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There’s nothing I like more than some downtime with a good book. Whether I’m curled up on the couch, reclining in the sun, or commuting on the train, a book is a constant companion and transporter to another world.

But how we consume books has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. In this article, we look at the different ways consumers read and what that might mean for publishers.

Paperback and hardback books dominate, but revenue declines

In 2016, approximately 2.2 billion books were sold worldwide. Global revenue was affected by the pandemic, and physical book sales dropped by 7.64% to below $80 billion for the first time in three years.

In 2023, it’s estimated global trade book sales revenue will reach $78.07 billion, a 2.53% increase from 2022 but still below pre-pandemic levels. Print books dominate the global book market. However, their revenue is declining while ebook and audiobook revenue is steadily increasing.

Ebooks numbers decline as e-papers and em-magazines rise

The number of ebooks sold peaked in 2013 at 242 million. Since then, it’s been on a slow and steady decline, happily interrupted in 2020 by the pandemic, when 364.38 e-books were sold per minute, before trending downwards again. Since 2018, ebooks have sat around the $2bn mark but dropped below this for the first time in 2022.

Interestingly, as e-book revenue drops, e-magazines and e-papers are on the rise. How people read their e-books is also a bit of a surprise. While it varies from country to country, a computer is generally the most popular choice, followed by a smartphone, tablet, and e-reader.

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing book format in the world by a wide margin

Revenue from audiobooks is expected to grow a whopping 26.4% every year from 2022 to 2030 and reach $35.05 billion in 2030. Growth is predicted across all markets, with the US, China, and the UK leading the way.

Where once we listened to audiobooks via CD, that format has unsurprisingly fallen 73.10% between 2014 to 2018, and digital format accounts for 91.4% of the market since then. Consumers can listen via various apps and platforms, free and paid and local libraries even have audiobooks you can borrow.

The desire and need for books and content isn’t waning, but how people consume them is changing.

Publishers that produce physical and e-books for retail consumers should leverage technology to increase the efficiency of the production process and improve margins. Having a long-term strategic plan for an audiobook channel will allow them to capture some of this high-growth market.

Our team knows what’s best practice when it comes to using technology in your publishing production process. Contact us today, and we’ll help you find ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Photo by Katie Lyke on Unsplash


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