Q&A: Tantor CEO Kevin Colebank

The audiobook market now is divided between physical discs and downloadable. Does Tantor do both?

Tantor offers its titles as both physical discs and downloads for the retail and library markets. The shift from discs to downloads has been rapid on the retail side yet slow for libraries‚ a trend that is expected to continue as library budget, host platform, and publishing model issues are sorted out.

It is anticipated that CDs will exist primarily in libraries and online retailers within two to three years as digital expands. Libraries will become an increasingly important source for patrons to access audiobooks on disc as these sources shrink.

How are sales respectively for each? Is there a clear preference for one format?

According to the latest Audio Publishers Association (APA) survey, from 2009 to 2010, the split between library download revenue and library discs was relatively unchanged. In that same period, retail download revenue increased by 31 percent. Libraries face many obstacles associated with downloads and seem to have responded conservatively by staying primarily with CDs that have known high-circulation rates.

Old formats are eventually replaced by new formats, but it takes much longer than one might anticipate. The cassette to CD transformation spanned 15 years. Discs will likely continue to be the preferred format in libraries for several more years.

At last year’s APA conference, there was a lot of talk of audiobooks failing to find a public niche, although they circulate well in libraries.

Audiobook awareness continues to be a hot topic for everyone in our industry. Of course, we may be a little biased, but most of us believe that once a person (particularly one who reads frequently) experiences a great audiobook, they are hooked. That is where libraries come in. With the rapid decline of audiobooks in retail bookstores, now more than ever people depend on libraries as a place to go, browse, touch, feel, and discover audiobooks.

Tantor was one of the first audiobook publishers to offer libraries the option to purchase retail disc editions directly, and we continue to offer this option with significant discounts to help libraries [collect] the best circulating titles. While there is little profit in this model, we believe it is important to increase audiobook awareness continually while helping to serve communities.

What’s new in 2012?

Tantor will be publishing 40‚ 60 titles per month this year. They are a mix of hot new releases, like our recent New York Times best seller, Fairy Tale Interrupted, and evergreen backlist titles never before available in audio format like The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman. All titles will be available as unabridged audio in the most popular formats; some will also be available in ebook format via OverDrive and EBSCO.

Tantor is launching monthly individualized webinars to help selectors learn more about our titles in a quick, fun format that will be tailored to library groups. We encourage all libraries to sign up regardless of how/where our titles
are purchased.

Look in June for our new library website, www.tantordirect.com. The site is being designed specifically for library selectors with all the tools needed to navigate, find, and purchase quickly the titles that their patrons desire. We welcome all input from librarians to make this site their own. Please forward any thoughts to marketing@tantor.com. And, finally, Tantor is excited to announce that we have 16 Audie Award finalists this year!‚ Mike Rogers

Michael Rogers About Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers (mrogers@mediasourceinc.com) is Media Editor, Library Journal and Managing Editor of LJ Reviews.