Audiobook sales have doubled in the last five years, according to data from the Nielsen UK Books & Consumers survey.
While UK consumers bought 3% fewer books last year than 2016 overall across all print and digital formats, audiobook purchases rose both in volume by 12% and value by 15%, with purchases in this format nearly doubling since 2012.
Audiobook purchases now account for 5% of consumer book spending in the UK, and 7% of fiction sales by value, Nielsen said.
Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair, said audio was bringing “new consumers” into the market, perhaps encouraged by podcasts.
The Nielsen UK Books & Consumers survey also revealed that certain demographics were increasingly drawn to audio, including men aged between 25 and 44, and those living in or commuting to the more urban regions of London and the North West.
Sales in audio have also outperformed for genres such as sci-fi and fantasy, classic fiction, self-help, history and science, according to a Nielsen spokesperson.
“Audiobook growth is an encouraging sign that the book consumer in 2017 had a good appetite for content in many formats,” Oliver Beldham, account manager at Nielsen Book Research, said. “The differing consumer profile also shows the reach that audio formats can have among buyers beyond the traditional book customer."
Thomas said: “This fascinating research from our data partner Nielsen Book appears to show what we have long suspected, that audiobooks are not eating into print or e-book share but bringing new consumers into the consumer book market. The rise in podcasts and the ease of listening on digital devices may have turned on a new generation to the joys of having a book on the go.”
She added: “It’s wonderful to have more people reading in whatever the book format”.
The digital share of the audio market has typically been difficult to estimate with Audible not releasing its data.
Retailers BookBeat, Kobo and AudioBooks.com all entered the market last year although BookBeat “paused” investment in the UK market last month because publishers were unwilling to part with content.
Nielsen Book will discuss the findings at the London Book Fair Quantum conference this morning (Monday 9th April).