Turning up the volume on audiobooks: Increases in listening across the Australian and UK markets

Who doesn’t love a way to entertain yourself while commuting, doing housework or on a long car journey with kids? Audiobooks have been increasing in popularity, and Nielsen BookData has investigated the who, how and why of audiobook listeners in both the UK and Australia. Part of our focus has been on when and why people first began listening to audiobooks. 

The number of new UK audiobook consumers has been growing for several years, and continued to grow in 2021, with 45% reporting entering the market within the previous 12 months, and a quarter starting to use audiobooks within the last six months. In the Australian market, 2020 research revealed that the newest recruits were also the largest portion of audiobook consumers, with almost 40% entering the market within the previous twelve months.  

Looking at why people first buy audiobooks, pre-pandemic research in Australia from early 2020 found curiosity was the most popular driver to first try audiobooks with close to a third of consumers selecting it. A high volume of other options were not far behind, such as recommendations, free introductory offers and the ability to multitask. Moving to 2021, the UK’s audiobook consumers had a similar top ten list of motivating factors, with a notable addition – keeping busy in COVID-19 lockdown. One in four of the UK consumers trying audiobooks for the first time in the last 12 months were driven to do so by lockdown, with one in five trying them to keep entertained during lockdown and one in ten doing do for self-improvement.  

There are interesting contrasts across the two markets when looking at reasons for first trying audiobooks, with several factors reported as being more important to Australian consumers. Having heard an extract of an audiobook was an influence for 16% of Australian consumers compared to 10% of UK consumers. Seeing/hearing about audiobooks at public libraries was a factor for 13% of Australians but only 7% of UK consumers. These differences could stem from COVID-19 lockdowns affecting library usage in the UK’s 2021 research (2019 UK research had libraries as a factor for 10% of consumers) as well as reflect a decline in physical audiobooks.  

The 2022 Nielsen Understanding the Australian Audiobook Consumer report will be released later this year, allowing trends in the Australian audiobook market to be compared across pre and post pandemic life. For more information on purchasing the report please reach out at or register your interest via this form.