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Ngo Minh 16:24, 2023/07/29
Audiobooks have emerged as a new publishing trend and an essential part of reading culture in the digital age. They are replacing printed books as a popular way to enjoy literature.

Nguyen Lan Anh (Hanoi) remembers the radio program "Bedtime Stories" from her childhood. Inspirational voices whispered in her ears, gradually lulling her to sleep. Now, Lan Anh is in the habit of turning on a fairy tale program on YouTube for her children before going to bed. Audiobooks for adults and children are widely available on the Internet.


Lan Anh is a busy office worker, so she has little time to read. But she can save time for reading by listening to stories on her smartphone every day on the bus during her commute.

"When I'm working out, I can just put on my headphones and listen to a cookbook or a self-help book. I find audiobooks very convenient and useful in today's modern life," said Lan Anh.

Vietnamese journalist Nick M, the author of eight published books, said that audiobooks are becoming a trend these days when people are so busy that it's hard to find time in a quiet place to read printed books.

"Now that I have an audiobook on my smartphone, I can listen to books whenever I want, while routine reading requires a higher level of concentration," said Nick M.


About 10 years ago, book companies started audiobook projects introducing many works by Vietnamese authors. From CDs and free recordings on the Internet, audiobooks have grown on many social networking platforms.

The first audiobook editions were primarily meant to boost print sales and bring new experiences to readers. Today, audiobooks have become the spearhead for publishers.

Voiz FM and Fonos are Vietnam's first two copyrighted audiobook platforms, both launched in 2020. Currently, Voiz FM offers nearly 2,000 titles on a variety of topics. Fonos produces about 20-30 audiobooks every month. The process is laborious and there are only a few books available at any given time, but CEO Xuan Nguyen said Fonos' products are high-end because they are created through a meticulous and time-consuming process.

On average, audiobooks on Voiz FM cost from a few tens to hundreds of thousands of dong, depending on the volume and content of the book. Typically, the retail price of the work Many Lives, Many Times is VND 168,000 (US$ 7.3), and How to Win Friends and Influence People is VND 98,000 ($4.2), to name a few.


Voiz FM’s users can use the VIP membership package to experience all podcasts and copyrighted audiobooks for VND 199,000 ($9)/three months, VND 599,000 ($26)/year while Fonos charges VND 899,000 ($39)/year or VND 99,000 ($4.2)/month.

Many individuals and organizations are also making free audiobooks for the community, attracting a lot of users such as the Reading with Children Club founded by PhD Nguyen Thuy Anh with the Lullaby Reading program, the Mam Nho (Little Seeds) YouTube channel founded by VTV host Nguyen Minh Trang with the Stories for Babies to Sleep Well column and the charity organization Vietnam and Friends by engineer Dang The Lam which makes audiobooks for the blind.

For Vietnam and Friends, the goal is to put 1,000 books on the Internet through a reading application specifically designed for the visually impaired.

Meritorious Artist Bach Lang of the Thang Long Puppet Theater is one of the volunteers for this project.

Since 2020 to date, he has recorded some of the most valuable works in the Vietnamese literary treasure.


"Audiobooks have the advantage of being easy to access and save with a single click. Printed books can't do that. This type of development will certainly continue in the near future. Especially for the visually impaired, audiobooks open up a new and unique world. They will have access to books through another person's voice, so I think this project is very humane and strengthens the connection in the community,” said artist Bach Lang.

The Nha Nam Culture and Communication Company is releasing book excerpts and is receiving support from many readers. The Bedtime Reading section is free of charge but aims to promote Nha Nam books to more readers.

“We think this project is very promising as it has received thousands of views on Spotify and the most viewed video on fanpage has reached nearly 30,000 views. It is great encouragement from readers and a relative measure of the effectiveness of the project,” said Nguyen Xuan Minh, Director of Planning and Copyright.

To make audiobooks, Nha Nam often chooses best-selling books which don't have too many foreign proper names that sound weird for listeners.


"After selecting the books, we will record them with appropriate voices, add background music, and make a video to upload to Facebook and YouTube. The audio file will be uploaded to podcast channels such as Spotify," Minh added.

Nowadays, life is getting busier and less time is available for reading, while people's demand for information and entertainment from books has increased. As a result, the need to listen to audiobooks while driving, exercising, or relaxing before bed has grown.

