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Audio Books Taking Greater Market Share

Audio book apps are finding greater popularity among the young, although content may need to be improved

By Zhang Qingchen Updated May.8

The reading model has been evolved from paper books to e-books and finally to audio book apps, but while listening to books brings convenience and saves commuters’ time, not everyone is sold on the concept, according to the China News Service.  

With the relentless onslaught of information being delivered online or through smartphones, the hundreds of thousands of new books published every year and a daily diet of entertainment and news across social media, it seems that people need more handy ways to sort the wheat from the chaff, and audio books are filling the requirement.  

One millennial student praised audio books, as it relieves the eyes when people spend so much time staring at screens, and providers will always recommend some classics and must-read books, which helps people choose.

Based on the 15th national survey of reading habits, conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, 22.8 percent of adults listen to audio books, an increase of 5.8 percent compared to 2016. The proportion of under-18s who listen to books is also high, with 28.4 percent of teenagers aged from 14 to 17 preferring audio books.    

As to whether the audio book model is profitable, a manager at Ximalaya FM, the country's top audio content platform, who asked not to be named, said that audio books have wide market appeal.   

Xu Shenguo, head of the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, said that audio books mean lower prices for consumers, and it is convenient to produce content. But, as a new sector, Xu warned the content should be rich and that there should be regulations to manage it. 

Some readers are not sold on audio books. One reader said that he prefers paper books, since some audio books do not have complete comments and some details are cut, so people cannot access the full book.