Audiobook snobbery: not seen as the same as reading a book

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 18, 2016, 10:59 AM GMT+0

New YouGov research on audiobook listening habits finds most people consider listening to an audiobook to be inferior to reading it

We all start off life listening to books rather than reading them. But whether it is at home on a parent's knee or at school sat cross legged around a teacher, before too long the voices stop as we make the transition to reading books for ourselves.

However, with the rise first of MP3 players and subsequently smartphones, the capacity to have books read to us - in the form of audiobooks - is greater than ever before. But how many people are actually taking up the offer? And in any case, is listening to an audiobook actually as good as having read it?

The majority of the public seem to look down their nose at audiobooks. More than half of people (55%), say that listening to an audiobook is a lesser way of consuming the book than having actually visually read it. Just 10% of people believe that listening to a book is the same as having read it, whilst a further 5% believe that listening to a book is actually better than having read the book.

Perhaps because of this perception, very few people actually listen to audiobooks. More than eight in ten people (83%) say that they never listen to audiobooks, whilst just 6% say they listen to them at least once a month.

Audiobook listeners don’t get through many audiobooks either – half say that they have listened to between just one and five in the past year. A further 14% have listened to between six and ten over the last year, whilst the heaviest users – those who have listened to 11 or more audiobooks – account for just 9% of audiobook listeners.

The most popular place for people to listen to audiobooks was at home, with 43% of audiobook listeners saying they did this. Other popular locations for audiobook listening were in the car (24%) and whilst on holiday (20%).

In terms of the devices people listen to audiobooks on, usage is very diverse. Smartphones are the most popular device people use to listen to audiobooks at 30%, whilst a quarter of people listen on a computer or laptop, and a further 19% listen on a tablet or using the sound system in their car.

Photo: The Preiser Project

See the full results here