Book podcasts and audio books a new growth area: Bologna Book Fair Conference

Audio books are becoming the next booming segment in the expanding audio industry.

Now that audio books are available on a wide range of platforms, side by side with streaming music, live radio and podcasts, the field is opening for audio books.

Once the preserve of online public library services and paid book platforms such as Audible, audio books can now be found on apps such as Spotify, ABC Listen and other platforms where the publishers own audio book rights along with their other audio rights.

Attendees at one of the world’s largest book publishing trade exhibitions, the Bologna Book Fair heard how audio books, podcasts discussing books and book fandom podcasts are booming.

“Podcasts are helping to sell books and they are creating their own revenue stream as well,” publishers told the trade conference that accompanies the exhibition.

Quoting the example of Spotify, speakers in the audio strand of the conference discussed how audiences are finding it easy to navigate between podcasts in one area of the app and audio books in another.

Zebralution is one company that is working with publishers to monetise audio books.  Zebralution accompanies artists, creatives, publishers and labels along their entire value chain by offering a worldwide distribution network, competent consulting, as well as solutions for production, marketing and analysis.

“Now is the time to do it… there has been a real increase in the area in the last couple years,” said Ailish Jung, Zebralution’s Head of Publisher Management.

Serialised content works particularly well for both children and adult audiences, it keeps them coming back to the platform and keeps demand high for the author and series titles.

“The genres and trends that are performing well are: serialised content, romance, crime and kids. Non-fiction, especially if it is related to high school graduation studies is also in demand.

“If you are distributing your audio books via subscription, keep in mind who is the real audience. For kids books is it really parents? For Young Adult or high school non-fiction texts, who will pay for the subscription, will it be a gift from parents or grand parents? Be sure to know the audience who will buy your product and market to them,” she said

Audio book publishers for young children are also getting excited about the audio devices that kids can hear their products on.

These four speakers in a session titled Global Opportunities for Audio Players, proudly displayed their audio devices, all designed to appeal to kids of different ages, from baby-pink colours and animal designs for young children to radio-like players for young adults. Giving children, especially young children, audio devices encourages them to think and imagine without getting them addicted to screens at too early an age.

Marketing tips for audio books include:

  1. Make audio ads and put them on the audio platforms where the potential audience is already listening to radio, music and podcasts
  2. If it is a podcast about books, make it a series and schedule regular podcast episode releases to coincide with your other book marketing plan
  3. Integrate podcast and audio stream advertising with your press release schedule
  4. Bundle some extra material in the podcasts to talk about other titles that you publish that may interest the audience
  5. Take extra care in your podcasts to get correct metadata enrichment, be consistent with your key words and tagging across your audio and all your other digital advertising so that your prospects will see the message consistently enough to become aware of your title and then buy it
  6. Make sure the artwork is consistent across all your platforms, including the tiles for the audio properties



The effect of AI on publishing was also on the agenda.

“Language is how we transmit our knowledge to future generations, so we have to be aware of how we are using it,” said Sam Minelli in a session about using AI tools for book and audio publishing.

While the new AI tools are useful for many aspects of publishing, they depend on two key elements, the ingested data that the tool has learnt on and the type of output needed. Large Language Learning Models (LLMs) can generate plausible content, but if it is based on flawed data or there is not enough data, then the AI can make up false information to complete the expected syntax.

“If data is not controlled for quality it can hallucinate. It is a predictive machine, it works by predicting the next words it has been taught should come next, based on probability and syntax.”

Human language is one of our “most important original tools,” said Minelli, urging people to reflect on how much they may be giving away their knowledge to open systems when they should really be keeping their work in closed systems that Open AI cannot learn from. AI cannot replicate the creativity or the subtlety of meaning within human language at the present time.

Generative AI and language synthesis tools are speeding up the time that books take to get from the page to the ear or the screen. A book can be read and/or translated into new languages much faster now with digital tools. Turning a book into a tv series used to take about 5 years, now it is much quicker using AI.

The founder of Shimmr AI, Searsha Sadek, talked about bringing books into the light with advertising that drives sales of your whole catalogue, through continuously self-optimising campaigns.

Other AI tools demonstrated include:

  • Text to Music and Audio – write an opera

  • Image to text – character description

This last tool was demonstrated by inserting a picture of the session moderator into the image to text engine and asking it to produce a character description for a novel. It came up with this description:


The worlds of publishing and audio are converging with the growth of audio books and the interaction of artificial intelligence with publishing. How it will change the audio industry is unknown, but one thing was agreed by all at the conference, there will be a range of new jobs in this field in the future for producers, audio editors, AI specialists and content creators.


Tags: | | | |