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Sales of audiobooks are plummeting

Associated Press

Except for e-books, sales are down throughout the publishing industry, and the numbers have looked even steeper for audio.

The Assn. of American Publishers has seen a 47% drop in audio revenue this year: Just 14 publishers reported, but they include Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and virtually all the major New York firms.

According to Nielsen BookScan, which covers about 75% of sales (although not audio downloads), the number of audiobooks sold is down 20% this year from 2008. Data compiled by the Institute for Publishing Research project a 4.7% revenue fall in 2009.

Anthony Goff, president of the Audio Publishers Assn., and others cite a few reasons for audio’s troubles.

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The shrinking economy has had a very direct effect. The fewer people who work, the fewer people who drive to work. More than half of audio customers listen in their cars, said Chris Lynch, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio.

Audiobooks also tend to cost more. The audio download for the country’s hottest title, Mark R. Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny,” has a list price of $29.99, nearly $5 higher than for the hardcover.


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