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The Growth of Korean Audio Books, Celebrities Attract Listeners




'Reading' books with your ears through audiobooks


Audiobooks are books that have little to do with paper and written words, but rather, recorded voices. When audiobooks were first introduced, they saw a surge of interest as 'useful content' that could replace paper books for those unable to easily read books in physical form, like the elderly or visually impaired. Through audiobooks, those who could not read books with their eyes were now able to expand their knowledge and understanding of culture. As time passed, people without disabilities have also come to appreciate the benefits that audiobooks have in the fact that you can have an audiobook playing in the background while doing something else, like driving, taking care of housework or working out at the gym. Regular consumers are drawn to audiobooks because of the fact they can multitask while reading books in their busy, modern lives.
After the 2000s with the development of technology and portable electronics along with the emergence of the smartphone, audiobooks saw even more demand. Audiobooks tend to cost less compared to physical books, making it easier for consumers to afford. Provided there is ample space on one's smartphone, carrying around multiple audiobooks can be simply done by just moving files onto your phone. As the market for audiobooks grows larger, the range of selection has also expanded with more audiobooks of different genres becoming available. Despite these positive changes, voices of doubt still exist. Some in the industry point out the need for extra costs necessary to hire professional voice actors to read books for high-quality recordings and potential copyright-related issues as the audiobooks are secondary copyright productions. Leaping over these hurdles, audiobooks have continued to thrive, and the global market for them is only becoming bigger.



Those who are involved in the industry say the declining number of
book readers may be offset by those purchasing audiobooks,
also believing audiobooks could complement physical books and e-books.



Korean Audiobooks


Thanks to the charm that audiobooks have, increasingly more South Koreans have been seeking out audiobooks as well. On the back of tech development, including the Internet of Things, more devices can now play audiobooks, and the South Korean market is receiving attention anew as related technology continues to make strides. It has been over a decade since audiobooks were introduced to South Korean consumers, but the industry saw a surge in growth in 2018 as local firms aggressively expanded their audiobook selections. South Korean online platform Naver started offering audiobooks on their existing audio content platform "Audioclip". Later, Naver acquired Audien, the country's biggest audiobook provider. Also in 2018, other audio service providers like Podbbang, an online audio content site; Millie's Library, an e-book reading app; and knowledge content website Welaaa also launched their own audiobook services. Looking at this, many industry analysts believe the audiobook market in South Korea has more potential for growth.
Those who are involved in the industry say the declining number of book readers may be offset by those purchasing audiobooks, also believing audiobooks could complement physical books and e-books. As a result, audiobook service providers not only sell audiobooks but also lend them to listeners for limited periods at low prices. Also to draw in new customers, summarized versions of audiobooks are also made available in some cases.
Compared to the text-to-sound (TTS) service some e-books use, audiobooks are usually recorded by real people, making it easy for listeners to enjoy the content comfortably. In the past, audiobooks were usually recorded by the authors themselves or professional voice actors, but nowadays, publishers are inviting celebrities and bestselling authors to record audiobooks as consumers have been found to favor audiobooks read by their favorite actor or singer. Also, as more foreigners outside South Korea take an interest in Korean pop culture and the Korean language, industry hopes are high they will also drive demand for audiobooks outside the country. Eyeing these opportunities, Naver and Millie's Library have all been actively marketing their celebrity-read audiobooks on either television or Youtube, and their efforts have led to a rise in audiobook demand.


* A scene from a television commercial for Millie's Library



Nowadays, publishers are inviting celebrities and bestselling authors
to record audiobooks as consumers have been found
to favor audiobooks read by their favorite actor or singer.



South Korean celebrities record audiobooks


On Naver's audio content platform 'Audioclip', the portal operator features a separate section for audiobooks recorded by well-known actors or singers called 'Celeb Audiobooks'. Celebrity audiobooks that have proved to be a hit include the Peter Rabbit series (Beatrice Potter, pub. by Hyundae Jisung) read by K-pop boy band VIXX's N and Hyuk; Short Stories by O. Henry (O. Henry, pub. Minumsa) recorded by actor Jung Hae-in; Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (Yoru Sumino, pub. Somi Media) recorded by Song Yu-vin of boy band Myteen; We May Be Able to Meet the Rainy Season Together (Park Jun, pub. Moonji Publishing) recorded by boy group iKON member Koo Jun-hoe; and Shoko's Smile (Choi Eun-young, pub. Munhakdongne) read by actress Esom. These audiobooks can all be purchased or borrowed via Naver's Audioclip service.



