Since March 2020 the publishing industry has undergone accelerated changes due to the confinement induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. After the closure of brick-and-mortar bookstores, e-books and audiobooks have enjoyed an unprecedented upturn. And what’s more, the publishing offer has branched out into various channels: unit sales through online stores (Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo), subscription to publishing streaming platforms (Scribd, Storytel, Bookmate, Bookbeat), digital libraries (Overdrive, Odilo, Bibliotheca), among others.
As the world moves forward in the fight against the virus, the publishing industry wonders whether digitization is here to stay or it is simply a fad. However, the digital market has already shown significant growth, at least in the last five years. Unlike the printed book, the e-book and the audiobook have represented great adaptability to both, the current sanitary situation and the reader who lives in the digital era. In this sense, the huge audiovisual production that surrounds readers cannot be ignored. The rise of streaming platforms and the desire for interaction with other users make readers to engage not only in the constant search for content, but also in the search for the multimedia experience that the e-book and its sales platforms can offer.
Unlike the printed book, the e-book and the audiobook have shown great adaptability to both, the current sanitary situation and the reader living in the digital era that is not only in the constant search for content, but also looking for a multimedia experience that can be found in the e-book and its sales platforms.
According to two recent reports on the digital publishing market, the e-book has experienced an unprecedented rise. Thus, while the e-book has grown 35% worldwide, the audiobook has increased 318%. Something similar has happened with subscription platforms, which have increased 579%. The same is true for digital libraries, which have increased by 63.7%.
Information collected from Bookwire (2020) and Libranda (2021).
Moreover, this e-book boom is not only visible in figures, but also shown in the interest of the market’s leading competitors in increasing their digital catalogs. Trip Adler (CEO of Scribd) said that this company has more than 100 000 available titles in Spanish. He also mentioned that it is worth noticing that listening to audiobooks tends to decrease during weekends, but in times of confinement it has become a practice with constant numbers all week long.
Juan Baixeras, manager of Audible (a subsidiary of Amazon) in Spain, shares that its audiobook catalog showcases 8 800 titles and expects that, by the end of 2021, such number will grow to 10 000 audiobooks. Meanwhile, Planeta Audio (powered by Grupo Planeta) intends to increase its production to 1 800 audiobooks by the end of 2021.
Undoubtedly, the digital book is experiencing significant growth due to its adaptability to recent times. While the publishing market expands its range of options for readers with modalities such as streaming platforms and digital libraries (reducing costs for the user through fixed rents), the e-book and the audiobook are not only the option to face the current health contingency, but also the spearhead in the near future of the publishing market.
Bookwire. (2020). Informe Bookwire 2020. Evolución del mercado digital (ebooks y audiolibros) en España y América Latina. Retrieved from: https://www.dosdoce.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/INFORME-BOOKWIRE-2020.pdf (May 4, 2021).
Libranda. (2021). Informe anual del libro digital 2020. Retrieved from: https://libranda.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Informe_Anual_Libro_Digital_2020.pdf (May 4, 2021).
López, Carmen. (April 22, 2021). ¿Has escuchado esta novela? El auge del audiolibro en España, en El Diario. Retrieved from: https://www.eldiario.es/cultura/has-escuchado-novela-auge-audiolibro-espana_1_7847101.html
Santoyo, Jesús. (May 2, 2021). Los audiolibros abren la puerta al mundo de los libros en México: Scribd, en Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com.mx/forbes-life/scribd-app-audiolibros-tendencia-mexico/