Audible is currently the worlds largest audiobook service and has been going strong since 1997. It was purchased by Amazon in 2008 for $300 million dollars and has an extensive catalog of 150,000 titles from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers and business information providers. Recently Amazon announced that you can purchase audio titles directly within their Kindle for Android app and has a new audio player in Kindle for iOS. Is there a future in the standalone Audible app now that Amazon seems to be gung-ho about integrating it into Kindle?
When it comes to audiobook sales, 60% of them stem from the digital editions. One of the more savvy moves for audio distribution was in 2003 when Audible signed an agreement with iTunes to exclusively stock their audiobook section of their store. This crossed over from the dedicated iTunes app for PC and MAC to the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Most of the content from Audible comes from major publishers, Amazon Creation Exchange and Brilliance audio, the biggest producer of CD-based audiobooks. Audiobooks are now well over a billion-dollar business, and the available figures suggest that Amazon retains a far larger piece of that revenue than any other retailer.
Audiobook prices are often drastically inflated and is a barrier for more mainstream adoption. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green costs $4.99 for the Kindle edition, but the audiobook costs $17.99. Max Brooks seminal World War Z – The Oral History of the Zombie Wars costs $9.99 for the Kindle edition, but the audiobook will set you back $28.00.
Amazon has recognized that audiobooks are very overpriced and they are doing something about it in their new Kindle for Android updated app. The Seattle based company has incorporated WhisperSync for Voice and Immersion reading. This technology works if you have both the audio and eBook by saving the last page read and picking up where you left off. For example, if you read to page 27 in bed and then commute to work and fire up the audiobook it will sync to where you left off in the eBook, its very seamless. Immersion Reading basically plays the audiobook in sync with the Kindle book and highlights the words as they are being said aloud.
Whispersync and Immersion reading first showed up in the Kindle Fire HD line of tablets and now has crossed over to their apps. If you already own the Kindle book you can now purchase the eBook edition for a dramatically lowered price. HG Wells the The World Set Free is a free Kindle book, but the audio edition costs $17.73. If you download the free Kindle book and upgrade to the audiobook within the app it only costs $1.99, which is a tremendous savings.
The future of Audible is no longer within the dedicated Audible app for iOS or Android. Amazon seems to be incorporating the best aspects of the audiobook experience into their devices and apps, and leaving the Audible app to wallow away into obscurity. It really just comes down to economics, it is far cheaper to upgrade to the audiobook then to buy it separately. In the end, its just more intuitive to download the Kindle app and do everything within it, then to download two apps for the same purpose.
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.