SOURCE: Bowker

March 06, 2007 09:40 ET

Publishers Release 9,000 New Audiobooks in 2006

Audiobooks Go Digital and Wireless, but Listeners Still Like an Old-Fashioned Detective Yarn

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 6, 2007 -- Bowker, the world's leading provider of bibliographic information, today released the first comprehensive statistical portrait of U.S. audiobook publishing, which found that even as spoken word audio becomes increasingly available in 21st century formats like downloadable digital files, publishers and customers alike continue to favor 19th and 20th century guilty pleasures like mystery and detective novels.

The data was compiled from Bowker's Books In Print® database, and was based on figures reported by U.S. audiobook publishers and imprints reflecting all new spoken word audio releases, including audiobook-only titles as well as those based on works previously published as print books.

According to Bowker, 8,970 new spoken word audio titles were published in 2006, down from the most recent five-year average of 10,900. Since the introduction of the spoken word audio format, a grand total of 202,111 audiobook titles have been released and 40% of those titles (79,038) have been published since 2000. There are over 3,000 audiobook publishers in the U.S., with Brilliance, Random House, Blackstone, Recorded Books, BBC America, and Simon & Schuster accounting for most of the new releases.

Adult fiction titles classified as mystery and suspense were the most popular spoken word audio category, with almost five times the number of releases as romances, science-fiction, fantasy and westerns. Overall, adult fiction was the number-one category in spoken word audio, accounting for 53% of all classified new releases in 2006.

Juvenile literature, a bellwether category in both print and spoken word audio, was the second most popular category, accounting for 14% of new titles. Following juvenile literature was religious & inspirational with 12%, and then business & economics, biography, health & fitness, psychology, political science, and new age, all with less than 10%.

Based on a review of industry data from 2004-2006, Bowker also reported:

--  Downloadable digital audio is the fastest-growing spoken word audio
    format, but CDs are still king, accounting for 49 percent of all new audio
    releases. The transition to CDs has come at a price: Compact discs have
    just 60% of the storage capacity of cassettes, with an average running time
    of only 70 minutes per CD versus almost 100 minutes per cassette tape;
--  Almost two thirds of all audiobooks are released as unabridged
    editions. The average suggested retail price for unabridged spoken word
    audio was $41.26. This compares to the average suggested retail price of
    $27.55 for adult hardcovers reported by Bowker last year; and
--  Dick Hill was the most prolific reader/narrator over the last three
    years, and had the added distinction of being the only male in the top
"We see the audiobook industry poised for growth in the coming years," said Angela D'Agostino, senior vice president of business development for New Providence, N.J.-based Bowker. "The marriage of downloadable digital audio and handheld devices like the ubiquitous iPod, finally gives spoken word audio the ideal platform to greatly expand its customer base beyond commuters and vacationers to a younger demographic that eagerly embraces the everyday choice and convenience of portable entertainment. For those scared away by the $40 purchase price of most spoken word audio titles, public libraries offer their patrons circulating pre-loaded listening devices and wireless downloading of both copyrighted and public domain content."

"There is a huge potential for growth in audiobook content," said Andrew Grabois, a consultant for Bowker. "Even though the universe of spoken word audio amounts to less than five percent of all books still in print, the ease of downloading and playing spoken word audio will create a demand for new content that is irresistible, very much like the growth enjoyed by print books since the coming of the Internet."

The book production figures in this preliminary release are based on year-to-date data from U.S. publishers. If changes in industry estimates occur, they will be reflected in a later published report. Books In Print data represents input from 83,000 publishers in the U.S. The data is sent to Bowker in electronic files, and via BowkerLink™, Bowker's password protected Web-based tool, which enables publishers to update and add their own data.

Founded in 1872, Bowker is North America's leading provider of bibliographic information, and is also the official agency for assigning ISBNs in the United States. Summary statistics for U.S. Book Production is available on Bookwire, Bowker's portal to the book trade, at The company's flagship product, Books In Print®, is available on the Internet at, on CD-ROM, in hardbound print format and as licensed data feeds. For more information, please visit or call 1-888-BOWKER2 (1-888-269-5372).

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