February 3, 2013

Audio Books Not Tuned Out by eBooks

While e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook continue to encroach on good old fashioned paper books, another competitor to dead trees isn’t going to go down without a fight. The audio book format can still be heard loud and clear.

Of course, part of the reason is Amazon, still the world’s largest bookstore for hardcover and paperback books, is among the largest sellers of e-books and audio books. Amazon owns, one of the first technologies to replace the older books on tape, or even books on CD. introduced its first audio players in 1997. Two years later they created their proprietary .aa audio format.

Audible went on to sign a deal with Apple to provide content to iTunes in 2003, and in 2008 was purchased by Amazon. Today, its content is available for Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, Kindle and Windows Phone, and the company has more than 1million hours of spoken audio programming with more than 100,000 titles.

Just as some companies have tried to compete with Amazon in selling books — paper and digital — there has been some competition in the audio book category as well. But it is hard to dethrone the king.

Earlier this year, the one-year-old subscription service,, announced it would drop its prices. The website had been charging $24.95 (USD) per month for unlimited access to its catalog of some 25,000 titles, and as of the middle of January, the company announced two plans, one for $14.95 and one for $22.95.

The pricing seems questionable, however, especially as the lower tier plan gives access to one title, either a classic or bestseller, while the higher tier plan offers two books per month for $22.95. Neither seems aimed at serious readers, but is actually aimed at the casual reader who didn’t want to pay $25 for a monthly option. By contrast, is offering $7.49 per month for one book as an introductory price option.

But one thing is clear: the amount of content is growing, even as tablets — which offer e-reader functionality — continue to grow.

This month, Audible announced the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), an online audio book rights marketplace and production platform that launched in 2011, had produced a 10 fold increase in audio books in 2012.

Participating rights holders on ACX, from its inception, include Random House, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., and Pearson Education; participating rights holders’ representatives include Janklow & Nesbit Associates, Writers House, and Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Inc.

The ACX production platform allows authors, their agents and publishers to gain access to thousands of talented actors and studio professionals who bring the works to life in audio. This enables online auditions, and even features programs to help authors learn how to narrate their own books.

More importantly, ACX would also allow authors to self-publish audio books, something that has been possible with printed books for decades. E-books have allowed self-published authors to create a published work with a low initial investment cost. But until recently, the one self-publishing platform left out has been audio books. Now, the author of the printed word can become the author of the spoken word as well.

Image Credit: 2happy / Shutterstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on,,, and Peter is a regular writer for

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