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Reports of the Decline of Physical Audiobooks Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Digital Reader

First published on http://the-digital-reader.com/

When Barnes & Noble announced a couple weeks ago that they were turning off their mp3 audiobook section, they justified the move by saying that they “were not satisfied that the digital audio book customer experience”, and that they committed to their physical audiobook business. They’re not the only ones.

According to Nielsen Market Research, physical audiobooks still make up a sizable share of the audiobook market. Audible might get all the attention with their dominance of downloadable audiobooks,  but stores like Barnes & Noble’s bookstores accounted for 21% of the audiobooks sold in 2013.

What’s more, that figure is on the rise. Nielsen BookScan reported that sales of physical audiobooks were up 6% through the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period last year. (In comparison, the AAP reported downloadable audiobooks were up 18.6% in 2013, to $132 million.)

Booksellers say that the prime selling season for physical audiobooks are the year-end holidays, Father’s Day, and the summer vacation season, and those who are reporting the strongest sales are the biggest fans of physical audiobooks. For example, Elaine Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, often listens to audiobooks on trips to Lake Tahoe. “There’s something about the CDs that I still like,” she said. Petrocelli makes an effort to hand-sell nonfiction titles read by the author, such as David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, and she also takes care to offer audiobooks in addition to print books at author events.

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