Home / Industry / Media /  Uptake of audiobooks and ebooks grows amid covid-19 pandemic

The prolonged unavailability of physical books due to covid-19 led lockdown has led to an uptake of ebooks and audiobooks. Sale of ebooks have doubled from its low base and audio books have seen a big jump from a base lower than ebooks during the post lockdown era, industry executives said.

“Even though e-book penetration in the market has been low and audiobooks as a category is just about taking off, we saw digital format sales increase during this period, more than doubling for certain genres and titles," said Niti Kumar, SVP, marketing, digital and communications, Penguin Random House India.

“New sign-ups to Kindle Unlimited increased significantly. Prime Reading, which offers hundreds of eBooks to Amazon Prime members at no additional cost, also saw increased usage. On KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), we saw significant growth in new sign-ups from Indian authors and it has also helped small publishers during these difficult times," said Amol Gurwara, Country Manager, Kindle Content India – Amazon.

To ensure that people continue to have access to books, publishers like Penguin Random House have launched many of their titles in digital version first. The publisher has also adapted publishing schedule and some of their recent launches have been e-books or audiobooks. During April, the publishing company also launched their first exclusive e-book store within the Kindle store. It carried a curated list of some of their bestselling e-books.

Audiobooks are expected to supersede ebooks as they are lot more convenient to use and allows the listener the flexibility to do something totally unrelated while listening to them at the same time.

Customers are finding new ways to incorporate audiobooks and audio content into their lifestyles, points out Shailesh Sawlani, Country Head, Audible India points. “Instead of a peak in listening during morning and evening commute, people were now listening to our content while doing chores, for early morning mindfulness, pre-bedtime relaxation, and/or short, screen-free mental health breaks throughout the work day," adds Sawlani.

Anish Chandy, Founder of Labyrinth Literary Agency feels, audiobooks might actually leapfrog ebooks. As working from home becomes a new norm, it is likely that people in India will start consuming more audiobooks.

According to industry sources, even after the lifting of the lockdown, sale of physical books is down by 80%. These are still early days and as the retail staggers back to its feet, physical books are likely to be back in vogue again. Many bookstores have received an enthusiastic response from the customers.

“Even though ebooks sales of most publishers have jumped by 100%, it is still too early to say whether the crisis will play a catalytic role in fundamentally changing how reading happens in India. At some point we will move past the virus, whether it is one year or two years down the line. Print sales will come back but in what genres we don’t know that yet," said Chandy.

The lockdown has accelerated adoption of audiobooks or ebooks by bringing many new users on board who are very unlikely to give it up so soon. Kumar points out, we will emerge with some new audiences having tried these formats and having experienced the convenience that they offer. We do see growth happening in the consumption of digital formats however, these formats will co-exist with print instead of replacing it.


Abhijit Ahaskar

Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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