20 Years of Audio | W. F. Howes' Anniversary

To celebrate our 20th year, we're reflecting on our company by looking at our past and present, as well as the future of audiobooks.

We have come a long way - from start-up releasing audiobooks on cassette to global publisher with hundreds of releases each month, our in-house studios and our
RBdigital app.

View our timeline

Purchase the special 20th Anniversary CD Collection




W. F. Howes' first employee Sean Melvin discusses how the company has changed over the past 20 years and talks about his role as sales manager.


Click the video to listen to the full interview!


We asked some of the team to bring in a photograph from 20 years ago!



We love a celebration at W. F. Howes and this month we celebrated our 20th year by enjoying champagne and eating delicious cupcakes made by our resident baker, Jane. We also gifted the team with some specially branded notebooks and Sheaffer pencils. Last month we were proud exhibitors at Futurebook 2019, where we held a audiobook proof-listening challenge at our stand. 




As we celebrate 20 years of audiobook publishing our Head of Publishing and Commerce, Dominic White, wrote an article for The Bookseller looking at ideas for what the next 20 years has in store for the industry. Here’s a summary:


1. ‘Voice tech’ will be the next big revolution. 

It’s hard to imagine in today’s text and screen-based society but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here - only 5 years since inception and half the developed world (47%) already owns a smart speaker. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

2. 100% of books published will be available as Audiobooks.

AI driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. This technology will never match human emotion, but it will help audio branch out to new sectors such as academia. So, there’s no reason why we couldn’t have 100% of new books published in audio - offering incredible choice.  

3. Audiobooks as rich as movies and documentaries.

The bar will rise on production values, with publishers striving to differentiate. Non-fiction will sound like documentaries and fiction a trip to the movies. Bonus content or original material will become the norm. Interactive audiobooks where you talk to the characters could become popular.

4. Buoyant Library Boosts Audio

Urbanisation, tribal politics, and the growing gap between rich and poor is only set to get worse. Historically this can pressure governments to invest more in public services to appease public unrest. Library digital services will come of age with better range after 30+ years’ investment, effective  e-lending business models, slick apps for borrowers and greater public awareness.  This, alongside an aging population with healthcare keeping us energetic at ripe old ages, will support the large captive audience for audiobooks. Audio is already a popular category for libraries and as mass market demand grows eAudio will also take a greater share material budgets. 

5. Voice Assisted Audio discovery

‘Tell me a story,’ or more likely, ‘recommend a psychological thriller set in Italy, narrated by Saul Reichlin or someone similar’ will become normal and with intelligent responses aid discoverability in a crowded market. If audio matches print output, it could reach 50,000+ titles per month (10x now). Instead of endless research online you will simply have a conversation with your virtual personal assistant. 

This article is the third of three commentaries on the audiobook sector in the run-up to Futurebook Live, featured in The Bookseller - read the first article here.

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