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Now you can download your audiobook

15 May 2006

The audiobook market is set to jump into the new world of downloadable sound to meet the demands of the iPod generation. Audiobook sales have been growing gradually over the years and there are now a great many books available in audio form, mostly the standard three-hour abbreviated version. Figures from the Audio Publishers Association of America show that the American market is worth $832m (£439m), dwarfing the UK market of £37m ($70m).

Audio material can now be used online to provide sample listening, with the CDs for sale. This is how the new Poetry ArchiveOnline archive with recordings of over 130 living poets' voices, mostly from the UK; you can listen to excerpts on their wonderful site or go to to buy hour-long recordings on CD. makes its 80 or so one-hour recordings of contemporary poets reading their work available to listeners. But the next step is already in sight and in the UK Spoken Network launches this week with more than 5,000 titles and the backing of a number of the large audio publishers. Paul Smithson, its founder, said their research showed that: 'many people who wouldn't have previously considered buying an audiobook as a CD or tape said they would be interested in downloading one.'

Audible, an American company offering audiobook downloads, which is already big in the States, set up a British website last June, having seen its US sales grow to $63m (£34m) last year. But the company thinks that this is only the beginning.

Eileen Hutton of Brilliance Audio, the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the US (most of the big publishers have their own audio division) said: 'We think the future of the industry is in downloads to MP3 players, iPods etc. A recent survey of young people in America found that many people were dispensing with traditional media altogether in favour of downloadable audiobooks and music.'

For writers this offers a whole new market, although there are signs that it will still be bestseller focused. But that's just where the price competition will be - the Internet will make it possible to offer a huge range of material. Lessons have been learnt from the Napster problems in the music industry and the mechanisms have been set up to make sure that people pay for audiobook downloads.

WritersServices' own audio site, launched last week, shows writers how to record their own material so they can be ready to promote their work. With this new means of delivery the market for audio is set to boom.

Poetry Archive

Poetry Archive CD sales