Chris HowardMichele CobbCan you hear that?  It’s in the background everywhere you go in the book world, and it’s growing louder.

The sound comes from audiobooks, the fastest growing segment of the trade book publishing market.  OverDrive, a leading provider of digital publishing to public libraries, has recently reported a 34% rise in 2016 audiobook borrowing numbers over 2015, with The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins the most popular title.

To accommodate consumer and reader demand, audiobook production has flourished.  The US-based Audio Publishers Association says available titles grew from about 7,000 in 2011 to more than 35,000 in 2015.  Michele Cobb, APA’s executive director, says the boom in audiobooks owes its start to Apple and Amazon.

“When the iPod came out and Audible was growing, we started to see a huge surge of interest in audiobooks and listening to audiobooks,” she explains. “When we started in the industry, there were phonographs and records and all of that,  and you could only put so much material onto each record or onto each cassette or onto each CD.

“What’s nice about the digital format is that the file can be as large as you want. You don’t need to worry about abridging any of the materials; you can carry an entire book with you on a small stick or on a phone or on your computer. You have access to a larger amount of materials in a very easy-to-use format,” Cobb tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally.

The Saltwater WitchAvailability of recording tools, and easy access to distribution online, has helped spike the growth in independently produced audiobooks. Authors like Chris Howard find the investment in time and equipment affordable and enjoyable. Recently, Howard recorded and released onYouTube his narration for The Saltwater Witch, from his Seaborne Trilogy.

“I’m having a blast, and I’m now looking forward to recording the next book. Narrating an audiobook is an art.  And I think it’ll only get better from here and I want just to increase my skills to make this a quality piece of work,” Howard says enthusiastically.

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