The Demographic of Audiobooks
By Cameron Phillips and Emily De Vogele
Last issue we touched upon the role that audiobooks play in the podcast culture of the 2020s. This week we are going to dive into the demographics of audiobook listeners, why this is an important topic and its contribution towards the medium’s rise.
The steady rise of the audiobook industry has no doubt been bolstered by the increased range of demographics embracing the format. There is no surprise that the highest percentile (57%) of audiobook listeners are people under the age of forty-five, with the largest individual growth being in the eighteen to twenty-four age range. Why is this interesting? Well, traditionally, young people do not buy books. Readership has fallen dramatically when it comes to the eighteen to twenty-four age group as the ‘digital age’ has gone on: better things to do, more exciting places to be at. However, a ‘positive’ outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people have started reading again, and we very much have audiobooks to thank for that. Whether people like it or not, there are fewer and fewer young people going into bookshops and buying physical books, and an even smaller amount who actually sit down to finish a paperback copy. Ask any lover of traditional reading to show you their bookshelf and they’ll beam with pride and joy. Ask the same person how many of those books they’ve got down to reading and finishing and that smile will probably put itself in reverse.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise nor be scoffed at. Living costs are at a thirty-year high, and people like Kirstie Allsopp are calling for young people to forgo their hobbies to save money. Young people do not have the time nor means. We’ve talked quite a lot about the benefits of audiobooks, and the conflict between tradition and modernism when it comes to debating whether listening to an audiobook is actually the same thing as reading a book. But one certain benefit is that young people have become more engaged with literature because of audiobooks, and this can only be a good thing.
Audiobooks also present themselves as an instantly more adaptable means of consuming a story. Eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds have a lot on their plates between navigating adult life and post-education decisions, and audiobooks lend themselves to this nomadic lifestyle well. Individuals in this age demographic often see themselves on the go and audiobooks have filled that gap of time where they previously might not have seen themselves reading. No time to pick up a physical book? No problem, hit play and off you go.
The accessibility of audiobooks to a modern audience might also explain the demographic leaning to younger listeners. Streaming is everything these days, and the major streaming services offer a range of music, podcasts and even audiobooks. With exclusive platforms like Audible offering audiobooks at the touch of a button, this reading medium that used to be reserved to cassettes or CDs has finally entered the modern era. You can easily switch between listening to the newest album release and enjoying someone reading the latest bestseller aloud. The convenience of this has no doubt revolutionised the audiobook industry.
As long as audiobooks are kept affordable, a controversial debate in its own sphere, more and more young people will flock to the medium and, more than likely, will stick with it as they grow older.