Audio, Paper, E: is one of these things not like the others?

Audio, Paper, E: is one of these things not like the others?

It seems obvious to me: e-books are like p-books (paperbooks). Despite how much some literati looked down on them (as they did on paperbacks, once upon a time), they are really largely the same thing…you are reading words.

Eventually, they may diverge more, as e-books become more interactive. We do see that now, to some extent. You may, for example, choose to read a more complex book as an e-book, because it is easier to look things up if you get lost. Some e-books have audio/visual content.

I was talking about Game of Thrones with a family member yesterday, and I said I could imagine a time where you could choose a particular character, and follow a set of events through their perspective. Then, Rashomon style, you could go back and follow somebody else, if you wanted, through the same events (or at least the same time frame). Yes, that seems possible to me.

Audiobooks, I would think, appeal to a different audience…so I would expect the top titles between e-books and p-books to be pretty similar, and the audiobook list to be different. That’s just my initial hypothesis. I know, of course, that e-book exclusives will change the e and p lists. Even when a book is available in both e and p, if it is published as a very inexpensive indie in e-book, I think it’s going to have a bigger impact on the e-book market than on the p-book market (where it can’t really get much distribution in the mainstream…at Amazon, indie e-books arguably are the mainstream).

Audiobooks, though…they seem relatively expensive. They require a very different interaction. For me, they engage my emotions more and my intellect less than either an e-book or a p-book.

Okay, let’s take a look at the top lists (at…updates hourly) and see where we have overlaps:

Bestselling Audiobooks (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

  1. The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  2. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  3. Field of Prey by John Sandford
  4. Unlucky 13 by James Patterson
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  6. The Target by David Baldacci
  7. A Game of Thrones #1 (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
  8. The Martian by Andy Weir
  9. The Collector by Nora Roberts
  10. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Bestelling Kindle Books (at AmazonSmile)

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (#5 audiobook)
  2. Balancing It All by Candace Cameron Bure
  3. Finding Me by Michelle Knight
  4. The One by Kiera Cass
  5. Unlucky 13 by James Patterson (#4 audiobook)
  6. Field of Prey by John Sandford (#3 audiobook)
  7. Moving Day by Jonathan Stone
  8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  9. The Target by David Baldacci (#6 audiobook)
  10. Dragon’s Triangle by Christine Kling

Bestselling Books (at AmazonSmile)

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (#5 audiobook, #1 Kindle book)
  2. Capital by Thomas Piketty
  3. Finding Me by Michelle Knight (#3 Kindle book)
  4. Conform by Glenn Beck
  5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  6. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  7. Frozen Little Golden Book
  8. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
  9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (#8 Kindle book)
  10. Journey to the Ice Palace Frozen Jumbo Coloring Book by “RH Disney”

So, let’s analyze:

  • The Fault in Our Stars was on all three (and was the only one that was…we may be able to guess that movies affect all three media. I would also venture to say that young adults may be more impacted by paperbooks than by e-books)
  • Four books were both Kindle books and audiobooks
  • Three books were both “books” and Kindle books

That means…that the audiobook and Kindle book lists were more alike than the audiobook and paperbook lists.

Outside of Stars, there was no overlap between audiobooks and “books”.


My sense here is that children’s books (often given as gifts) may have a much bigger share of the p-book market than of the e-book or audiobook market. That makes sense to me: a Dr. Seuss book is kind of short for an audiobook, for one thing.

Also, if we take Glenn Beck as an avatar of conservatism, it might be true that conservatives are more likely to be reading p-books. I’m not sure where my personal “stereotyping” would fall on that. I may think of conservatives as “old-fashioned”, but I can also conjure up an image of liberal hippies wanting p-books.

We had certainly seen in the past that older people, who one might guess to be more conservative, were the earliest, strongest adopters of e-books (despite the demographics of people in early Kindle ads).

One of the p-books on the bestelling “books” list is a coloring book…something like that can be done with an e-book, but not with an audiobook.

My intuition looking at this?

