Domestic Economy

Audiobooks Open New Horizons as Iran's Publishing Industry Evolves

Domestic Economy Desk
The number of audiobook titles in Iran is expected to witness a tenfold rise in three years
Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry.Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry.
New formats, including ebooks and audiobooks, expand the scope of the book and publishing industry, create new revenue streams, sustain the current target audience and help attract new ones

The Iranian audiobook industry is catching on, as more and more Iranians prefer to listen to read-out texts rather than the old school way of reading printed pages. 

The development of audiobook production has certainly opened new economic doors in the book and publishing industry by giving publishers and book lovers diverse choices.

It’s noteworthy that not any recorded audio of a text can be called an audiobook.

Speaking to Financial Tribune, Reza Shahrabi, the public relations manager of the National Library and Archives Organization of Iran, said there are certain standards for such books to fall under the category of audiobooks. 

According to Shahrabi, audiobooks must have a copyright page like in printed books, although sound effects and voices play key roles. 

“Audiobooks should have a clear structure in terms of sections so that listeners are able to select what part to listen,” he said.

 New Opportunities, No Threats

Elaborating on the reasons behind the rise in people’s interest in audiobooks in recent years, Shahrabi said that in the past, people did not feel the need to consider such books. 

“But due to changes in social patterns and everyday life, they find them more convenient. What is more, publishers were unwilling to consider audiobooks because they assumed publishing printed books would suffice,” he said.

“They presumed that audiobooks might jeopardize the sale of printed books, but the truth is printed books will never die or lose value.”

Hamid Asadi, co-founder and CEO of Navaar—a major producer and distributor of audiobooks in the country—told Financial Tribune that new formats, such as ebooks and audiobooks, expand the scope of the book and publishing industry, create new revenue streams, sustain the current target audience and help attract new ones.

“In essence, audiobooks have come to the publishing industry’s aid by creating new horizons and revenue streams,” he said.

Asadi believes audiobooks are not a threat to publishers, as they assist them in keeping the book industry dynamic and bring prosperity by introducing variety. 

“Publishers will come to realize how they can benefit from audiobooks in the long run since converting their books into audiobooks would increase their sales,” he added.

 Growing Trend

“As an active business in this field, wcan strongly feel the rise in people’s tendency toward audiobooks,” Asadi said.

He stressed that after Navaar was launched in August 2015, only 200 titles were sold in six months, but presently even on a bad business day, they sell around 1,000 titles.

The main reason behind this growth lies in the fact that audiobooks comply with the society’s current conditions and people’s needs.

He explained that an audiobook is a version of a printed book in an audible format to be used in parallel with people’s everyday lives like when they are on the subway, stuck in traffic or cooking. 

“Unlike reading a printed book or watching a video that needs a certain time and place, audiobooks can be enjoyed alongside other activities. The modern day lifestyle has become so intensive that handling multiple tasks can save a great deal of precious time,” he said. 

“Audiobooks are relatively more expensive compared to paperback editions since the production of audiobooks involves selecting and analyzing a printed book, choosing the right voices to match the content, recording, editing, adding sound effects, designing cover and so on. Naturally, a great deal of human resources is at work to come up with the end product.”

There are 35 people directly employed by Navaar while it has created some 200-250 indirect jobs.

On the subject of customers, he elaborated that their data show a majority of customers are between 25 and 35 years.

“Men constitute 63% of the total number of customers and the rest are women. A majority have undergraduate degrees or higher,” he said, noting that the target market of people of ages 15 to 18 has grown in recent years.


The history of audiobooks in Iran dates back to when “Navaar Qesseh” (literally meaning “story cassettes”) were developed in 1961-71 and 1971-81.

According to Asadi, the current audiobooks are advanced versions of those cassettes.

In an earlier interview with IBNA, Shahrabi said currently the National Library has 6,280 audiobooks, which are expected to increase to 15,000 by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20).

“About 15,000 audiobook titles are available across the country and the library intends to have all of them in its collection,” he said.

Asadi further said about 2,000 audiobooks are available in the market–up from only 150-160 three years ago–1,300-1,400 of which have been produced by Navaar.

“Based on the ongoing trend and as the number of audio publishers is on the rise, the number of audiobooks is expected to witness a tenfold rise in three years,” he said.

Asadi noted that some of the main players in the Iranian audiobook industry include Navaar, Vavkhan, Raha Film, Novin Ketab-e-Gooya, Avanameh, Ava Rasa and Rasa Book.

With regard to audiobook production, Shahrabi said more attention should be paid to the choice of titles to be converted into audiobooks as well as people’s tastes.

Asked if audiobooks have had a noticeable impact on the book market so far, Asadi said, “There is still a long way to go. Not only in Iran but also from the global point of view, audiobooks still need time to gain a stronger place in the market.”

Audiobooks are sold via direct digital download and compact disks. Since compact disks give customers too many headaches such as shipment costs and time of delivery, CDs are gradually losing ground.

Asadi believes eventually direct digital download will win the race because of convenience.

  Global Trend

According to Good e-Reader, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry. The United States continues to be the biggest market for the audio format and in 2017 sales exceeded $2.5 billion, which is a slight increase from the $2.1 billion generated in 2016.

In the Audiobook Publishers Association 2017 annual report, APA reported a 33.9% increase in the number of audiobooks published compared to the previous year.

The boom in audiobook production has provided a huge rate of return. HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House have all verified that ebook sales have declined by around 5% and the only way their digital unit has consistently seen profit is primarily because of audiobooks.

Over the course of 2017, the audiobook industry began to consolidate and expand into international markets. Many companies have started to see the value in offering indie authors a one-stop solution. This includes finding a narrator that suits their needs and a sound engineer.

The intention is to allow indies to have full control over the final product, so they can market it themselves.

Audible is the undisputed market leader in audiobook production and operate the world’s largest audiobook store. 

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