Audiobooks and printed books likely form separate markets


The Icelandic Competition Authority (ICA) has published a market analysis into the Icelandic market for books. The analysis explores the markets for publication, wholesale and retail of books. The analysis is limited to books written in Icelandic.

The analysis builds on the merger investigation into the proposed acquisition of Storytel AB, a multinational publisher and retailer of audiobooks, of Forlagið ehf., Iceland‘s leading publisher of printed books. No decision was made in the case as the merging parties withdrew the merger notification after the ICA’s preliminary assessment of the effect of the merger on competition. The analysis summarises key findings of the investigation.

The market for audiobooks and e-books has grown considerably in recent years. Prior to this investigation, specific markets for printed books, audiobooks and e-books had not been defined. Therefore, a market survey was conducted among consumers in October 2020, with the objective of determining substitution between different types of books.

The results from the survey strongly indicate that audiobooks and printed books do indeed form separate markets. Audiobooks are generally bought for other purposes than printed books and enjoyed differently, which implies limited substitution between the two types of books.

The survey also suggested that printed books seem to be much more popular as gifts compared to audiobooks. More than a third of the respondents said that the main reason for buying printed books was to gift them whereas only one per cent mentioned gifts as the main reason for buying audiobooks. Nearly 60% of respondents said that the main reason they listen to audiobooks was that listening to audiobooks was more convenient than reading printed books.

Audiobooks seem to be particularly popular in circumstances where reading printed books was cumbersome or even impossible, for example when doing household chores, working out, or going for a walk. Printed books, on the other hand, tend to be preferred when the reader is relaxing or on vacation. Parents also preferred reading a printed book for their kids rather than listening to an audiobook.

Here you can access a copy of the market analysis in Icelandic.

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