Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do publishers care about audiobooks?

Recently, two major publishers released reports that summarized the habits of readers. But although the surveys tracked print usage as well as the digital formats of ebook and online reading, one format was glaringly missing - audiobooks.

In the Random House / Zogby poll of 8,218 adults, a vast amount of information about reading and book buying is presented - including what book respondents would recommend to the President at 3:00am. However, if you search for the terms audio or audiobook in the thirteen-page document, you'll find one reference - 2% of the adults responded "audio books" when asked "What book format do you most often buy?" No questions in the survey specifically targeted the audiobook format. Amazingly, the sponsor of the survey, Random House, is the parent company of both Books on Tape and Listening Library, two of the largest audiobook publishers.

Scholastic Publishing released a report titled "2008 Kids & Family Reading Report: Reading in the 21st Century: Turning the Page with Technology." The study focuses on comparing print vs. digital reading - and yet the terms audio or audiobook are found NOWHERE in the sixty-four page report! This from a company that has long published audiobooks and recently acquired Weston Woods, a major producer of audiobooks. The report included a large section on the "Harry Potter" effect. yet completely ignores the sale of over five million copies of Harry Potter audiobooks!

True, the Harry Potter audiobooks were produced by Listening Library, not Scholastic. But the huge success of the HP audiobooks was ignored in the Random House survey as well! It is clear that the data gathered by the Audio Publishers Association is all the more important, such as the most recent 2007 sales survey.

But the question remains: Why have the parent companies of today's audiobook publishers ignored audiobooks in their recent marketing surveys?

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