People are giving p-books as gifts, especially to children and young adults. Oh, the Places You’ll Go may be thought of as being on here as a children’s book, but it is a very popular graduation gift…and we are getting close to that.

It may be that for simply recreational reading for themselves, people are shifting towards e-books…but for gifts for other people, they like the literally more substantial nature of a paperbook.

Hmm…I would also say, except for the #1 book, that the audiobooks are more likely to be or have been New York Times bestsellers. It’s expensive and time-consuming to produce an audiobook. I would also guess that most audiobook users are attracted by big names doing the reading, be they the authors or actors…so that may still be the purview of the tradpubs (traditional publishers). An audiobook is a relatively big investment (over $20, typically), so people may want the security of the establishment.

If we come back to this in a year, I think we’d see the tendency for kids’ books to dominate the “books” list to be even stronger.

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What do you think? Is this too small a sample? If you give a gift, to prefer to give a p-book? Would you buy an audiobook from an indie author you didn’t know…with the same frequency that you would buy an e-book or p-book from a similar author? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.



8 Responses to “Audio, Paper, E: is one of these things not like the others?”

  1. Karen Says:

    OK, Bufo, I have a mess. We have several devices both Kindles and non Kindles. I can tell which devices the Kindles are but because we did not change the names on the Samsungs, how can I tell which is which? My son has a Samsung on our account but when he could not get in a couple of weeks ago (he is an adult), he tried to change the e-mail address to his. I had changed our password but he never asked that so trying to get back in, he has lost all of the apps on our devices. What a mess.



    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      You can go to

      and change the names of the devices. If you do that with the Samsungs (even temporarily) you’ll be able to tell which is which. Change the name at MYK, then check on your Samsung. I’ve had to do something like that myself, to identify Kindle for PC installations.

      I’m not clear about how apps were lost? If the devices are registered back to that same account, they should still have access to them…

      • Karen Says:

        Thanks Bufo. I have tons of devices on the account and should have changed the names as we got them. I did change his last night but not sure how to check to see if it was done right. On the Kindles it shows the name at the top but not on the others.

        I wish I understood what he did but he has adult ADD and is impulsive. I think when he could not buy soemthing because I had changed the password (which I do regularly), he changed the ail to his even though he does not have an account. He says he changed it back last nightbut the cloud said there were no apps. That made no sense to me.


      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Karen!

        It should have the name showing on the device…is it a Samsung phone? I can check my Galaxy S4 and see where it shows up.

      • Karen Says:

        We finally got it fixed by uninstalling the apps for android and installing it again. We could not figure out why the Kindle books were all there in the cloud but the apps in the cloud were not. Anyway, it is fixed! Thanks Bufo

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Karen!

        Good! I’m glad it worked out for you. 🙂

  2. D. Knight Says:

    Hi, Bufo!

    Interesting post. You might be forgetting one dynamic–price. It is often cheaper to buy both the Kindle book and it’s whispersync audible book than just the audible book alone. That would tend to align the e-book and audiobook lists somewhat.

    Also, the first book on the audible list was the deal of the day recently– I think yesterday.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, D!

      I didn’t leave out price in my thoughts…one thing I said was, “Audiobooks, though…they seem relatively expensive.”. However, you are right that I didn’t consider Whispersync for Voice. Let me take a quick look at the ten books which were listed:

      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (#5 audiobook, #1 Kindle book) WSV: Yes
      Capital by Thomas Piketty WSV: No
      Finding Me by Michelle Knight (#3 Kindle book) WSV: No
      Conform by Glenn Beck WSV: No
      Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss WSV: No
      Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast WSV: No
      Frozen Little Golden Book WSV: No
      The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson WSV: Yes
      The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (#8 Kindle book) WSV: No
      Journey to the Ice Palace Frozen Jumbo Coloring Book by “RH Disney” WSV: No

      So, two out of the ten are eligible for it…not sure that was a big impact on my analysis.

      You are also right about the #1 Audible book…and no question, looking at the lists, sales help. Candace Cameron Bure’s book was $0.99 when I compiled the list.

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