Audible (service)

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Audible
Audible logo.svg
DeveloperAmazon
Key PeopleDon Katz
Launch date1995; 25 years ago (1995)
Platform(s)Fire OS, Android, iOS, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone
Pricing modelVariable subscription and a la carte
Alexa rankIncrease 962 (January 2020)[1]
WebsiteAudible, Inc. (US) , Audible, Ltd. (UK)

Audible is an online audiobook and podcast platform owned by Amazon.com Inc. The service allows users to purchase and stream audiobooks and other forms of spoken word content; this content can be purchased individually, or under a subscription model where the user receives "credits" that can be spent on content monthly, and receive access to a curated on-demand library of content. Audible is the United States' largest audiobook producer and retailer.[2][3]

History[edit]

The company's first product was an eponymous portable media player known as the Audible Player; released in 1998, the device contained around 4 megabytes of on-board flash storage, which could hold up to two hours of audio.[4][5]

On October 24, 1999, Audible suffered a setback when its CEO at the time, Andrew J. Huffman, died of an apparent heart attack.[6] Development proceeded, however, leading to Audible licensing the ACELP codec for its level 3 quality downloads in 2000.[7]

In 2003, Audible reached an agreement with Apple Inc. to be the exclusive provider of audiobooks for iTunes Music Store. This agreement ended in 2017 due to antitrust rulings in the European Union.[8]

In 2005, Audible released "Audible Air", which allowed users to download audiobooks directly to PDAs and smartphones. Audible Air content would update automatically, downloading chapters as required that would then delete themselves after they had been listened to.[9]

One Washington Park headquarters

On January 31, 2008, Amazon.com announced it would buy Audible for about $300 million.[10]

In April 2008, Audible began producing exclusive science fiction and fantasy audiobooks under its "Audible Frontiers" imprint. At launch 25 titles were released.[11]

Audible continued its publishing endeavors in May 2011, when it 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.[12][13][14] 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.[13] In March 2012, Audible launched the A-List Collection, a series showcasing Hollywood stars including Claire Danes, Colin Firth, Anne Hathaway, Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, and Kate Winslet 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 2013, the Audible's CEO speculated that the company was the largest single employer of actors in the New York area.[15] In 2014, at Audible's headquarters' six recording studios, producers and voice actors create new audiobooks 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

In September 2012, Audible introduced a feature known as "Whispersync for Voice", which allows users to continue audiobooks from where they left off reading them on Amazon Kindle.[16]

The former Second Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Jersey was repurposed as Audible's "Innovation Cathedral".

In 2016, the company announced that it would open a new facility in Newark, New Jersey, the "Innovation Cathedral", in a former church building.[17]

In November 2017, Audible claimed its customers listened to over one billion hours of content during the year.[citation needed]

Content and pricing[edit]

Audible's content includes more than 200,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers and business information providers.[18] 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.

Audible offered two monthly subscription tiers, "Audible Gold" and "Audible Platinum", which were priced at US$14.95 and $22.95 respectively: both services allow users to obtain "credits" which can be used to purchase audio books (one whole credit for Gold, and two whole credits on Platinum), while Platinum also included additional incentives such as exclusive discounts. On August 24, 2020, Audible replaced both plans with "Audible Premium Plus" (a renaming of Gold, though with the Platinum pricing and credits grandfathered for existing subscribers), and introduced a new $7.95 subscription tier known as Audible Plus. Both tiers include access to a curated on-demand library of audiobooks, podcasts, and other original productions, while the Audible Plus tier does not include credits.[19][20][21]

Once a customer has purchased a title, it remains in that customer's library and can be downloaded or streamed at any time.[19][20] As of April 1, 2019, credits expire one year after they are issued, and credits prior to this day expire after two years.[21]

Original content[edit]

In May 2015, Audible hired Eric Nuzum, formerly VP of programming at NPR, as its SVP of original content development.[22]

Audible publishes original content under the imprint of "Audible Original".

