• Marianne Calilhanna

Have You Heard? Audiobook Sales Continue to Boom

Updated: Mar 6



The audiobook publishing market continues to experience massive growth. As we get ready for a new decade the outlook remains bright for audiobook publishing sales and industry support. The Audio Publishers Association maintains a great library of press coverage about the industry and is a resource you'll want to bookmark as you plan your 2020 production.


Deloitte predicts that UK audiobook sales are expected to generate £115 million in 2020. That translates to a 30% increase since 2018! This summer the Audio Publishers Association conducted a survey of US publishers and reported audiobook sales in 2018 totaled $940 million, a revenue figure that has grown a full 24.5% year-over-year since 2017. Unit sales are up even more, rising 27.3% over 2017.


With sales and profits surging northward, production processes that support such growth and volume will become more important than ever to streamline and manage. One such issue is metadata management for audiobooks.


ONIX Doesn't Fit

At the Frankfurt Book Fair this past October, we spoke with a number of publishers who expressed frustration with metadata management for audiobooks. ONIX simply doesn't fit. One publisher explained that using ONIX for their massive collection of audiobooks felt like shoving a big square in a pinhole.


The distribution landscape is complex and becoming increasingly crowded as more players enter the growing market. Following is just a partial list of audiobook distributors (in no particular order):

  • Apple

  • Amazon / Audible

  • Scribd

  • Google

  • Findaway

  • Chirp

  • Nook

  • Rakuten Kobo

  • Downpour

  • Storytel

  • Ubook

  • Leamos

  • Playster

  • Audiowhale

  • Ebsco

  • 24Symbols

  • Bookmate

  • Bookbeat

  • Overdrive

  • Bidi

  • Bibliotheca

  • Hibooks

  • and the list goes on...

A New Metadata Standard: Audiobooks

The W3C is currently developing a new metadata standard called Audiobooks*, which is poised to accelerate the distribution to online retailers and better support  both publishers and consumers.


The W3C currently has a candidate recommendation published and it is intended to become a full W3C Recommendation in early 2020. From the W3C website:


"This specification is intended to standardize the audiobooks distribution model on the web and between businesses. It should facilitate different user agent architectures for the consumption of Audiobooks. The primary goal is to bring clarity to a part of the publishing industry currently underserved by standards, while opening Audiobooks to the Open Web Platform and new user agents. This specification does not outline what file types or formats should be used by content creators, only a manifest format for delivering them."


With the impending release of the Audiobooks metadata specification, the nearly $1 billion dollar industry will finally have a standard for production, distribution, and delivery.


Data Conversion Laboratory Can Help

DCL has a long history providing content structure and metadata services. Last week, DCL announced its support of and membership to the Audio Publishers Association. We will advocate and lead the implementation of the Audiobooks standard and invite you to take part in the association or reach out to learn how we can support your audiobook publishing program.


It's an exciting time to experience such massive growth in terms of revenue and volume and navigating that growth with standards and structure that support the industry will be imperative to achieve success.


We invite you to share your experience with audiobook production and metadata management in the comments below. And we continue to wonder, if someone has listened to an audiobook can we say someone has "read" the book?


*If we call the eBook metadata standard EPUB, wouldn't it be nice if we had a parallel term for audiobooks? Should the Audiobook standard to be called AUDIOPUB?

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