Speaking of Audio: Can You Identify the 10 Types of Audiobook Listeners? (Or the Titles They'd Like to Read…)

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By Robin Whitten

As a bookseller you understand how important it is to know your customers. With audiobook listeners it is no less important, but it's probably harder for many booksellers, who may not be listeners themselves, to get a handle on who the listeners are and where they listen.

First, it's important to get over the stereotypes. Let's forget about the core customer group being blind grandmothers. Next, although cars are often the place people listen, don't get stalled by putting all listeners into a "commuter" category. Most of your customers do drive cars, but it's important to consider how diverse their interests are.

Here are some clues to customers -- and some suggestions for the audiobooks they might enjoy.

Busy Bibliophiles. There aren't enough reading hours in the day for these listeners. They love books and want to stay up to date with the New York Times bestseller lists and Book Sense selections. Whenever they can't read, they listen. Some audio titles for them might include:

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, read by Alyssa Bresnahan (Recorded Books), and
  • The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer, read by Scarlett Johansson (Random House).

Fitness Buffs. Exercise is one of the top occasions for audiobook listening. Whether on a treadmill or an exercise bike (or walking the dog), these listeners like to keep the brain happily busy while the body burns up calories. Some titles for them might include:

  • Touch the Top of the World by Eric Weihenmayer, read by Nick Sullivan (Audio Partners), and
  • It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong, read by Oliver Wyman (HighBridge Audio).

Car-Bound Commuters. Audiobooks are a sure cure for road rage. These listeners will take the long way home in order to finish an audiobook chapter. Some titles for them might include:

  • Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton (Simon & Schuster), and
  • Without Fail by Lee Child, read by Dick Hill (Brilliance Audio).

Creative Artists. Many people involved in the arts must perform certain repetitive tasks, which provide a perfect time for listening. Whether drawing, painting, sculpting, or designing, they like to occupy the left side of the brain while the right side is busy creating. Some titles for them might include:

  • Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman, read by the author (Audio Partners), and
  • The Passion of Artemesia by Susan Vreeland, read by Gigi Bermingham (HighBridge Audio).

Laid-Up Listeners. Someone recovering from illness or injury often has plenty of time and not enough to keep them interested. Audiobooks can be a lifeline. The comfort of being read to is an extra solace. Some titles for them might include:

  • Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg, read by the author (Random House), and
  • Jinxed by Carol Higgins Clark, read by the author (Simon & Schuster).

Lone Rangers. Truck drivers are a strong audience for audiobooks. And, park rangers, landscapers, and meter readers share long hours on the road or in the field without much social interaction. For them, audiobooks are friends. Some titles for these folks might include:

  • The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw, read by the author (Brilliance Audio), and
  • The Curve of the World by Marcus Stevens, read by Sean Runnette (HighBridge Audio).

Handy Homebodies. The chores of lawn mowing, laundry, vacuuming, and gardening offer entertainment time with a portable player loaded with a thriller, romance, or historical saga. Some titles for these listeners might include:

  • The Shelters of Stone by Jean Auel, read by Sandra Burr (Brilliance Audio), and
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, read by Judith Ivey (HarperAudio).

Mindful Meditators. Self-help, motivational programs, and spiritual reflection are hugely popular with listeners. These listeners may take their daily dose of solitude and comfort through their ears. Some titles for them might include:

  • Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, read by the author (New World Library), and
  • The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon, read by the author (Simon & Schuster).

Narrator Groupies. For these audiobook fans, the narrator is the thing. They seek out each new release from favorite performers. If George Guidall were reading the phone book, they'd want to reserve a copy. Some titles for them might include:

  • The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman, read by George Guidall (HarperAudio), and
  • Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard, read by Frank Muller (HarperAudio),

Story Lovers. Many of us have never forgotten the pleasure of being read to as a child. Whatever the subject, listening for the pure and simple joy of hearing a story is a perfect ending to the day. Some titles for these folks might include:

  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, performed by a full cast (Random House), and
  • Summerland by Michael Chabon, read by the author (HighBridge Audio).

Keep in mind that listeners' interests often run parallel to their reading habits. So, if you know the books that interest your customer, make sure appropriate choices in audiobooks are close by.

Robin Whitten is editor and founder of AudioFile: The Audiobook Review. Bimonthly issues cover audiobook news, features, and reviews. Check it out at www.audiofilemagazine.com. Comments and questions welcome at [email protected].

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