Audible.com

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Audible.com
Audible logo.png
Opened 1995
Pricing model Variable subscription and a la carte
Platforms Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Kindle, Windows Phone
Format AA format (.aa) variable bit rates; AAX format (.aax) high quality bit rate
Restrictions Single burn to media, streaming to authorized devices
Catalogue 1,500,000+ hours of spoken audio programming, or 150,000+ titles
Preview 10 minutes
Streaming Purchased titles only
Trial Varies
Protocol HyperText Transfer Protocol (http://)
Features Bookmarking, wireless distribution, wish list, author interviews, free downloads weekly
Website www.audible.com
Alexa rank negative increase 2,050 (July 2013)1

Audible.com is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. Through its production arm, Audible Studios, Audible has also become the world's largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. On January 31, 2008 Amazon.com announced it would buy Audible for about 300 million USD.2 The deal closed in March 2008 and Audible is now a subsidiary of Amazon. The company is based in Newark, New Jersey's 1 Washington Park high rise office building.3

History

Audible introduced one of the first digital audio players in 1997, four years before the introduction of the iPod; the player is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.citation needed The following year it published a Web site from which audio files in its proprietary .aa format could be downloaded. Audible holds a number of patents in this area.

In 2000 Audible licensed the ACELP codec for its level 3 quality downloads.4

In 2003, Audible made an exclusive deal with Apple to provide their catalog of books on the iTunes Music Store. Books purchased on iTunes have a .m4b extension (a variation on MP4), and contain AAC audio covered by Apple's FairPlay Digital Rights Management.

Founder of Audible, Don Katz,5 gave a talk on May 9, 20056 that is recorded on IT Conversations about the early history of Audible. There is a brief profile7 of Katz in AudioFile magazine. Katz gave a Keynote address8 at the Podcast Expo on November 12, 2005. He was also featured in the March 2006 issue of Business 2.0.9

One Washington Park headquarters

In 2005, Audible launched Audible Air, software that makes it possible to download (copy-controlled) audio books over the air - wirelessly and directly to devices such as a smartphone or PDA. This eliminates the need to download copy-controlled audio books first to a computer and then transfer it to Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Symbian Mobile devices. Audible Air content updates automatically, chapters download as required and delete themselves after they have been listened to.10

In April 2008, Audible began producing exclusive science fiction and fantasy audiobooks under its "Audible Frontiers" imprint. At launch 30 titles were released.

In 2011, Audible launched Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), an online rights marketplace and production platform that connects narrators, producers and rights holders in order to create new audiobooks.111213 The platform has been so successful that in 2012, Audible reported it had received more titles from ACX than from its top three audio providers combined.12

In 2012, Audible launched the A-List Collection, a series showcasing Hollywood stars including Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Claire Danes, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Keaton and Anne Hathaway performing great works of literature. Firth's performance of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair was named Audiobook of the Year at the Audie Awards in 2013. Audible's efforts to make audiobook narration a mainstream art form extends to the narration workshops it offers at acting schools including Juilliard and Tisch School of the Arts; in 2012, Audible was the largest single employer of actors in the New York area.14

In September 2012, Audible launched Whispersync for Voice, an innovation that enables readers to switch seamlessly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the corresponding audiobook without losing their place.

Website, pricing, and catalog

Audible's content includes over 150,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers and business information providers, amounting to over 1,500,000 hours of audio programming.15 Content includes books of all genres, as well as radio shows (classic and current), speeches, interviews, stand-up comedy, and audio versions of periodicals such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the regular price charged for audiobooks, Audible offers subscriptions with the following benefits:

  • Credits: For a monthly subscription fee, a customer receives one or two audio credits. Most titles can be purchased with one of these credits. Some titles (usually larger books or collections of more than one book) may cost two credits, while others (usually very short works) cost only a third of a credit. (Users may also purchase a year's subscription at a time, for a discount, receiving all credits at once, but only in some countries.) Platinum subscribers also receive a complimentary subscription to the digital audio version of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
  • Subscriber Discount: A subscriber may choose to purchase additional books without credits for a 30% discount.

Additionally, some content—particularly political speeches, government hearings, content such as the 9/11 Report Speech, excerpts, and short stories from books—are available for free.

Once a customer has purchased a title on Audible, it remains in that customer's library and can be downloaded at any time, or the customer may listen to the file directly from the website, regardless of whether it has been downloaded before.

Device support

Audible audio files are compatible with hundreds of audio players, PDAs, mobile phones and streaming media devices.16 Devices that do not have AudibleAir capability (allowing users to download content from their library directly into their devices) require a Windows PC or Macintosh to download the files. Additionally, titles can be played on the PC (using iTunes, Windows Media Player, or AudibleManager). Titles cannot be burned to CD with AudibleManager. According to Audible's website, they can be burned to CD using Apple's iTunes and some versions of Nero. (The DRM generally allows a title to be burned to CD once, although the resulting CDs can be played in any CD player and have no copy prevention.)16 Currently there is no support for the .aa format on Linux17

Prospective buyers of media players can check the audible.com "Device Center" 18 to verify whether the device will play .aa files, as well as play them at the desired level of audio fidelity. Audible players are available on Apple iPhones, Apple iPods, Android, and Windows Phone devices.

