At the start of the pandemic, sales of books in the United States were exploding and everyone thought the format was going to make a comeback. In 2021 things started out well, but from spring onwards things are in constant decline. In the first ten months, e-book revenue is down 5.6% from the first ten months of 2020. Year-to-date US e-book revenue is 892.5 millions of dollars.
I was hoping that in Q4 of the year people would start buying eBooks again, as a lot of people bought one of the new e-readers from companies like Amazon, Kobo, or Onyx Boox. Unfortunately, it is not the case. In October, e-book sales were down 12.3% for the month compared to October 2020 and generated $ 84.0 million.
Audiobooks are one of the lifesaving assets of the digital publishing industry. The industry is consolidating right now, Spotify has bought audiobook distributor Findaway and Audiobooks.com has been sold to Storytel. Digital book sales may drop to double digits on a monthly basis, but audiobook sales are booming. In the first 10 months of 2021, audiobook sales increased 14.2% to revenue of $ 632.0 million. Audiobook sales in October were also very strong, generating $ 62.7 million.
There is only a $ 200 million difference between audiobook sales and e-book sales. I think in the next couple of years audiobooks will overtake e-books. Audiobooks are more portable, people can listen to them while walking their dog, jogging, commuting to work, or using public transportation. I think one of the determining factors is that people tend to listen to the same music all the time and things start to get stale, audiobooks keep things fresh.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post, and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.