The Business of Audio Books

My friend, Renee Chambliss, shared this Wall Street Journal article through Facebook today. I read it and clicked share, but thought it might be worth a blog post. The first on this new site, even.  So, here goes:

There were a few key points that I took away from it:

1) Audiobook sales are rising due to people listening on their phones.

This is very important. Audiobooks are generally long (I just listened to A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss….43 hours long!) so to have a sizable market for audio content, people need to be able to listen anywhere.

2) Publishers are arguing that “narratives can hold their own as original works of art”.

I’m very interested how  the legal rights of audio shape up. Is a full cast audiobook a separate thing from a straight read? Can a rights holder sell rights from each separately?

3) Audiobook prices are falling.

This makes sense. Traditionally prices have been very high. An audiobook takes a lot to put together. A full cast production even more so. Part of the reason the prices have been so high has been that the overall demand for audiobooks has been lower. More could be made off of a few customers paying  a lot than off of more (but not enough) customers paying a little. As more people “buy in”, the balance will shift. There’s not the same issue as, say, a paperback printing where you have to spend some bottom line for each book that is made. Audio has pretty much just an initial cost to make the thing. If more buy at a lower price and thus make the project more money overall, the audio could potentially end up in a place that is as cheap as an e-book despite high initial production costs. It all depends on if enough people have the time/interest for audiobooks at a lower price point. I guess we’ll see where we end up.

4) There are some really cool audio projects out there now, some with Hollywood names attached

This is great because it shows that audio stories are a potentially lucrative artform that can appeal to many talented performers.


I’m very pleased to see audiobooks (and other creative audio projects) getting attention as a money making artform. It is what I love, after all. I listened to free podcasts for years before I got through enough of the free content to start looking  for paid stuff. Now my monthly audible subscription provides more listening hours per month than the free podcasts do. There’s new free stuff all the time, but I find that as long as the price is low enough and the quality of the paid content is high enough, I’m happy to be paying for some of what I listen to.

As a content producer, I continue to use free content as a training ground. In the longer run, I aim to produce quality content worthy of being paid for (thus providing me the means to keep producing bigger, braver projects). Years ago I would have said there was no market for this kind of creative endeavor, but this article sheds light on the way things have changed recently.  Big, long audio projects are finally becoming a realistic goal.