* Naver TV's Audioclip (above), VIXX's Hyuk and AB6IX's Lee Dae-hwi in the recording studio (Below)


Millie's Library, which offers monthly audiobook subscription services, also has a separate section for celebrity-recorded audiobooks called Reading Book. Reading Book offers summarized versions of books in an audio format that average around 30 minutes. Some of these include The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins, pub. Eulyoo Publishing) recorded by actor Lee Byung-hun; The History of History (Rhyu Si-min, pub. Dolbaegae) read by actor Byun Yo-han; Lunch No Akko-chan (Asako Yuzuki, pub. Yibom Publishers) recorded by actress Han Seung-yeon; Le Voyeur (Alain Robbe-Grillet, pub. Eulyoo Publishing) read by film director Park Chan-wook; and Mom's Speech Practice (Park Jae-yeon, pub. Hanbitlife) read by musical performer Kim So-hyun. These audiobooks can be purchased through subscription services on Millie's Library.
Publishing house Communication Books has also created a collection of audiobooks called 100 Actors Read Korean Literature (Na Hye-seok and 99 others, Communication Books) which is available for purchase. The collection consists of a single USB drive that contains audio files of short stories read by a total of 103 famous Korean actors like Choi Min-sik, Song Il-guk and Moon So-ri. When creating an audiobook, the person who records the book is a key factor, and for Korean audiences, many feel a greater emotional connection to the content when they hear Korean books, already chock full of Korean sentiment and reality, read by familiar Korean voices.


Korean books read by well-known Koreans


We May Be Able to Meet the Rainy Season Together
(Read by boy group iKON member Koo Jun-hoe, available on Naver Audioclip)

Author | Park Jun
Publisher | Moonji Publishing
Genre | Poetry

The latest collection of poems from Park Jun, known for other works like I Ate For Several Days With Your Name and Nothing Changes Because You Cry. Park managed to capture the hearts of readers with just one poetry collection and another featuring prose. This is his second poetry collection and his first publication in 6 years after his debut work in 2012. The author's lyricism and delicate words lend hope to readers in a slow but steady manner.


The History of History
(Read by actor Byun Yo-han, available on Reading Book of Millie's Library)

Author | Rhyu Si-min
Publisher | Dolbaegae
Genre | History

Three decades have passed since Rhyu's Reading History Backwards, and this latest book marks a new beginning in the author's writing career. The book informs readers about 18 history books that narrate the history of mankind from ancient ages to modern times. The books are introduced in nine chapters, and the author not only summarizes the key elements of each book and their background stories but also offers a fresh view on their narratives and insight into the lives of the historians who penned the books.


Shoko's Smile
(Read by actress Esom, available on Naver Audioclip)

Author | Choi Eun-young
Publisher | Munhakdongne
Genre | Novel

Choi's first novel is actually a collection of seven stories. Shoko's Smile, the title feature, tells the story of two people who hail from different countries and speak different languages as they experience what it's like to grow up. Another story inside the book is Hanji and Youngju, a story about Hanji, a young man from Kenya and Youngju who meet in a monastery in France. The stories all feature the author's unique, transparent tone with which she tells quiet, serene stories.


Mom's Speech Practice
(Read by musical performer Kim So-hyun, available on Reading Book of Millie's Library)

Author | Park Jae-yeon
Publisher | Hanbitlife
Genre | Childcare

This book teaches mothers who have lost themselves while taking care of their children how to understand and have compassion for themselves. It also advises them on how to act when faced with problems while raising their children, including how to talk to them. The book is based on episodes introduced on a radio segment the author hosted and training sessions Park led for parents and teachers, making it easy for readers to use the methods in their everyday lives.



Written by Choi Ha-Yeong


Choi Ha-Yeong

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