Survey: Most Canadians Got Their Audiobooks For Free In 2023

A recent survey about the reading habits of Canadians conducted by BookNet Canada, which collects and analyzes data about the Canadian book industry, found that a majority of book readers and audiobook listeners in Canada acquired their books for free in 2023.The study, which has been conducted annually since 2013, surveyed 1,247 Canadians about their leisure time and reading habits.

According to the survey, 58% of audiobook listeners obtained their books from free sources, such as the library or YouTube, marking the first time that readers across all formats were more likely to acquire books for free than through paid channels. The trend extended to other formats as well, with 62% of e-book readers and 51% of print book readers finding free sources for their reading material.

“For the first time in our survey, readers across all formats were acquiring books from free sources more than from paid sources,” BookNet Canada stated in the survey report.

Overall, 49% of Canadians said they read or listen to books weekly and 31% said daily—the same breakdown as last year. Reading and listening to books came in eighth place on a list of activities respondents said they take part in weekly and seventh place on a list of activities they do daily.

In 2023, 52% of readers read or listened to 1–5 books, 25% read or listened to 6-11 books, 16% read or listened to 12–49 books, and 7% were heavy readers and read or listened to 50 or more books.

However, the preference for print has been dropping since 2019, while audiobook listening has been on the rise. The trend in Canada still trails a similar trend in the U.S., where a recent survey from the Audio Publishers Association found that 38% of American adults listened to an audiobook in the last year, up from 35% reported in 2023. In the U.S., a smaller number of people, 47%, reported finding free sources for their audiobook listening.

Other notable findings from the study include an increase in Canadian readers attending book clubs and book-related events, both online and in-person, as well as a growing interest in abridged audiobooks, audiobooks with sound effects and/or music, and environmentally friendly print books.

The complete survey is available for free from BookNet Canada and includes additional data on readers’ free time activities, book discovery and acquisition methods, format preferences, popular genres, and the perceived value of books across formats.

One Canadian publisher, who asked to remain anonymous, called the impact of the survey’s results on publishers “disheartening.” The publisher added: “If we want books, people are going to have to pay for books. We have to pay for the world we want, otherwise we’ll be left with what people are willing to give us for free.”

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