“Every two years, the Research team at BookNet Canada releases an insightful report on audiobook use amongst Canadians. For this year’s report, we have collected data from 500 English-speaking adult audiobook listeners.

There’s no doubt that audiobooks are becoming more popular among readers. From our Canadian Leisure & Reading Study 2020 we learned that 49% of respondents had listened to at least one audiobook during 2019. In fact, 26% of respondents said they listen to audiobooks at least once a week. And if we look at book buying behaviour, audiobooks represented 5% of all book purchases in 2019, an increase of 34% since 2018.

Join us as we dive into the highlights of the Press Play: Audiobook Use in Canada 2020 report. Which is free, by the way!

Who’s listening?

For comparison purposes we divided listeners into categories according to the amount of audiobooks they reported having listened to in the past year.

Listener type Number of audiobooks listened to in 2019 %
Light 1-5 58%
Moderate 6-11 26%
Frequent 12-49 13%
Avid 50+ 3%

How often and when do they listen?

In terms of frequency, we were glad to see that while in 2018 only 7% of listeners said they listen daily, in 2020 we find that 24% of listeners listen to audiobooks daily or more than once a day. The largest share of listeners (30%) report having listened to an audiobook at least once a week, 17% do so once a month, and 15% once a day.

When comes to activities while listening to audiobooks, we learned that 37% of respondents are usually commuting while listening to audiobooks, 37% do housework — could listening to a good book make washing dishes more fun? — 26% go for a walk, 24% work on a hobby, but that 38% dedicate their whole attention to listening to the audiobook.

Discovering audiobooks

Recommendations continue to be popular when it comes to finding which books to listen to (36%). These suggestions might come from friends, librarians, bookstore staff, or internet/social media. Reading or listening to other books by the same author was the second most popular way of discovering audiobooks (30%). And 17% of listeners said they listened to an audiobook because they also read either the print or ebook version of the same book.

When it comes to ease of finding specific titles, 66% of respondents said they usually find the book they want in audiobook format, only 6% of listeners said they have difficulty finding the titles they would like to listen to.

Acquiring audiobooks

How are listeners getting their audiobooks?

  • 38% download or stream audiobooks using apps/online for free

  • 34% buy online from a store/retailer (this was slightly higher in 2018 at 49%)

  • 40% borrow audiobooks from a public library in both digital and physical formats

    • According to OverDrive, the circulation of audiobooks in Canadian libraries increased 32% between 2018 and 2019.

  • 69% of listeners aged 18 to 24 pay for their audiobooks

  • 31% acquire their audiobooks through subscription services

When we combine channels that have both physical and digital options, we find that Amazon (Audible and Amazon physical formats) tops the list with 51%, followed by the library at 48% offering physical and digital formats.

Smartphone use for listening to audiobooks has increased from 45% in 2016 to 67% in 2020. Smartphones are perhaps so widely preferred as they allow the listener to enjoy their favourite audiobook while engaging in other activities such as walking, commuting, or doing house work.

Reaching these listeners

Reaching audiobook listeners on social media, more specifically on YouTube might be the way to go. When asked about social media, the majority of listeners report using YouTube most frequently — perhaps that’s tied to our other finding that 37% of listeners get their audiobooks from this platform — Facebook takes the second place, followed by Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. YouTube and Facebook are more popular with listeners over 45 and perhaps unsurprisingly, younger listeners, those 18 and 24, use Snapchat more than their older counterparts.

Other highlights

  • 25% of respondents listened audiobooks in a language other than English. Of this group, 41% listen in French, 15% Mandarin, 12% Spanish, 10% Cantonese.

  • 72% of listen to adult Fiction titles and 61% listen to adult Non-Fiction (respondents could select more than one subject).

  • 11% of respondents said that they have read the same book in different formats (audiobook and print/ebook).

  • Listeners who exclusively prefer audiobooks over any other format increased from 5% in 2018 to 11% in 2020.

  • 82% of listeners aged 18 to 24 buy digital audiobooks, 37% of listeners over 65 prefer physical audiobooks.

  • 26% of respondents said they spent between $26 to $50 on audiobooks during the prior year.

  • 27% of listeners said they like when there’s music and sound in their audiobooks.

  • A staggering 88% of audiobook listeners also listen to podcasts.

See all the results and learn so much more from the full report.:”