Given the immense popularity of the Harry Potter book series, as well as evolving technology since its publication, it was inevitable that the seven books in the series would get converted into multiple formats to increase their accessibility to readers of all types. The series was first converted into audiobook format, with Stephen Fry narrating the UK versions and Jim Dale narrating the US versions. The audiobooks have been made available in several languages over the years and have slowly evolved from cassette tapes and CDs to digital products.
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The story of the Harry Potter audiobooks begins on November 22, 1999, over two years after the first book was published, when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry, was released in the UK. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, read by Jim Dale, was released in the US nine days later, on December 1, 1999. These two men would continue their auditory journey through July 21, 2007, when both versions of the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were concurrently released with the hardback editions.
On September 7, 2005, the first digital editions of the audiobooks were offered exclusively on iTunes. They were previously available only on CD and cassette tape. In 2015, the Harry Potter audiobooks became available on Audible. In 2022, Audible and Pottormore Publishing announced that the series had reached over one billion listening hours on the platform across the globe.
In 2017, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were also added to the audiobook family. In 2018, the audiobook of Quidditch Through the Ages was released. In 2020, several actors associated with the Harry Potter franchise contributed to an audiobook recording of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Today, the entire Potter series is available in MP3 format in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English (UK and US), Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish (Spain and US), Swedish, and Turkish. The first book of the series is available in neutral, Peninsular, and Rioplatense Spanish.
- The series is the best-selling audiobooks in history.
- At 43.5 hours, the Japanese edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest audiobook in the series.
- At 8.25 hours, the neutral Spanish edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone is the shortest audiobook in the series.
- The total time of the US editions is 116.75 hours, or 4 days, 20 hours, and 45 minutes.
- The total time of the UK editions is 124 hours, or 5 days and 4 hours, meaning the UK editions of the series last 8 hours and 45 minutes longer than the US editions.
- On December 26, 2000, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was played uninterrupted on Radio 4 LW, making broadcasting history.
- Ever since the release of the fourth book, the US audiobooks have been simultaneously released with the physical copies. The UK audiobooks were not simultaneously released until the seventh book.
- The US audiobook of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold 165,000 copies in its first two days, setting a record as the largest two-day sale in audiobook history. The CD also made the second best-selling title on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, behind the hardback edition, unheard of for an audiobook.
- For Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, both Stephen Fry and Jim Dale recorded 146 different and distinguishable character voices, the most ever recorded for an audiobook.
- The narrator of the Italian audiobooks, Francesco Pannofino, is a famous Italian actor who is known for being the official voice of the actor George Clooney in Italy. He is also known to have lent his voice to Hollywood stars Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Tom Hanks, and many others.
- The Spanish audiobook Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal, narrated by Carlos Ponce, was released as part of the launch of Audible Latino, a site intended for Hispanic listeners to be able to find an extensive catalog of Spanish-language audiobooks. The version narrated by Leonor Watling was released as part of the launch of Audible España.