Audiobooks bring stories to life for all readers

Publishers Love Audio

This is a guest post by Eliza Kavanagh, Campaigns Executive at the Publishers Association.

Love Audio Week (11th to 17th June) starts today as publishers across the UK come together to promote the fast-growing audiobook sector.

Launched in 2017 by the Publishers Association’s Audio Publishers Group (chaired by Sarah Shrubb of Little, Brown), the campaign is a fine example of what the industry can achieve as a collective.

The initiative aims to raise the profile of the audiobook sector within the publishing industry and to encourage the general public to try audio for the first time. Last year, the resulting industrywide social media campaign was highly successful with a total of 1.8 million #LoveAudio tweets.

Since then, the sector has continued to capture the attention of the wider industry with highlights including this year’s Quantum Conference at which Hachette’s CEO David Shelley predicted that audiobooks would be “central to our business in five years’ time” and Nielsen reported a doubling of audiobook sales in the past five years.

With the explosion of digital platforms and the ubiquity of personal electronic devices, it has never been easier to get published digital products to consumers. Soon, digital reading experiences will be at the heart of supporting nationwide literacy as the population evolves to favour digital natives and more readers embrace digital technology.

In addition to opening up new markets for publishers, the growing availability of audiobooks allows a wider audience of readers to discover storytelling in their own way and on their own terms.

Print disabled readers across the UK have, until relatively recently, relied on special versions of books (such as large print or braille), often sourced at great cost and after considerable delay.

Though they may find it difficult or impossible to read in print (whether due to visual, physical or cognitive impairment, such as blindness or dyslexia), these readers are hungry for mainstream published products and audio is a fantastic medium to deliver this.

Research shows that audiobooks have benefits for people with dyslexia, including significantly improving reading accuracy and soothing emotional-behavioural disorders, and charities like RNIB and Listening Books work alongside publishers to deliver audiobooks to tens of thousands of readers across the UK.

So why then are audiobooks (and other digital publications, such as ebooks) subject to 20% VAT while printed products are not? It seems absurd that this innovative format—a lifeline for print disabled readers—is taxed in this way. A book is a book, however you read it.

The PA hopes that Love Audio Week will bring to the fore the growth of this sector as part of a wider narrative about the strength of the UK publishing industry, at the same time highlighting outdated legislation that penalises modern readers and those with disabilities.

If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, tell us why you #LoveAudio on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you have a print disability and want to share your story, use the #a11y and #LoveAudio hashtags in your post.

Visit the website for an exciting range of featured content, including behind-the-scenes footage, Soundcloud clips, promotions, snippets from authors and narrators, and more.