How Colleges & Universities Are Leveraging the Rise in Audiobook Popularity

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While overall circulation of digital materials has seen steady growth over the past several years, audiobooks in particular showcase an impressive spike. Checkouts of audiobooks from OverDrive’s academic library network have risen an average of 41 percent every year since 2012. That trend is expected to continue in 2019.

According to data from the Audio Publishers Association (APA), audiobook consumption among younger listeners continues to grow:

  • 51 percent of frequent listeners are between 18-44
  • 50 percent of Americans age 12 or older have listened to an audiobook

Audiobooks are becoming more mainstream, and as younger listeners discover the benefits of listening to a book, they’re going to arrive on campus looking for audiobooks from their academic library.


For Paul Huffman, a librarian at Lindenwood University (MO), audiobooks just make sense on a busy college campus. Athletes in particular benefit from audiobooks because they can listen while working out, making them “a perfect fit for the students’ needs and time limits,” he said.

Lindenwood’s faculty and staff also love having access to digital audiobooks.

“We’re a suburb of St. Louis,” Huffman said, “and a lot of our professors live elsewhere in the city, so some of them have 20-30 minute drives. A couple even have hour drives. When they’re driving, they don’t have the ability to grade papers or read a physical book, so the audiobooks come in really handy for the commuters.”


The rise in audiobook usage can be directly tied to the flexibility and freedom they provide readers. Findings from the APA indicate that 81 percent of audiobook listeners enjoy the format because audiobooks allow them to multitask, and 75

percent like that audiobooks are portable.

For listeners, audiobooks are just another method of reading, and the majority read in multiple formats: 83 percent read a physical book over the past 12 months and 73 percent read an ebook.

Because audiobooks allow readers to read on the go, it increases the amount of books they can consume in a given year, and 57 percent of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”

On a college campus, audiobooks provide an alternative to traditional physical books. Audiobooks accommodate multiple learning styles and mean more titles are available to students with visual impairments. Audiobooks can also be sped up or down, allowing students to listen at their own pace.

Audiobook popularity is only going to continue to increase, making now the perfect time for academic libraries to invest in building a collection that will increase circulation numbers, supplement the course curriculum and provide student satisfaction.


Invest in Simultaneous Use audiobooks. These select titles are available to students without wait lists or holdsCurate Simultaneous Use titles into an “Available Now” collection on your digital library homepageFeature one Simultaneous Use audiobook title weeklyConsider Cost Per Circ (CPC) and only pay for what users borrowPromote your audiobook collection using print-ready and digital marketing materials available on the OverDrive Resource CenterSave staff time by having your OverDrive team help you with purchasing and curation