Audiobooks: The Fastest-Growing Format in Publishing

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Smartphones and multitasking have stoked an explosion in audiobooks. Publishers, spotting a juggernaut, are expanding their offerings and enlisting star narrators.

The digital revolution that flummoxed the music, movie and publishing industries has given rise to a surprising winner: the audiobook.

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book business today. Sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 21% in 2015 from the previous year, according to the Audio Publishers Association. The format fits neatly in the sweet spot of changing technology and changing behavior. Carrying around a pocket-size entertainment center stuffed with games, news, music, videos and books has conditioned people to seek out constant entertainment, whether walking to a meeting or sitting in a doctor’s office. For more multitasking book-lovers, audiobooks are the answer.

Publishers, spotting a juggernaut, are hiring high-profile actors, fattening production budgets and tiptoeing into original dramas. Some authors are writing specifically for audio. Stephen King last year released his short story, “Drunken Fireworks,” as an audiobook four months before its print publication. Fred Armisen wrote and performed a 15-minute work based on Candace Devereaux, a character he plays on IFC’s “Portlandia.” READ MORE

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