The rise of audiobooks, a small but rapidly growing piece of book publishing, is by now well documented, but rarely is it framed as a tech story. It’s maybe a little counterintuitive to think of what we once called Books on Tape (so cumbersome they had to be abridged to remain affordable) as a format on the disruptive cutting edge. But this decade’s double-digit annual growth — with total sales doubling to $2.5 billon over the past five years — has a clear analog in the e-book boom that preceded it, and the same company has driven it: Audible.com owner Amazon.
Audible’s Beth Anderson says that Michael Lewis–style exclusives, as well as enhanced releases from the likes of Margaret Atwood, do very well for them — and that subscribers typically buy five books on top of the twelve included with their membership. (Fiction makes up 70 percent of audio sales, with genres predominating.) She says Audible has had double-digit year-on-year subscriber growth, keeping pace with the market.
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