First Audiobooks; Now Podiobooks

August 30, 2008 by Thad McIlroy

Audiobooks have become a respected and profitable appendage to the book publishing industry. According to the Audio Publishers Association: The Voice of the Audiobook Industry, audiobook sales were estimated at $923 million in 2006 (this year’s survey has not yet been released). The Book Industry Study Group estimates that total U.S. books sales in 2006 were nearly $36 billion, so with audiobook sales at roughly a billion dollars, the industry is nothing to sneeze at.

Achoo! Today I discovered Podiobooks, or at least I discovered www.podiobooks.com, “Free serialized audio books, delivered on your schedule.” I came to it via the Podiobooker blog, where an August 25th entry called “Scott Sigler on the future of publishing” sings praises to Mr. Sigler, who “is more than just the most successful podiobook author — he’s also a shining example of how individuals can use new media and social media to create opportunities.”

In the interview Mr. Sigler states that podiobooks “give the audience a chance to get to know you as a content creator, and as a performer, and know whether they like your stories. Then, once the audience develops that relationship and that affinity for you, then they’ll go out and buy your books, knowing that it’s going to be money well spent. They know what they’re going to get. So you’e allowing people to try it before you buy it.”

Podiobooks are free on this site (although donations are rigorously encouraged). I thought I’d look into how well Mr. Sigler’s argument translates into the world of books on paper.

Mr. Sigler’s science fiction novel “Earthcore” is rated #3 in the “list of the titles our members have voted as the best overall, sorted by the number of votes.” It is available on Amazon.com only in used editions, where it ranks as 499,098 in books. In fairness, his latest novel “Infected,” published to good reviews earlier this year, ranks 43,582 in books on Amazon.com, and the first chapter is now available as a podiobook.

Sigler’s “Bloodcast, Season 2” is #1 on Podiobooks.com’s list of “the most popular books by number of subscriptions in the last thirty days,” although it is not yet in print. The second most popular is “Darkfever” by the prolific Karen Marie Moning, rated 34,633 in books, and described thusly: “MacKayla Lane searches for her sister’s murderer in Ireland. Her only the clue is the Sinsar Dubh, a magical book. When MacKayla meets Jericho Barrons, a man with magical powers, she discovers she can sense the Faeries and other unworldly, scary creatures, including a Faerie prince who ignites her libido with some potentially offensive sex scenes.” Yet I note also that the paperback version of her more recent “Bloodfever” is rated 2,006 in books sales on Amazon. Although the results appear to favor books of science fiction, fantasy and faeries, it appears that podiobooks can help book sales after all.

As Scott Sigler further notes in his interview, “You’ve got your core story, which will be in the [physical] book. You’ll probably be having to give that away as a podcast, just to compete. But then there’s a lot of other things you can do. You can do the “back story” of your characters. You can do all kinds of background information. You can combine the extra podcast content with wiki content, with links to websites. The book sort of becomes the “gem in the tiara of entertainment,” if you will, instead of just the whole crown all by itself.”

Nice metaphor, Scott!

I don’t mean to keep twittering away on this subject, but the evidence continues to mount that book publishers (indeed all publishers) must seek to maximize the opportunities in electronic media to support their core product.

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