The Reading World

Circa 1994: The Audio Book Buyer

This is a second sidebar to the Making Book On PDAs story published below, in the August 8, 1994 edition of Digital Media: A Seybold Report. An examination of the CD- and tape-based audiobook market, it predicted a transition to digital a year-and-a-half before I became an advisor to Audible Inc., the company that invented downloadable audio players and that now dominates the audiobook market.

Forebear of the handheld E-Book consumer?

She’s a typical audio book buyer: Forty-four years old, has some college in her background, makes a little less than $45,o00 a year and listens to audio books in her care or while working on a report or at dinner. For her, books speak. Reading has been transformed by the introduction of analog tape technology.

The $1.2 billion market for books on tape has skyrocketed in the past five years, growing 40.3 percent in 1993 alone, according to the Audio Publishers Association. Random House, which publishes about 150 books-on-tape titles, saw sales climb 81 percent from the first quarter of 1992 to the same period in 1993.

If selling CD-ROM titles has been difficult, getting titles for handheld devices such as WinPad and Newton into the retail channel looks next to impossible. Audio books are proof that a new media can make headway in bookstores, and even lead to the establishment of an independent channel. According to investment bankers Veronis, Suhler & Associates, approximately 125 audio bookstores, carrying an average