One of my earliest memories is of a castle. Turrets so tall they touched the clouds, beautiful gardens and a princess running across the lawn, her long train sweeping behind her. Why was she running? Well, she was away to do battle with a dragon (my princesses ran toward danger, you see, not away). This, of course, is a memory of my own imaginings – and the imaginings were created by my governess telling me one of her wonderful bedtime stories.
This early oral storytelling had a profound effect on me. It made me dream. It made me create my own stories. All these years later, I am sure that it is not only the many books I have read that inspire my writing career, but also – perhaps even more so – the stories I have heard.
There is such power in the spoken word. Recently, the media has been reporting on news that sales of audiobooks have surged in the past year. The Association of American Publishers reported that downloaded audio sales increased 28.7% and were worth an estimated 13.7% of publishers’ online sales. In the UK, according to figures published by the Publishers Association, audiobook sales rose by 43% to £69m last year!
Audiobooks are becoming big business, with publishers investing heavily in the recordings. The voice is everything. Actress Elisabeth Moss, who plays the heroine in the television series The Handmaid’s Tale, has voiced a new audiobook version of Margaret Atwood’s novel, while Colin Farrell has read A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce. For Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming the publisher allowed the author to read her own work, and the result has been that the audiobook is the fastest selling in Penguin’s history.
Previously, audiobooks may have been the favourite medium for the visually impaired (I imagine the blind hero of my latest novel, Concerto, listening to books while sitting in the garden of his Lake Como home). But with the growth of digital, audiobooks have opened up to a much wider audience.
Meanwhile, the news is less rosy for print books. In the UK, the Guardian reported, last year saw a fall of £168m (5.4%) in sales of print books, bringing an end to a growth trend. Still, it’s worth noting that print book sales still accounted for more than 80% of the combined print and digital UK book market.
I read print books, of course – I love print books. But I also read ebooks occasionally when that is convenient, such as when I travel between my homes in Ireland and France, and I often listen to books via Audible when I’m gardening or just relaxing.
Several of my own novels are available via Audible, if you enjoy listening to stories. You can find them here: http://www.audible.co.uk/author/Hannah-Fielding/B00SX814LK