Jan 29, 2019

The changing ways Americans read books

Photo: Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

In the era of on-demand video, consumers are still looking to engage with feature stories, mostly by listening to audiobooks, or in some cases by reading them through an app.

Why it matters: Like any traditional medium, books have needed to evolve in the digital era to meet consumers where they are. The popularity of books in digital formats speaks to a willingness from users to engage with written stories, even when the options are endless for them to consume videos or music more passively.

Driving the news: Scribd, one of the first digital subscription reading services (think of it like a digital library), announced Monday that it that had more than one million paying subscribers globally.

  • It launched its unlimited subscription plan last year for $8.99 a month and says it has since grown its subscriptions over 40% year over year.
  • It's seen an 100% increase in audio users over the course of 2018, with more people on its platform listening to audiobooks than ever before.

Audiobooks is the fastest-growing sector within the book publishing industry, according to The Association of American Publishers.

  • The latest consumer study conducted by Edison Research for the Audio Publishers Association estimates that audiobook sales have experienced double-digit growth for six years year-over-year.
  • Amazon-owned Audible, unsurprisingly, is driving a large chunk of that growth. It's one of the biggest producers and retailers of audiobooks via a subscription service, with over 400,000 titles. The company says members downloaded almost 2 billion hours of content in 2016.
  • Amazon-rival Google launched an audiobook product last year called Google Play Books that does not require a subscription.

Yes, but: The rise of audiobooks could be eating at the growth of eBooks, which decreased in sales by 4.8% in the first six months of 2018, per the American Publishers Association.

  • Still, the number of Americans who say they read eBooks has slightly increased over the past six years, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • And very few Americans say they consume digital books exclusively. Most digital book consumers say they also read regular books, per Pew.

1 fun thing: Although not derived from books necessarily, storytelling chat apps are also growing. Chat-fiction apps like "Yarn" and "Hooked" have grown in popularity over the past few years, particularly amongst teen audiences.

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