There are only three kinds of people in the world:
- Those that like audio books
- Those that don't
- (and by far the largest) those that have never tried one
The reason for the market failure is historic. Audio books traditionally generate very little revenue to the author. She gets a royalty on a royalty on a small sales base. Not worth the time to promote. Add to that the huge hassle of keeping a large number of titles in stock at a retailer and throw in the high price required by producing many CDs or cassette tapes per title, and you see the problem.
Here's the thing, though: In my experience, audio book listeners are ten times more likely to drop me email or talk about what they heard than book readers. Part of it is the entertaining nature of the presentation, I think (I probably talk better than I write) and part of it is the nature of the experience--it's going into a different part of your brain.
Anyway, digital media, as in so many other areas, changes everything. First, authors are getting smarter about what rights they preserve. Second, digital media has no inventory problem. The Long Tail rules. If you've got an MP3 player, you probably have an iPod, which probably means you have access to the iTunes store. There's a ton of audiobooks there. And audible.com (among others) which pioneered the field, has a huge catalog.
You can even set your iPod to speed up the spaces between the words so you can hear the whole thing faster.
The biggest problem that I see is that the prices are still way too high (because of the legacy of the 6 CD set). An audiobook should cost $3 or $4, imho.
Nine of my books are now available as audio books. You can find them all here.