At a glance, it doesn’t seem that 2016 was a gentle year for the publishing industry.
The first month saw some rough numbers, as sales of adult and children books dropped by double digits, with the only religious texts making marginal gains. Paper books made a small comeback however, while eBooks lost a full quarter of their revenue potential.
More bad news plagued the middle of the year. According to Publishers Weekly, no adult fiction titles made it to the top 20 print bestsellers list from January through June. They blamed the coming presidential election. Even the Wall Street Journal sat up to take notice of how badly the race for the White House choked the entertainment industry. And AuthorEarnings.com noticed the hit indie publishing wallets took in October, which they believe disappeared into Amazon’s imprints— the company’s own pet publishers.
But a bright spot on this rainy day of news is audiobooks, which have surged in sales over the last few years.
The biggest reason for this is, once again, technology. In the past, audiobooks could only be delivered through expensive cassette cases full of roughly eight-to-sixteen tapes, each of which would have to be flipped over and swapped out upon completion. The transition to CDs made the process far less painful. But it is digital formats that have really allowed the medium to shine, as they’re accessible on MP3 players and especially smartphones.
The brilliance of audiobooks is that they allow for entertainment to be enjoyed without the use of eyes. Road trips and commutes become adventures, workouts can stimulate the mind as well as the body. Audiobooks could very well be one of the most versatile entertainment mediums, and an interesting avenue of growth for small presses. An avenue that everyone should be encouraged to pursue if at all possible.