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Publishers say lower price point is a factor in driving audiobook sales

Pictured is comedienne and author Tina Fey whose book Bossypants is one of the best-selling audiobooks available on Hachette Audio
By David Shankbone, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossypants#mediaviewer/File:Tina_Fey_3_Bossypants_2011_Shankbone.jpg

Digital online audiobook sales are on the rise thanks to lower pricing strategies, leading publishers said in a May report.

According to Publishers Weekly, audio publishers are attributing soaring physical sales to “value pricing” which many of them see as a key factor in selling new or remainder audiobooks and marketing them in nontraditional channels.

“Though price point is not the only sales driver, it is a big one,” said Anthony Goff, vice president and publisher at Hachette Audio. Hachette Audio is an award-winning publisher of audiobooks also known for enlisting celebrities, popular authors and personalities to read its selections for audio formats.

“People expect lower prices because of the pricing they’ve seen with downloads, and lower prices have driven physical sales. We were never able to compete with paperbacks until the last couple of years. Now we can,” he added.

Value pricing also plays an important role in helping audio publishers get their products out on the map. “There are still a significant number of people who have yet to try an audiobook,” Mary Beth Roche, president and publisher of Macmillan Audio, told Publishers Weekly. Macmillan Audio has been publishing and distributing audio versions of its titles since 1988.

“Downloads have brought in an amazing new range of listeners and are expanding the pool,” she enthused.

Penguin Random House Audio senior vice president and publisher Amanda D’Acierno shared the same view. “We know that when people listen to a story read by the perfect person, they’re hooked,” D’Acierno said. “We’ve spent significant marketing budgets trying to convert people, and we’re getting better at refining our marketing efforts.”

In the end, however, a “good product” still makes all the difference in driving sales. “If you are trying an audio for the first time, it must be a fantastic story with a fantastic narrator to make you want to come back,” D’Acierno explained.

Goff also stresses that while audio is clearly transforming sales in the publishing industry, “physical audio formats (i.e. CDs) are still important in capturing new listeners.”

One service that book publishers can use to leverage their pricing strategy is Audioboo, an audio-sharing social media platform owned by London-based Audioboom Group PLC (BOOM.L).

According to Audioboom’s website, the platform allows companies to widen their reach globally through mobile apps, embeddable players and Facebook and Twitter sharing. Audioboom also allows publishers to generate revenues from ads.

Publishers can use the app to share snippets of their new releases as well as authors’ narratives of their value-for-money titles. It’s one trend that musicians are also capitalizing on to sell new albums.

Research consultancy firm IBISWorld reported that the US audiobook industry is forecasted to grow by 9.0 percent to $1.6 billion in 2013. The firm added that the industry grew by 12 percent annually over a five-year period up to 2013.