Why Audiobooks are Expensive

When you notice the insanely high prices of audiobooks, you can’t help but wonder what makes them so expensive. After all, they are just some audio files.

Unlike physical books, they don’t even have to print multiple copies of them. Just produce it once, and you are done with the production work for life!

Then, why exactly are audiobooks so expensive compared to e-books and prints?

Well, according to Golden Child Promotions Publishing the basic reason why audiobooks are so expensive is attributed to their production cost, which is often very high. On average, the ‘cost per finished hour’ of an audiobook is about $300 to $400. So, even if an audiobook is just 10 hours long, on average, it would cost about $3000 to $4000 to produce it.

However, this can vary a lot depending upon the fame and personality of the narrator(s). In many cases, publishers hire famous actors and celebrities to make audiobooks more popular. This can increase the ‘cost per finished hour’ of the audiobook to as high as $1500 or even more.

Is Audiobook Expensive?

That’s not an easy question to answer, since it’s so subjective. Many book lovers find the audio version more convenient, accessible, and engaging. You can listen in the car, at the gym, while you cook dinner, or while you take a walk. Others prefer printed pages. But we’d like to explain the costs associated with the production of an audiobook to really appreciate all that goes into creating one.

What is the Real Cost of Audiobooks?

The average audiobook is about 12 hours in length and costs about $300-$400 per finished hour. That means a finished product can run between $5000-$6000 to produce an audiobook. Of course, the longer the book, the greater the cost to produce.


Hiring an excellent narrator is vital! Their delivery makes the story come alive and keeps the listener’s attention. Audiobooks require perfect, mistake-free narration. That can be challenging when you think of hundreds of pages, so professionals are employed who are talented and experienced in this genre.

The price can go even higher if a famous celebrity or actor is hired to do the narration. For example for Harper Lee’s book Go Set a Watchman Reese Witherspoon was hired to be the narrator. Publishers will do this to draw greater attention to the book, driving sales and making it stand out from the crowd. Some books require multiple voices, sound effects, or even a soundtrack. Think of it as producing a movie on audio to create a truly riveting listening experience. These all add to the final production costs. And, on occasion, the author will do the narration, which can make it feel more personal and intimate.

Studio Costs

Another cost is the quality of the production. To make an audiobook, a skilled, experienced team of people is necessary for every step. Professional editors, producers, directors, recording and mastering engineers, and even proof listeners to assure the narration matches the text, all work to deliver a perfect product. They adhere to very specific technical requirements to assure the audio quality is the best for your listening enjoyment.

Sales Volume

Not only do publishers want to turn a profit, but they also want to recover their upfront production costs. When you consider the staggering number of audiobooks produced every year (in 2017, about 50,000 audiobooks were produced in the United States), every sale matters!

Cost of Promotion

Like any product, books need to be promoted in order to be sold. Advertising is developed and purchased to let readers know about the book to generate interest and sales.


Don’t forget that the publisher gets a substantial cut of every sale… and the author will get something for their work, too. The amount an author gets will vary, depending on if they pay the production cost upfront or share the royalties with the producer.

Publishers spend a lot of money to produce an audiobook with no guarantee that it will sell. Higher production costs mean a higher selling price, so it’s not hard to understand why audiobooks are a bit more expensive than other book formats. However, if you’re like many people, listening to your favorite stories can be more engaging and entertaining. And it’s been proven you retain more and improves your concentration with audiobooks… plus they’re so convenient, you’ll find you read more, too!


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