In 2016, Audible introduced an on-demand service known as "Audible Channels", which features short-form audio programming from various outlets, including news and other original productions. Access to Audible Channels is included as part of Audible's subscription, and also became available to Amazon Prime subscribers.[23] Nuzum compared this strategy to original content created by HBO or Netflix,[24][25] and stated that the service deliberately avoided use of the word "podcast" as to not alienate listeners who were unfamiliar with the concept.[26][27]

Among its original productions are Where Should We Begin? — a relationship podcast with Esther Perel,[28] Sincerely, X' — a podcast featuring anonymous TED Talks,[29] Ponzi Supernova — a chronicle of the Madoff investment scandal,[30] The Butterfly Effect — a podcast series by Jon Ronson chronicling the impact of PornHub on internet pornography,[31] and West Cork, a true crime podcast investigating an unsolved 1996 murder in West Cork, Ireland.[32]

In August 2018, it was reported that Nuzum was stepping down, and that Amazon had laid off most of the short-form content staff. This move came amid a shift in Audible's original content strategy, including a greater focus on "audiobook-first" deals with writers.[33][34][35]

Device support[edit]

Audible audio files are compatible with hundreds of audio players, PDAs, mobile phones and streaming media devices.[36] 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.)[36] Currently there is no support for Linux, although AudibleManager is known to work through Wine (though this is not officially supported by Audible).[37][38]

Prospective buyers of media players can check the audible.com "Device Center" [39] 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, iPods, Android, and Windows Phone devices.

The Audible App allows for the downloading and playing of audio books purchased via Audible.com and allows the user to store multiple titles for play on mobile devices.

Quality[edit]

The following qualities have been available from Audible. Currently, only the "Format 4" and "Enhanced" formats are available for download.[40]

Format name Bitrate Sample rate Bit depth Channel MBytes/hour Container Quality description
Audible Enhanced Audio (.aax)* 32 - 128 kbit/s 22.050 - 44.10 kHz Unknown Mono or stereo 28.8 MPEG-4 Part 14 AAC sound
Format 4 (.aa) 32 kbit/s 22.050 kHz 16bit Mono 14.4 MP3 MP3 sound
Format 3 (.aa) 16 kbit/s 22.050 kHz 16bit Mono 7.2 Unknown FM radio sound
Format 2 (.aa) 8 kbit/s 22.050 kHz 16bit Mono 3.7 Unknown AM radio sound
  • AAX files are encrypted M4B's. The audio is encoded in variable quality AAC format. While the vast majority of books are encoded at 64 kbit/s, 22.050 kHz, stereo, some are as low as 32k, mono. Radio plays are often encoded at 128kbit/s and 44.1 kHz.[citation needed] Additionally, many audiobooks in Germany are encoded at the latter bitrate and are marketed as "AAX+"; however, there is no difference in the actual file format.

Digital rights management[edit]

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 username and password, which can be used on up to four computers and three smartphones 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.[41] While multiple software products are capable of removing the Audible DRM protection by re-encoding in other formats,[42] 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.[43] 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 by various methods, including sound recording, virtual CD burning, and even using a media plugin library once provided by Audible themselves.[44] 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 are geo-blocked. 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.[45]

There were hopes[46] 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, similar to the policy of DRM-protecting their 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.[47]

Audible is able to offer DRM-free titles for content providers who wish to do so.[48] FFmpeg 2.8.1+ is capable of playing Audible's .aa and .aax file formats natively.[49][50]

Market power[edit]

