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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Audiobooks on CD Represent Majority of the Market, MP3 Audiobooks’ Share Miniscule

In a 2009 sales survey, Audio Publishers Association (APA) measured the growth and divisions of the one billion dollar audiobook industry. (Check out the survey results here.)

APA found that audiobooks on CD account for 72% of the audio market. And while the market share for downloadable content has increased at a noteworthy rate, audiobooks on MP3 discs have maintained a steady market share over the past few years at an unimpressive 1%.¹

On his blog, RickLibrarian cites an online AudioFile survey that found that the largest percent of audiobook listeners prefer audiobooks on CD.² And in a 2008 article entitled “A Rapidly Growing Electronic Publishing Trend,” Jan. J. Engelen cites the “the universal usability” of CDs as one of the major reasons audiobooks on CDs remain the popular choice for audiences. Additionally, Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues have made audiences, especially libraries, weary of the MP3 format: “In practice, however, DRM lead to quite a lot of customer frustration as it hindered copying in general or made it sometimes impossible to play the legally acquired files on a whole series of devices.”³

Because of its lack of market share and universal usability, Midwest Tape doesn’t currently carry audiobooks on MP3. The demand does not yet exist, and with its sluggish growth, we’re not sure when it will. We’re always keeping our eye on the industry, though.

What’s your take on the MP3-disc format? What patron feedback have you received on the many audiobook formats?


  1. We won some sort of grant to purchase MP3-disc format titles (it was before I started working here, so I don't have details) and have noticed that they confused patrons/staff. We already had a growing audiobook on CD collection and they look the same to people. We found out that they don't really care what the difference is as long as it plays. Some players would read the MP3 format, some wouldn't and that along with the early confusion between formats lead us to not purchase anymore MP3 disc format audiobooks.

    we are looking to supplement our audiobook on CD collection with a download-able option instead. I think that is where the market is heading anyway.

    Wonder what the "8 track" or the "laser disc record" of the 21st century will be?

  2. I can understand the confusion that may arise from distinguishing between the two formats. People and their audio systems are definitely more accustom to CD discs.

    I love the question you pose about what the new audio wonder of the 21st century will be. Will it be downloadable content? Or some new gadget?
    I'm curious as to what other librarians think...


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