Stephen Colbert’s name may not be appearing on the presidential ballot any time soon, but if book sales were votes he’d be a shoe-in. His book, I Am America (And So Can You!) debuted in the top spot on The New York Times best-seller list, moving 91,000 copies in the first week, driven by the release of the audiobook, which came out four days earlier. Anthony Goff, director at publisher Hachette Book Group USA said the goal was to “generate buzz by creating viral word of mouth in the download and online community.” Which could translate loosely as sell books to people who spend more time on the Internet than reading. The audiobook is meant to complement rather than replace its hardcover counterpart and deviates wildly from the actual book. Goff says, besides the marketing push, duplicate sales were the intention.
However, despite the success of this marketing technique, publishers, according to Goff, are reluctant to use it for fear of “alienate[ing] our brick and mortar accounts.” The solution? With audiobook sales on the rise (according to a 2007 survey conducted by the Audio Publishers Association, sales were an estimated $923 million in 2006, a six percent increase over the previous year), the answer is obviously to put the trowel away and “start selling downloads.” While some purists argue that audiobook is an oxymoron, publishers maintain that they may be saving, or at least reviving, the industry.