Karl Berglund delivered an insightful presentation at Audio Day PARIX, organised by Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez, discussing the evolving landscape of audiobooks, particularly in the context of streaming services. His presentation was based on his recent book titled “Reading Audio Readers: Book Consumption in the Streaming Age”, published by Bloomsbury Press.


Overview of audiobook trends

Berglund began by highlighting the significant growth of audiobooks, particularly in Nordic countries such as Sweden. In 2022, while 24 million print books were sold, a staggering 45 million audiobooks were streamed in Sweden alone. This trend underscores a notable shift towards audiobooks as a primary medium for literary consumption, supported largely by subscription-based streaming services like Storytel.

Central to Berglund’s presentation was the influence of subscription models on consumer behaviour and reading patterns. He emphasized that these platforms not only provide extensive catalogues accessible via smartphones but also gather substantial user data. This data includes detailed information on reading habits, which Berglund accessed for his research, illustrating specific user behaviours and preferences.

Berglund discussed genre preferences among audiobook listeners, noting a strong inclination towards popular fiction genres such as crime and romance. He introduced the concept of Average Finishing Degree (AFD), indicating that crime fiction typically achieves higher completion rates compared to literary fiction. This data-driven insight suggests potential implications for publishers’ decisions in selecting genres for publication.

Another significant aspect of Berglund’s presentation was the temporal analysis of audiobook consumption. This was an aspect that drew a lot of attention from the audience in the event and triggered many questions. He categorised users into distinct temporal groups: day readers, night readers, and evening readers. This segmentation revealed diverse listening habits, indicating that audiobook consumption spans throughout the day, unlike the more concentrated evening peaks observed with ebooks.

Berglund highlighted several unique reading practices observed through his research. He identified three distinct groups of readers: repeaters, swappers, and constant readers. Repeater users, for instance, exhibit a tendency to repeatedly listen to specific titles, often for relaxation or sleep. Swappers, on the other hand, quickly sample multiple books before settling on one, reflecting shorter attention spans in digital reading environments.


Implications for the publishing industry

In concluding his presentation, Berglund raised critical questions about the nature of audiobook consumption and its classification as a form of reading. He stressed that the abundance of user data and the pay-per-minute model used by streaming services are reshaping publishing decisions. Publishers are increasingly leveraging this data to refine their offerings and enhance user engagement, thereby shaping future trends in book publishing.

Karl Berglund’s presentation provided valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of audiobook consumption driven by streaming services and subscription models. This was one of the first presentations during the first event celebrated in Spain on the audio format for the publishing industry.

For many of the publishing professionals who attended the presentation some of the most relevant information were linked to his research highlighting the deep impact of data-driven insights on understanding reader behaviour and shaping the future of the publishing industry.

As audiobooks continue to gain popularity globally, this kind of research can offer a compelling framework for professionals in both the audiobook and broader publishing sectors to consider.

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The strength of Berglund’s presentation at Audio Day PARIX is that this comprehensive exploration of audiobook trends is supported by empirical research and data analysis, making it essential reading for anyone involved in the evolving landscape of digital literature consumption.

The rise of audiobooks and audio formats is significantly impacting the publishing industry in various ways.

It is very difficult to deny the surge in audiobook consumption. For instance, in Sweden, 2022 saw 45 million audiobooks streamed compared to 24 million print books sold. This new situation indicates a broader trend towards audio formats as a preferred medium for consuming literature.

Also, the primacy of subscription models -where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to vast catalogues- over other forms of accessing to content is transforming how literary IP is consumed and monetised. If this model encourages higher consumption rates would provide consistent revenue streams for publishers.

Another fact that should be considered is that streaming services collect far-reaching user data, offering unprecedented insights into reader behaviour. This data may include detailed metrics such as the time spent on books, completion rates, and listening patterns, enabling more targeted and data-driven publishing strategies, as Belgrund explained during his presentation. The granular user data provided by streaming services allows publishers to make more informed decisions regarding which books to publish, how to market them, and how to structure narratives to maintain listener engagement. This shift towards data-driven strategies marks a significant change in the traditional publishing model.

Another concept used by Belgrund was the Average Finishing Degree (AFD), which shows that crime fiction has the highest completion rates among audiobook listeners. This metric influences which books publishers may choose to invest in and may mean some kind of prioritisation of certain genres and narratives with higher engagement levels.

Finally, from the perspective of the European organisations which are working in the field of reading promotion the audiobook surge is something that must be seriously considered. For instance, audiobook consumption is heavily twisted towards popular genre fiction, especially crime and romance. From the industry point of view this genre preference impacts publishing decisions, with a potential increase in investments towards popular genres to maximize listener engagement and revenue. But, from the viewpoint of researches and reading promoters the rise of audiobooks has created new behaviours and that is a situation that should be included in the reports. Some new trends in behaviour such as ‘repeaters’ who listen to the same book multiple times, and ‘swappers’ who frequently sample different books before committing highlights the flexibility and varied use cases of audiobooks compared to print formats and that listening and reading are different activities.