Although the audiobook market in Vietnam is currently limited, Minh believes there is significant room for growth.

Xuan Nguyen, CEO of Fonos, agreed, affirming that it is inevitable that audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity: "The modern pace of life makes it a luxury to devote 1-2 hours to reading a book, so we can use the time we spend waiting for someone, riding the bus, working out, or doing housework to listen to a book," she said.

So audiobooks are convenient and make us feel like we're not wasting our time. Audiobooks are copyrighted, diverse in genre, and do not affect the reader's eyesight. Such advantages confirm that audiobooks are increasingly suitable for modern life.


Recently, author Nick M released the printed book By Gone and offered readers an audiobook recorded by himself. He pointed out that audiobooks need to be copyrighted not only for the content but also for the background music.

"Audiobooks need a soundtrack to evoke a certain emotion, create energy and excitement. The copyright-free music is not of high quality, it is difficult to find music that can really achieve the desired effect, so copyrighted music increases the cost of audiobooks,” he said.


Speaking about the Lullaby Reading program, educator Nguyen Thuy Anh said that she chose books with educational themes for parents to share and interact with their children to make people understand the value of books and become more attached to books. Thuy Anh said this program also aims to spread Vietnamese literature and language to children abroad.

Therefore, the production team of Lullaby Reading always has to be creative and find real-life stories to broadcast and suggest games to convey the book's content in a new and attractive way.

Fonos CEO Xuan Nguyen said it takes the Fonos team weeks to complete an audiobook with an average length of about eight hours. It is a well-rounded work that can convince readers to spend money to buy books.

Voice casting by Fonos is similar to the process of finding actors for a movie. The audio recording is done in a professional studio and undergoes post-production for editing and adding background music before being released.

Translator Nguyen Le Chi, director of Chibooks Company, said she sells book copyrights to audiobook publishers. According to her, the approval of e-books and audiobooks is easier and faster than before, but there are still not many enterprises that invest in the mass production of audiobooks.


In addition to the reasons for low sales and expensive production, the fact that audiobooks are vulnerable to piracy can make bookmakers falter.

However, Chi affirmed that Vietnam's publishing industry will join the flow with the region and the world, the audiobook market share will certainly be noticed by more enterprises.

"I think it's necessary to have stricter regulations on book piracy (for all kinds of paper books, e-books, and audiobooks). When we feel protected by the law, we will dare to convert our copyrighted products into audiobooks," Chi said.


The advent of e-books led to fears that e-books would kill print books. Now the same fear is being expressed about audiobooks: Will audiobooks take market share from traditional print books?  

In fact, audiobooks are attracting a large number of users who have read the printed book and now want to listen to the same book again. Books have brought a new experience to the readers as they become listeners.

As audiobooks continue to enter the market, book author Nick M. believes that printed books may see a decline in sales. However, he maintains his personal belief that nothing can completely replace paper books.


"The most important thing about any book is still the content inside. Whether we read it or listen to it, what stays with us is what the book is about, how it makes us feel after we have enjoyed it," said Nick M.

Reading or listening has to be enjoyable in and of itself. With books, people can practice more concentration and let their imagination run wild with every word.

Nguyen Xuan Minh, a representative of Nha Nam Company, said the share of e-books and audiobooks in the overall publishing market will gradually increase.

"I believe that the presence of audiobooks will only enrich and develop the publishing market more comprehensively rather than affect the market share of printed books," Minh affirmed.

Nguyen, Director of the Department of Publication, Printing and Distribution (Ministry of Information and Communications), said that the pandemic proved the vitality of audio books and e-books.

Regarding the publishing industry, Nguyen said: "Copyright infringement is a common problem in many countries, but it's not a reason not to develop electronic publications. Audiobooks and e-books are growing, but printed books have not declined. So I think different types of books are growing together."

As for book piracy, Nguyen believes that the regulator will continue to study and refine the law and create a favorable legal framework to develop the publishing industry in a professional and modern direction, focusing on digital transformation solutions.

In fact, the Department of Publication, Printing and Distribution is planning to develop an investment policy to encourage electronic publishing, allocating resources to a number of key publishers, along with a solution to propagate copyright protection and have stronger sanctions for infringers.

TAG: Hanoi news Vietnam news audio books publishing Nick M Voiz FM Fonos
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