malcolm gladwell tipping point

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: Why the Audiobook is Such a Failure

In real life, Malcolm Gladwell is an engaging, thought-provoking presenter. So why is his audiobook delivery of The Tipping Point so incredibly boring, so much so that I found myself nodding off? Here are a few ideas.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

malcolm gladwell the tipping point

I spend a lot of time in my car, so I love podcasts and audiobooks. (I’ve written at length about my deep on-the-road connection with BBC’s Desert Island Discs, and why it’s a weekly masterclass in great communication.)

Having failed to get around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book The Tipping Point when it was first published to great acclaim, I thought I was being very clever idea purchase the audiobook.

I’m all about listening and learning whilst I’m on the move.

This all sounds perfectly sensible in theory, right?

Audiobooks work brilliantly for so many people.

While it keeps exact figures close to its chest, the Amazon-owned Audible service has millions of subscribers.

Other recent numbers reported by the books and audiobooks industry at the end of 2017 informed us that:

  • Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry
  • There was over $2.5 billion dollars in sales in 2017 in the US alone (an increase on the $2.1 billion generated in 2016)
  • 26% of the US population has listened to an audiobook in the last 12 months
  • According to the Association of American Publishers, audiobook revenue grew a whopping 20% in the first eight months of 2017 compared to the same period a year earlier. By contrast, print book sales grew only 1.5% and e-book sales actually dropped by 5.4%

So the audiobook method clearly works.

I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, and I loved his style in terms of content and delivery—he inspired with a thought provoking, engaging presentation, and his TED talk on David vs Goliath also grabs your attention and won’t let go.

So I was looking forward to the audiobook of The Tipping Point. It should have been perfect, right?


Here is where the problem arose: Gladwell’s audiobook made me sleepy.

It’s true—I actually found myself nodding off!

Despite the book’s interesting content, Malcolm’s voice oh so sleepily moves through the facts and findings. In fact, his audiobook delivery is so monotonous I get sleepy even thinking about it.

Reasons The Tipping Point Audiobook is So Spectacularly Unsuccessful

I guess there are many possible reasons for Gladwell’s lacklustre vocal delivery:

  • He has no actual audience present to engage
  • He likely recorded in a dark (maybe even sleepy) recording studio
  • He might not have really cared about the message and his audience, so there was no emotional connection
  • He might even be an author a little bored with his own message and his own voice

Regardless of the real reason, the result remains the same.

I still have not completed the book, it is still on my “must read” list. (On the plus side I have now given it to my husband who has trouble sleeping at night and it works a treat!)

Here’s a clip. See what you think. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


About ConfidentSpeak

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We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

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ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of  corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.

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