Why Are Audiobooks so Expensive

Even committed book lovers regularly question why audiobooks are so expensive.

Why is this?

We’ll be exploring this issue briefly today so you can get to the bottom of this disproportionately expensive pricing once and for all.

Why Are Audiobooks So Expensive?

You may look at an audiobook and ask yourself how a simple collection of audio files commands a higher price tag than a large physical book, and substantially higher in the case of e-books.

Perhaps you’re thinking that since there’s no need to print hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of copies, this medium should be cheaper rather than more expensive.

The primary reason for the discrepancy in pricing between audiobooks and either printed books or e-books comes down to two simple words: production costs.

The average audiobooks costs $300 to $400 for each unfinished hour. A reasonably short 12-hour audio book would cost from $3600 to almost $5000 to produce.

There are many variables that can impact production costs, mainly the status of the narrator. Famous actors don’t come cheap, and a star onboard can easily skyrocket these costs.

Why is it that these costs mount to such an extent, then?

Why Are Audiobook Production Costs So High?

Where a regular book or an e-book involves the author alone, making an audiobook takes a large team of professionals.

The narrator needs to be paid, and this often eats up a large chunk of the overall costs, especially if the narrator is a celebrity.

Beyond this, there are recording engineers, mastering engineers, and audiobook editors who all play a costly but crucial role in production.

We’ll look now at how the overall cost of an audiobook typically breaks down.

6 Reasons Why Audiobooks Are So Expensive

  1. Good narrators don’t come cheap
  2. A skilled team of professionals is needed
  3. Audiobooks are lengthy
  4. Audiobooks don’t sell in large volumes
  5. There are royalties due to the publisher and to Audible
  6. The promotional costs need recouping

1) Good narrators don’t come cheap

The quality of the narration will make or break an audiobook.

A great narrator will bring the story vividly to life. Anything less than that will result in an underwhelming listener experience. Ask yourself when was the last time you continued listening to a story for 10 hours or more unless you engaged with the narrator.

With high-profile audiobooks, the cost often extends to hiring a celebrity narrator. This drives the production costs up further.

Many audiobooks require multiple narrators, introducing a new layer of complexity and costs.

2) A skilled team of professionals is needed

The team may revolve around the narrator, but there are other key roles that need fulfilling to produce a great audiobook.

Audio engineers at an editing studio will record and edit the audiobook, but this doesn’t come cheap.

Quality control is pleasingly high with audiobooks. ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange) is a robust marketplace connecting publishers of audiobooks with authors, narrators, agents, and rights holders. The Audible-owned platform has rigorous technical requirements for audio quality, keeping the bar high for listeners. At the same time, though, this drives costs higher.

Editors and mastering engineers are vital to ensure the finished product is smooth, seamless, and worthy of sale on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

3) Audiobooks are lengthy

Even when publishers and authors make every effort to keep the costs of an audiobook down, it’s not always possible.

Audible has a pricing band structure based on the length of the audiobook. While this should be good news for the consumer, it also means pricing is not within the control of the publisher. If, for example, a publisher wanted to start with a low price to encourage sales volume of the long audiobook of a new author, this isn’t possible.

Here’s a glimpse at that pricing structure:

  • Less than 1 hour: Below $7
  • 1 to 3 hours: $7 to $10
  • 3 to 5 hours: $10 to $20
  • 5 to 10 hours: $15 to $25
  • 10 to 20 hours: $20 to $30
  • Over 20 hours: $25 to $35

4) Audiobooks don’t sell in large volumes

If you look at the sales volume of the most popular audiobooks out there, you might be impressed.

Normally, though, these are books recorded by established authors with large fanbases. The vast majority of audiobooks don’t sell in great numbers.

With 50,000 audiobooks published each year in the US, it’s often a challenge to even recoup the production costs of an audiobook, never mind make a profit. This is just one more variable responsible for the high relative price of this form of media.

5) There are royalties due to the publisher and to Audible

With a regular book, the author typically gets no more than 10% in royalties.

Contrast this with audiobooks. Firstly, there is a large chunk payable to ACX when the company covers production costs. This share to Audible can be as much as 60% to 80%. The remaining 20% to 40% goes the author.

6) The promotional costs need recouping

All books, whether physical books, e-books, or audiobooks, need some form of promotion and marketing. Aside from the very occasional word-of-mouth sensation, almost all successful audiobooks are heavily promoted. They need to be in such a crowded landscape.

Part of the price sticker factors in the need to recoup these costs.

So, how can you get around paying such high prices for audiobooks, then?

Get a Better Deal with Audiobooks With a Membership Plan

You may be perturbed by the large share being seized by Audible, but that’s invariably the result of any monopoly. Until more service providers enter the fray, this is unlikely to change.

So, rather than expending your energy fighting a pricing model you can’t influence, what can you do instead?

Well, investing in an Audible membership brings the price per unit down to a much more manageable level.

And here’s the thing…

This is the elephant in the room when it comes to answering the question “Why are audiobooks so expensive.” In many ways, the off-the-shelf price of a single audiobook is deliberately high in order to encourage consumers into recurring monthly membership plans. This, after all, is one of the easiest and most lucrative business models and one employed by most big tech companies. Audible is not different.

The good news is, you can capitalize on this by complying as intended. Whatever you feel about the tactics used to get new members, the end result of Audible membership is a cost-effective of enjoying spoken books.

You get things started with a free Audible trial. You’ll get a free audiobook when you do so.

Once this trial ends, you may decide it’s not for you. Cancellation is straightforward.

More likely, though, you’ll decide to proceed with a membership plan. For this, you’ll need to sign up through your Amazon account – Audible is now an Amazon-owned company.

Each month, you’ll get one Audible credit. You use this to purchase audiobooks. You can buy more credits, and you can also buy books on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Once you’ve purchased an audiobook, you can listen to it across all your devise from phone and tablet to laptop, desktop, or Alexa device.

On the first Friday of each month, Audible members can download any two of the six Audible Originals. These do not cost any credits, and the titles are yours to keep.

You’ll own all the books in your library, and you can keep them if you cancel your subscription. The same cannot be said for similar streaming services like Spotify or Netflix.

Should you choose to cancel at any time, you won’t need to jump through any hoops to do so.

Each Friday, you’ll find Audible deals with a variety of books discounted.

Membership Pricing

While the trial is free, you’ll need to input your credit card details.

Monthly subscription fees start at $14.95. This entitles you to one credit each month.

There’s no contract, no commitment, and you cancel easily at any time.

If you pay annually for this standard Gold plan, it’s $149.50.

Upgrade to the Platinum plan and you’ll get two monthly credits for $22.95 monthly, or $229.50 annually.

Audible Channels is an optional add-on at $4.95 monthly.

Amazon Prime members can use Audible at no extra charge. The only limitation is being pegged to a c collection of 50 books.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still not convinced about audiobooks, why not check out some of our e-readers so you can curl up with a good book the old-fashioned way, even if the book is digital not physical.

Bookmark PickMyReader for all your e-reading needs and be sure to come back soon. We’ve got plenty of content coming your way over the coming weeks so see you soon!

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