Quality

Books can be downloaded in the following qualities:

Format name Bitrate MBytes/hour Quality description
Audible Enhanced Audio 64 kbit/s 28.8 CD sound
Format 4 32 kbit/s 14.4 MP3 sound
Format 3 16 kbit/s 7.2 FM radio sound
Format 2 8 kbit/s 3.7 AM radio sound

Digital Rights Management

Audible's .aa file format encapsulates sound encoded in either MP3 or the ACELP speech codec, but includes unauthorized playback prevention by means of an Audible user name and password, which can be used on up to three computers at a time. Licenses are available for schools and libraries.

Audible's content can only be played on selected mobile devices. Its software does enable users to burn a limited number of CDs for unrestricted playback, resulting in CDs that can be copied or converted to unrestricted digital audio formats.

Because of the CD issue, Audible's use of digital rights management on its .aa format has earned it criticism.19 While multiple software products are capable of removing the Audible DRM protection by re-encoding in other formats,20 Audible has been quick to threaten the software makers with lawsuits for discussing or promoting this ability, as happened with River Past Corp and GoldWave Inc.21 Responses have varied, with River Past removing the capability from their software, and GoldWave retaining the capability, but censoring discussions about the ability in its support forums.citation needed But there are still many other software tools from non-US countries which easily bypass the DRM control of Audible either with a sound recording or virtual CD burning method. After Apple's abandonment of most DRM measures, Amazon's downloads ceasing to use it, Audible's DRM system is one of the few remaining in place.

Many Audible listings displayed to non-U.S. customers contain the following text: "We are not authorized to sell this title to your geographic location." According to Audible, this is because the publisher who has provided the title does not have the rights to distribute the file in a given region. When a user is logged in, titles that he or she cannot purchase will be hidden.22

There were hopes23 that Amazon, after its purchase of Audible, would remove the DRM from its audiobook selection, in keeping with the current trend in the industry. Nevertheless, Audible's products continue to have DRM, in keeping with Amazon's policy of DRM-protecting its Kindle e-books, which have DRM that allows for a finite, yet undisclosed number of downloads at the discretion of the publisher, however Audible titles that are DRM free can be copied to the Kindle and made functional.24

Audible is working to provide DRM-free titles for content providers who wish to do so.25

Market power

Audible is the exclusive supplier of online/Internet audiobook content to iTunes and Amazon.

Amazon operates the Audiobook Creation Exchange which enables individual authors or publishers to work with professional actors and producers to create audiobooks, which are then distributed to Amazon and iTunes. The service is available to residents of the United States and the United Kingdom.

References

  1. ^ "audible.com Site Info". Alexa. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Amazon to buy Audible for $300 million, Reuters
  3. ^ http://about.audible.com
  4. ^ Audible Chooses VoiceAge's ACELP.net as Preferred Speech Codec Recognition of ACELP.net by the Leading Spoken Audio Service on the Web
  5. ^ Donald R. Katz, Management Biography, Audible Inc. Investor Relations
  6. ^ Don Katz explains Audible.com's history, May 9, 2005 (Direct link to MP3: [1])
  7. ^ Don Katz Profile, AudioFile magazine, February/March 2003
  8. ^ The Podcast and Portable Media Expo Saturday Sessions, November 12, 2005 (Direct link to MP3: [2])
  9. ^ Audible Cranks It Up, Business 2.0, Paul Keegan, February 21, 2006
  10. ^ A Marriage of Bookshelf and Phone, New York Times, David Pogue, October 13, 2005
  11. ^ Paul Guliani, Amazon's Audible.com sees ten-fold increase in audiobook production, NY Daily News, January 31, 2013
  12. ^ a b Max Humphreys, Audible's Audiobook Creation Exchange Reports Big Growth In 2012, NextAdvisor, February 4, 2013
  13. ^ Staff writer, Keeping Up With the New Demand for Audiobooks, Publishing Trends, August 1, 2011
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ http://www.audible.com Audible Website
  16. ^ a b How Audible Works, How Audible works at audible.com, April 22, 2007
  17. ^ Audible.com and Linux... Arghh, Todd Partridge (Gen2ly), Audible.com and Linux... Arghh., September 21, 2011
  18. ^ "Device Center". Audible.com. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  19. ^ Why I Won't Be Adding Audible.com to My Xmas Card List, O'Reilly Mac DevCenter Blog, January 3, 2003
  20. ^ Remove DRM from Audible's audio books (Removing copy-protection from .AA files)
  21. ^ "Company Threatens Audio Editing Software Creator April 20, 2004". Chillingeffects.org. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  22. ^ "Audible.com FAQ". Audible.custhelp.com. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  23. ^ Doctorow, Cory (2008-02-21). "Random House Audio abandons audiobook DRM". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  24. ^ "Kindle mp3 Audible Hack - Nickinator Nick Jones". Nickinator.info. 2012-01-28. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  25. ^ "Audible.com FAQ". Audible.custhelp.com. 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 

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