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Audiobooks Gain Podcast Popularity, Bolster Book Sales

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May 10 – May 17, 2007 Edition

Audiobooks Gain

Podcast Popularity,

Bolster Book Sales

NEW YORK, NY/5/8/2007­The publishing industry’s sudden rush to video and audio promotion can be seen everywhere in the U.S. and abroad. One example was this week’s announcement of Simon & Schuster’s new video channel. A slightly different approach to rich media for books is seen in author Mignon Fogarty’s short audio version of her new book that won’t be published by Henry Holt in print until next year. The author rushed out the video version and hosted the audiobook on a podcast called Grammar Girl. After she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Fogarty’s audiobook climbed to the top oni Tunes’ bestselling books list.

A number of publishers are taking a renewed interest in audiobooks as a fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive way to get titles into the marketplace and create interest in print versions. Fogarty’s book hadn’t been published when the Oprah show scheduled her for an appearance. Two days after she returned from Chicago to record the Oprah segment, Fogarty had recorded a short version of her book and sent it to Audible.com for distribution on its own site and on iTunes. According to media reports, about 100,000 people a week download her free podcasts, which are five-minute tips on cleaning up one’s writing. The podcast then offers users the ability to download the whole audio book for $4.95.

While an audiobook would typically appear after print publication, Fogarty has turned the tables and created buzz for her book in a matter of hours. Concerns that releasing audio versions of books too early could hurt book sales, have been disproven by other experiments from a growing number of large publishers, including Warner Books. In late May, Simon & Schuster will release You: On a Walk, an original audiobook by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, the authors of the wildly popular You: On a Diet book. S&S has also recently published an audio-only version of Stephen King reading his stories. Far from hurting sales, the audiobooks seem to be helping to push product from major authors and some newcomers too.

Ms. Anderson of Audible called the alternative format “a great way to bring a new audience in” for popular works. “It helps to have a steady stream of product from major authors so we have something to sell between their big books,” she said.