More and more people listen to audio books, but still, the paper book is top notch. Two current reports examine book trends in the digital society.
The book industry is changing. Digital book formats are on the rise, especially streamed audio books that can be listened to anytime and anywhere via smartphones or tablets.
However, the printed book is still the most popular format, independent of age. But there are growing differences between older and younger readers.
This is shown in two book reports from Norway and Denmark, respectively. As they both examine how many and who reads, buys or borrows books, including use of digital book services, some common trends are visible. However, as the results are based on different surveys and research questions, the statistics cannot be compared between countries.
Norway: Book consumption, libraries and reading in digital times
How do the Norwegians prefer to consume books? What digital services do they use? This is examined by BI: Center for Creative Industries in its fourth interim report from the research project Digitization and Diversity.
The report, published in January, is based on five surveys on book consumption, the National Library's digital book service, and self-publishing.
In 2018, 70 per cent of Norwegians preferred to read on paper. The audio book, in second place, was preferred by 10 per cent, and the e-book reader by 4 per cent. This can be compared to 2016, when 75 per cent preferred printed books, 7 per cent audio books and 3 per cent e-book readers.
Even though the print book is number one independent of age, there are generational differences. In the age group 70 years and older, 82 per cent prefer to read a print book, compared to 59 per cent in the age group 15–19 years.
As for the usage of streamed audio book services, such as Storytel and Fabel, it has increased from 4 to 8 per cent from 2016 to 2018. Despite the increase, the figure is low compared to other digital subscription services, which are topped by SVOD services such as Netflix and TV2 Sumo (used by 60%), online music services such as Spotify and Tidal (51%) and online newspapers (38%).
Download PDF in Norwegian (6.6 MB): Bokforbruk, bibliotek og lesing i digitale tider [Book Consumption, Libraries and Reading in Digital Times]
Denmark: Books and literature status review 2019
In Denmark, audio books are booming. This is according to the annual report from the Danish Book Panel, tasked by the Minister of Culture to follow developments in the Danish book market.
Among Danes who read fiction, two of ten (20%) listen to audio books. Nevertheless, the print book is still the most popular way to consume literature. Nine of ten (86%) readers state that they read printed books.
To read on paper is actually most common in all age groups, although to a greater extent among older people than among younger ones.
Conversely, audio books have a better hold on younger readers: 31 per cent of 25–34-year-olds who consume fictional books listen to the story, compared to 9 per cent in the age group 75 years and older.
The most common way to access fictional books is to buy a physical one (34% of the population), followed by loans from the library or from family or friends (24% and 21%, respectively). Digital subscription services such as Mofibo and Storytel are used by 8 per cent.
Production of digital audio books is also on the rise in Denmark. In 2018, some 3,800 new titles were released, an increase of 60 per cent since 2017. Lending of audio books at public libraries increased by 24 per cent.
Read more in Danish and download: Bogen og literaturens vilkår 2019 [Books and literature status review 2019]
Reading tips: Book report from Sweden and statistics from Finland
In September 2019, the Swedish Publishers Association published a report on how audio books affect the market, consumption and the future (Ljudboken: Hur den digitala logiken påverkar marknaden, konsumtionen och framtiden), which shows a rapid growth rate for digital book subscription services in Sweden. Book sales statistics 2019 were presented on 17 February 2020 in Swedish: Bokförsäljningsstatistiken - helåret 2019.
As for Finland, facts about book reading and the book market are available in Statistics Finland's databases for Culture and Media (table 4.21 on audio books) in English and Finnish, and in Statistics Finland’s Leisure Survey of 2017 (article in Finnish).
Annual book sales statistics are presented by the national publishers' associations in the Nordic countries. Find them via Nordicom's database of external statistical sources (filter Subject area - Books).