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One in ten now listening to audiobooks according to Publishers Association

One in ten now listening to audiobooks according to Publishers Association

More people are listening to audiobooks than ever before, according to new figures released today. The research from Nielsen’s UK Books & Consumers survey shows that in 2016 5.5million people bought or listened to an audiobook (on CD/tape/downloaded/streamed), an increase of 3% on two years previously. 

The number buying/listening via downloading/streaming was 12% higher in 2016 than 2014.

The figures also show that audiobooks are most popular with men aged 25 – 44yrs.  

It is now one of the fastest growing areas of publishing with publishers reporting a near tripling in the number of titles they are publishing since 2011.   

In response to this growing popularity the PA and its audio publisher members are running the UK’s first #loveaudio week, a social media initiative celebrating this format.

Stephen Lotinga, the Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said:

“The fact that one in ten people are now listening to audiobooks is testament to the incredible flexibility of the format. 

“Not only can audiobooks bring stories to life and enable people to enjoy reading while doing other things such as running or driving, it is also a great way of making books more accessible. As well as providing a wonderful opportunity for people with print-disabilities to enjoy published products, audiobooks are a great way of removing barriers to reading for those who might otherwise struggle.”

Sarah Shrubb, Chair of the PA’s Audio Publishers Group and Audio Publisher at Little Brown, said:

“The audiobook sector has seen high double-digit growth every year for the past few years, fuelled by ubiquitous smart phones and tablets. Apps to buy and listen to audiobooks are available for all these devices, and they sit on the screen alongside apps for podcasts, music, movies and TV; it's as easy to tap and listen to, say, a Harry Potter audiobook as it is to tap and watch a Harry Potter film or read a Harry Potter ebook. 

“Retailers such as Audible have reached out brilliantly to this audience-in-waiting, creating awareness of audiobooks, and making buying and listening into an easy, seamless process. Publishers have risen to the challenge of this growing market by recording more and more of the books they publish, and producing fantastic audio editions with massively talented narrators, such as Juliet Stevenson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry. All of these factors are combining to create a burgeoning new market that has grown, and will continue to grow, faster than any other sector of U.K. and US publishing.”


Notes to editors

The research is from Nielsen's UK Books & Consumers Survey (copyright Nielsen Book, 2017). It shows that:

  • In 2016, 13% (5.5m) of the UK population aged 13-84 had bought or listened to an audiobook (on CD/tape/downloaded/streamed) in the previous 12 months
  • The proportion of 13-84s buying/listening to audiobooks in 2016 rises to 13% among social grade AB and among 13-24s, and to 15% of males aged 25-44
  • The number in the UK population buying/listening to audiobooks across all formats was 3% higher in 2016 than in 2014
  • The number buying/listening via downloading/streaming was 12% higher in 2016 than 2014
  • Among those buying a book in the previous month, the proportion who listened to audiobooks (on CD/tape/downloaded) at least weekly rose from 12% in 2012 to 15% in Q1 2017
  • Data are based on over 100K online interviews with a nationally representative sample of UK population aged 13-84 per year
The social media initiative #loveaudio week will run from Monday 19th June to Sunday 25th June

The week will feature behind the scenes videos of audiobook production, clips of authors talking about the power of audio as well as samples and promotions designed to get more people engaged with the medium. High profile authors and narrators who will be involved in the activity around the campaign include David Mitchell, Miranda Hart, Laura Barnett, Daniel Weyman, Mark Billingham and Mark Meadows.

It coincides with Audio Book Month in the US which runs for the whole of June.

Campaign activity will be mostly focused on Twitter with different publishers using the #loveaudio hashtag to promote the campaign. 

Members of the PA’s Audio Publishers Groups are:

  • Canongate
  • Creative Content Digital
  • Faber
  • Hachette
  • HarperCollins
  • Hodder & Stoughton
  • Macmillan
  • Penguin Random House
  • RNIB
  • Simon and Schuster


The Publishers Association (the PA) represents book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK, spanning  fiction and non-fiction, academic and educational publishing.