time poor’ and whether you are a home carer, executive or a factory packer, the ability to listen to a book is an amazing offering.
But is this the case and is it just Audible that is being listened to?
See the Matt Gain UON I2N event link:
Dr Jon’s research and podcast team researched and discussed:
– a brief history of audio,
-checked with the experts about audio in many situations and
–did a fact check to see the state of audio books in general and included it in his own podcast called JDSLAB Episode 7 –Listening to Books
-then asked about where this all is heading.
Special Interview with Bev Roberts
Dr Jon interviews Bev Roberts who talks about her brain health event and how listening to books and creating ‘interview based’ podcasts helped her to recover. This was also captured in her best selling book: Hope in a Dark Tunnel.
A Brief History of Audio
Audiobooks emerged in the 1930s with the establishment of The American Foundation of the Blind. Back then the medium used was vinyl records! (1)
However the 1960s saw a surge when tape recorders and then cassette recorders provided the ability to distribute to larger audiences including libraries. (2)
Technology has then led the rise of audio products with the emergence of ‘digital’ recordings. Amazon leading the push in the late 1990s with the creation of Audible and the first audio player. (3)
The diversity of use of audio- what do the experts say?
For those of us who love to listen to a recording while doing activities like washing up the dishes, going for a walk, driving and workplace situations there is also a strong foundation of audio intention toward helping those with sight impairment.
Our brief history showed the benevolent foundation of audiobooks and recordings for sight impairment situations.
More recent research has shown the assistance that audio offerings also have with neurologically different people. So we asked:
For neurodivergent folks and those who learn differently do audiobooks offer benefits that reading books do not?
Special educator, Barbara Wilson says that: “ listening to audiobooks can help bridge the gap between decoding words and assigning meaning which supports people with dyslexia and other word processing issues.” (4)
On the other hand, Dr. Kristin Willeumier, neuroscientist explains that “listening to an audiobook or podcast activates many of the same areas of the brain as reading written text. (5) (need url)
While listening to books activates the part of the brain responsible for language processing and reading a book activates more areas responsible for visual processing, both activities engage semantic processing of information in the same areas of the brain.”
This is good news because it means that audiobooks and traditional books can both expand your knowledge, improve your memory, and sharpen your mental faculties in largely the same way.
Cliff Wietzman’s article compares the benefits of audiobooks versus reading and covers themes such as ‘brain benefits’, knowledge retention and general enjoyment. (6)
He notes also : ‘It turns out that listening to audiobooks and reading the written word both offer some of the same benefits along with several unique benefits of their own.’ (6)
Are people listening to audiobooks more than reading text books?
A common thread across all aAudiobook offerings is the trend of being ‘time poor’ and whether you are a home carer, executive or a factory packer, the ability to listen to a book is an amazing offering.
But is this the case and is the listening market exceeding the ‘reading text books’ market?
The data is expansive and revealing but also focuses on ‘digital products’ that include ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts, live streaming and radio.
THGM Writers article and graphics provide helpful statistics and coverage of the various media, the chart below showing paperback at 41% and audiobook 8% across an international survey cohort. (7)
In terms of the overall book publication market which in 2022 was $141bn the audio market was only 3.82%.
However the audio market annual rate of increase is predicted across different research sources to be be 25 to 30% while the book publishing market only grows at approximately 2%. (8)
Purchased versus Listened to in Libraries
In addition when reviewing the statistics about the growth of audiobooks the information shared often reflects purchased audiobooks.
Yet the public libraries in Australia provide their members with free access to digital products including audiobooks and ebooks. Source?
During 2020 digital audiobook and ebook circulation grew 41% in Australian public libraries. This compares favourably to the worldwide growth rate (33%) as well as Australia’s digital circulation growth in 2019 (21%) Source? (9)
The rate of audiobook growth is forecast to be 26.4% globally every year over the next 7 years.
Audiobooks vs Print books- Where is this all heading?
Our initial question was simple; are people listening to books more than reading print books?
Firstly the statistics focus on a mix of digital products and not always direct evidence of audiobooks or for that matter audio products including podcasts, live streaming and radio, the latter holding a huge dominant following historically and presently.
However there is strong data support for the extensive growth rate of audiobooks and products at between 25 to 30% per annum
That said it suggests that in the overall book publishing realm audio holds less than 5%.
Access to audiobooks is becoming easy through the library system. They do not distract people from learning and can be used along with text books.
There is a strong heritage of audio products going back to the 1930s with sight impaired people being provided recordings.
In more recent times neuro divergence has been studied in this context and shows the support for a mix of audio and print products for diversity of neural health and connection.
Thanks for reading our article and we hope you enjoy our exciting podcast series JDSLAB A Writer’s Laboratory for Self-publishers
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Dr Jon’s Tips
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(4) https://learningally.org/About-Us/Why Audiobooks#:~:text=Listening%20to%20audiobooks%20can%20help,the%20development%20of%20comprehension%20skills. – Founder of the Wilson Reading System® and special educator Barbara Wilson