The International Audio Book Market
Whereas an approximate 25,000 titles from 400 publishers are available for delivery in Germany and 700 to 800 new releases are published each year, audio books do not enjoy equally comparable numbers in all languages.
Apart from the highly-developed German market, the British and American audio book market is widely diversified. An estimated 35,000 English titles are available in Europe and about 5,000 titles in Russian and French. Italy and Poland are gradually developing their audio book markets and currently offer about 500 titles each. While Spanish-language audio books are in high demand, there are only 300 titles to date, predominantly from Latin America. The Scandinavian audio book market has meanwhile developed fairly uniformly across the entire region with 500 titles each in Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish. But at less than 50 to 100 titles, many other audio book markets are still in their infancy.
There are considerable differences between the individual audio book markets. In France, audio books are priced much higher than they are in Germany – they are seen as cultural assets and this is reflected in their prices. The French market offers more fiction, poetry, scientific lectures and stage plays as audio books, but fewer science fiction and fantasy titles. The volume of non-fiction, self-help and specialist books is much greater among the English audio books than in the German market.
English, Russian and French titles are predominately unabridged versions while Germany tends to focus more on the opposite – more abridged audio books.
The Russian market is virtually devoid of audio CDs as Russian publishers switched directly over to the MP3-CD after the audio cassette. Almost everywhere else, the share of MP3-CDs is much higher than it is in Germany where it would appear the advantages of this format have not yet been realized. Yet in Israel and the Arab countries, audio cassettes have remained very popular. In contrast, the main segment in Germany for which audio cassettes are still produced is children’s audio books.
Foreign audio books are a rare sight in the German-speaking book trade. When they can be found at all, it is usually as a limited selection of English or sometimes French titles – but mainly as audio books of titles published by German publishers in foreign languages. Supply channels are forbidding, especially because it is very hard to track down audio book publishers in other countries. Curiously enough, we send Spanish audio books to Spain because so few local bookshops there seem to carry them.