Audiobooks Making International Waves

Audiobooks are a great source of extra income for many authors, an extra revenue stream that otherwise wouldn’t be there. The audiobook market within the United States is a booming industry, increasing each and every year. Putting their success here in America aside, the possibilities for the future of audiobooks is still endless. According to an article in The Japan Times, audiobooks in the U.S. account for 10% of book sales- amounting to a $160 billion industry. But, this isn’t the case internationally. For example, in Japan the audiobook industry caps off at $5 billion. On the international scene, audiobooks have so much left to do and leave so much to be excited for in the future.

Audio publishers, like Audible, are just beginning to figure out how to be successful overseas. Recently, Audible launched an international initiative in countries just like Japan. In these countries they offer unlimited audiobooks for a monthly fee. The pay per book model that we have in the United States and the United Kingdom just doesn’t work in most other countries. There just isn’t enough awareness or accessibility to audiobooks that are needed for such a model. So, publishers are starting to get creative.

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The use of smartphones and their apps are greatly changing the audiobook landscape in countries like Japan. These apps offer easy access to audiobooks that once wasn’t there. In Japan, many people use public transportation and are looking for things to entertain them on their long commutes that don’t pack a lot of weight- downloadable audiobooks are the perfect answer. Febe, a downloading site, was launched in 2007. The site offers over 19,000 books on a variety of topics and genres. Since it’s launch, the number of users has increased from 2,000 to about 180,000- proving that if the content is there and accessible, people will use it.

There is still a long way to go with cultivating a real audiobook culture overseas, but the future is very promising. Audio publishers have found that the key to stimulating interest in audiobooks abroad is to use famous people, poets, or authors as readers. Since it’s a relatively new market, there needs to be something that pulls the listener in to giving the whole audio thing a try. This poses a slight problem because production costs of making an audiobook are already pretty high, let alone needing to commission a celebrity to do the reading. High costs along with low recognition of audiobooks are audio publishers two biggest obstacles when thinking of expanding abroad. But if the audio trend does catch on, the risk will be well worth the reward.

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