Audible, an Amazon company, “has close to 150,000 titles—primarily professionally narrated audiobooks, but also newspapers, magazines, plays, lectures, comedy, podcasts and more—accessible instantly via download from Audible.com or through the Audible app,” says Matthew Thornton, of Audible.
IndieReader discusses the perks of being an Audible member, how it enhances the audio book experience, and what’s next for the Amazon company.
Loren Kleinman: Tell us what Audible is and what experience you’re guaranteeing.
Matthew Thornton: Audible is the service that allows people to drive to work listening to Colin Firth or Anne Hathaway or Dustin Hoffman reading them great stories or filling their ears with information. Audible’s mission is to establish literate listening as a core tool for anyone seeking to be more productive, better informed, or more thoughtfully entertained.
LK: Amazon acquired Audible.com in 2008. How has that acquisition benefited Audible.com? Pros? Cons?
MT: Amazon’s ecommerce technology platform has helped Audible put audiobooks in front of many more customers accustomed to buying books and other media online.
LK: What are the perks of being an Audible member? Costs?
MT: Audible has more than 150,000 titles—primarily professionally narrated audiobooks but also newspapers, magazines, plays, lectures, comedy, podcasts and more—accessible instantly via download from Audible.com or through the Audible app. Once someone joins Audible, we find he or she becomes addicted to the experience, which can recall the profoundly intimate and pleasurable experience of being read to as a child; Audible members download an average of 18 books a year. Also, in the right hands, an audiobook becomes true performance art, much more like movies or theater than a book.
Audible membership costs $14.95 a month, which provides one audiobook a month plus 30% discount on the list price of audiobooks purchased over plan. Audible customer care, which currently “exceeds expectations” among our customers an astonishing 93% of the time, is also available to members 24 hours, 7 days a week.
LK: What is Whispersync for Voice? What are the formats used in this process?
MT: Whispersync for Voice is an innovation that enables readers to switch seamlessly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the corresponding audiobook without losing their place, thereby making continuous enjoyment of a story possible during a busy day or whenever your eyes are busy.
LK: How does Audible enhance the audio book experience?
MT: The most important way we’ve tried to enhance the reader experience is in emphasizing and cultivating the quality of narration and embracing the growing number of professional actors who perform audiobooks (see June 30 front-age article in the New York Times). A large part of what we believe distinguishes the experience of listening to audiobooks is the rich palette of performances and interpretations of literature that our customers love.
We also continue to make more and more books available in audio format, increasing selection for members, and we now offer a Great Listen Guarantee, through which Audible members who are not satisfied with their choice can return an audiobook for another title up to 1 year after purchase.
LK: How does Audible help an author reach more audiences?
MT: Digital audio is the only book category aside from ebooks currently experiencing double-digit growth, so authors whose books are available at Audible are reaching a voracious and rapidly growing audience of listeners. Industry data has also shown that audiobook listeners are also more likely than non-listeners to buy print books, so presence at Audible can also drive sales in other formats. Our Audible marketing team helps authors every day in promoting their audiobooks. Finally, Audible has customers around the globe, giving authors global reach.
LK: How is Audible an alternative to books on tape?
MT: At this point, digital distribution has clearly replaced hard formats. All of the myriad elements of a superior shopping and listening experience contribute to this trend. We also offer a price advantage, instant access to content and a broader catalog.
LK: On April 4, 2012, Audible announces Audible Author Services, a program to encourage authors to connect directly with the rapidly growing audience of audiobook listeners, and backed by a $20 million fund. Can you talk about Author Services more? What are the details? How do you serve the author?
MT: Though we ended the $1 honoraria program in June, we are continuing to test the potential of some other innovative author-focused programs. Beyond that, Audible offers authors whose audiobooks we produce superior audio production (Audible Studios is the most decorated audio publisher, and this year won a Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category as well as 9 Audie Awards, including Audiobook of the Year); superior promotional capability (via homepage and email placement that targets our rapidly growing member base); a dedicated marketing team that works closely with authors on promotion and sales reporting, including buying search terms; and the highest audio royalties in the industry.
LK: Is Audible still partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts for anymore Big Read events?
MT: We are not working directly with the NEA, but we are proud to carry most of the books selected for The Big Read program.
LK: Audible also has a partnership with Harlequin Enterprises. What sparked the interest from either party? What was the result of the partnership?
MT: Harlequin is a progressive and creative publisher and marketer. They have consistently come up with innovative ways to expand their market. Harlequin realized that Audible had studios that could produce hundreds of audiobooks each year and could make them available to listeners at a very reasonable price. And, since both companies were both pioneers in developing models for customers who wanted to buy every month, we had lots in common and lots to learn from each other.
LK: Audible is international now. It’s expanded its services by incorporating several languages across several countries. What’s next?
MT: We are continuing to grow, and now have eleven global outlets, with much more to come. Audible has a history of innovation (we commercialized the first digital audio player four years before the iPod) and we continue to invent on behalf of our customers with innovations like Whispersync for Voice and the Audiobook Creation Exchange, an online rights marketplace and production platform that connects authors and actors in order to get more audiobooks made.