Audible 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.[citation needed] Audible produces 10,000 titles a year and may be the largest employer of actors in New York City.[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "audible.com Site Info". Alexa. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ Alexandra Alter (August 1, 2013). "The New Explosion in Audio Books". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  3. ^ https://www.nj.com/essex/2019/05/renovated-church-is-incredible-but-were-part-of-its-history-too-activists-say.html
  4. ^ Redburn, Tom (1998-09-23). "His Dream Is That We'll All Hear Little Voices". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  5. ^ Newton, Casey (2014-12-17). "Inside the secret lab where Amazon is designing the future of reading". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  6. ^ "Audible President And Chief Executive Officer Andrew J. Huffman Dies". Press Release. PRNewswire. 1999-10-25. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Audible Chooses VoiceAge's ACELP.net as Preferred Speech Codec". Voice Age. Archived from the original on 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2006-12-17. Recognition of ACELP.net by the Leading Spoken Audio Service on the Web
  8. ^ "Audible's iTunes exclusivity ends following antitrust pushback in Europe". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  9. ^ Pogue, David (2005-10-13). "A Marriage of Bookshelf and Phone". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  10. ^ Paul, Franklin. "Amazon to buy Audible for $300 million". Reuters.
  11. ^ "Audible Announces New Imprint and Exclusive Agreements with Orson Scott Card and Other Top Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers". BusinessWire.com. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  12. ^ Paul Guliani, Amazon's Audible.com sees ten-fold increase in audiobook production, NY Daily News, January 31, 2013
  13. ^ a b Max Humphreys, Audible's Audiobook Creation Exchange Reports Big Growth In 2012 Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, NextAdvisor, February 4, 2013
  14. ^ Staff writer, Keeping Up With the New Demand for Audiobooks, Publishing Trends, August 1, 2011
  15. ^ Actors today just don't read for the part, reading is the part New York Times, June 30, 2016
  16. ^ "Kindle And Audible's Whispersync For Voice Review: The Best Of Both Worlds". CINEMABLEND. 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  17. ^ Ivers, Dan (2016-01-11). "Audible to expand operation into historic Newark church". NJ.com. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  18. ^ "About Audible". about.audible.com. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  19. ^ a b Holloway, Daniel (2020-08-24). "Audible Launches New Unlimited Subscription Tier Audible Plus". Variety. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  20. ^ a b Carman, Ashley (2020-08-24). "Audible launches a cheaper subscription plan for access to its exclusive podcasts and audio content". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  21. ^ a b Liptak, Andrew (2019-04-10). "Audible will now let you keep your membership credits for a full year". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  22. ^ Sefton, Drue (May 15, 2015). "NPR Programmer Nuzum Moving to Audible to Oversee Original Content". Current. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  23. ^ "Amazon adds another Prime benefit: free podcasts from Audible Channels and free audiobooks". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  24. ^ Johnson, Steve (July 16, 2018). "Audible Tries HBO for Audio with New Channels Service". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  25. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (July 7, 2016). "Amazon's Audible Goes Long on Short Term Audio". The New York Times. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  26. ^ Etherington, Darrell. "Audible's new Channels audio content subscription service is a bet on a voice-powered future". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  27. ^ Gamerman, Ellen (2016-07-07). "Amazon's Audible Launches On-Demand Audio Service, Channels". WSJ. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  28. ^ Schwartz, Alexandra. "Esther Perel Lets us Listen in On Couple's Secrets". The New Yorker. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  29. ^ Leiber, Jessica (August 24, 2016). "TED Talks But Anonymously: Sincerely X is a new podcast meant for secret big ideas". Fast Company. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  30. ^ Sturges, Fiona (March 11, 2018). "Podcast: Ponzi Supernova — the electrifying story of Bernie Madoff". Financial Times. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  31. ^ "'The Butterfly Effect' explores tech's impact on the porn industry". Engadget. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  32. ^ Quah, Nicholas (March 7, 2018). "West Cork Audible Podcast Review". Vulture. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  33. ^ Quah, Nicholas (Aug 7, 2018). "A big shakeup at Audible has left the audiobook giant's podcast strategy unclear". Nieman Lab Blog. Retrieved Dec 29, 2018.
  34. ^ Alter, Alexandra (2018-06-02). "Want to Read Michael Lewis's Next Work? You'll Be Able to Listen to It First". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  35. ^ "'The Dispatcher' Is A Short Stroll In A Strange Neighborhood". NPR.org. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  36. ^ a b How Audible Works, How Audible works at audible.com, April 22, 2007
  37. ^ Audible.com and Linux... Arghh, Todd Partridge (Gen2ly), Audible.com and Linux... Arghh., September 21, 2011
  38. ^ [1], Wine, WineHQ - AudibleManager, Dec 17 2014
  39. ^ "Device Center". Audible.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  40. ^ https://audible.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5128/kw/formats
  41. ^ Why I Won't Be Adding Audible.com to My Xmas Card List, O'Reilly Mac DevCenter Blog, January 3, 2003
  42. ^ "Remove DRM from Audible's audio books (Removing copy-protection from .AA files) - Audio/video stream recording forums". stream-recorder.com.
  43. ^ "Company Threatens Audio Editing Software Creator April 20, 2004". Chillingeffects.org. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  44. ^ "Audible.com without DRM". swankandswill.blogspot.com. July 2010. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  45. ^ "Audible.com FAQ". Audible.CustHelp.com. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  46. ^ Doctorow, Cory (2008-02-21). "Random House Audio abandons audiobook DRM". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  47. ^ "Kindle mp3 Audible Hack - Nickinator Nick Jones". Nickinator.info. 2012-01-28. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  48. ^ "Audible.com FAQ". Audible.custhelp.com. 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  49. ^ "FFmpeg Audible AAX". FFmpeg. 2015-12-25. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  50. ^ "FFmpeg Audible AA". FFmpeg. 2015-12-25. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  51. ^ Kaufman, Leslie (29 June 2013). "Actors Today Don't Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2017.

External links[edit]