Recorded Books has formed a new company called RB Media that is exclusively focusing on Audiobooks in the library and retail settings. They have a massive portfolio of over 700,000 digital titles and are marketing them in 38 different countries.
RB Media was formed primarily due to the profitability of the Recorded Books business and a massive influx of cash from Shamrock Capital, which is a private equity firm. One of the big reasons why they made the decision to go with outside funding was to make strategic acquisitions and the first one they made was Audiobooks.com
The North American audiobook retail market comprises of two companies that have established partnerships directly with publishers, Audible and Audiobooks.com. The other online retailers who sell audiobooks on an individual or subscription basis source their catalog through a third party reseller.
Audiobooks.com has experienced massive growth in recent years. In 2016 they had over 6 million downloads of their app for Android and iOS. Audiobooks.com is also available via Sonos, tvOS, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and in-car infotainment systems in select GM, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. The CEO of Audiobooks.com Ian Small told me that year on year their revenues have increased by over 30% and over 5 million hours of audio content was listened to in 2015 and Audiobooks.com saw this figure increased to over 8 million hours in 2016. They expect that in 2017 the total listening hours will surpass over 10 million.
John Shea is the head of marketing for RB Media and he told me an in exclusive interview that one of the big reasons why the Audiobooks.com acquisition made sense was that Recorded Books had a tremendous amount of experience in the library setting, but knew next to nothing about retail. Audiobooks.com brings a vast amount of retail knowledge to the business unit. Audiobooks.com and Recorded Books will be sharing analytical data with each other, so they could understand both the library and retail side of things. This will help in anticipating future trends in the audiobook publishing industry and being able to capitalize on them.
Recorded Books and Audiobooks.com will be investing heavily on hiring executives and engineers in order to solidify their position as the largest audiobook retailer and publisher of original content. RB Media will also be investing millions on securing exclusive rights to thousands of new audiobook works, so look for them to be a fixture at many of the world’s top publishing events.
Librarians will not have to worry about their established relationship with Recorded Books. Nothing is really changing in terms of their catalog of content or the terms. Recorded Books will continue to power the Zinio for Libraries system, but with the new RB Media business unit there will be a new unified app that will be released in the next six months. It will be able to read e-books, listen to audiobooks and read digital magazines, without the need of other apps.
In 2017 Audiobooks.com plans to unveil new discovery features for their complete line of apps. They will focus on curation and hire some new editorial staff in order to put the spotlight on new titles and develop themes for holidays and special events. They also plan on expanding outside the United States into other markets. I surmise that Canada and the United Kingdom will be first on their list of priorities. The overall retail experience will not change due to the acquisition, the only thing the average customer might notice is some references to RB Media. I also have heard that Authors Republic, the self-publishing arm of the company will also benefit from the acquisition.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.