Are You Listening? Audio Stats Say You’re Not

Which is Better, Jump Off Bridge or Stick Head in Oven?

That may be one of the panel discussion topics when audio publishers convene, as they do every year, a day or two before the commencement of Book Expo America, the publishing industry’s annual celebration of itself. According to Associated Press’s Hillel Italie, “The Association of American Publishers has seen a 47 percent drop in audio revenue this year: Just 14 publishers reported, but they include Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and virtually all the major New York companies.”

Since many people have been under the impression that audiobooks were flying high, this tailspin is bewildering until you hear Anthony Goff, president of the APA, explain that it has to do with CD sales. Like other tangible products such as printed books, physical audiobooks are giving way to their digital successors. But – again, like books – the e-versions don’t generate a fraction of the profit that their material counterparts do. At least not yet. At least not enough to reverse a 20% plunge in CD sales this year over the same period in 2008. Nielsen BookScan projects a total drop in the audio business for this year of almost 5%.

Though CDs are expensive to manufacture, package and distribute, their high prices can bring handsome profits if the volume of sales is high. But volume has been hobbled. “The shrinking economy has had a very direct impact,” says Italie. “The fewer people who work, the fewer people who drive to work. And many audio customers listen in their cars, more than half, according to Chris Lynch, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio.”



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