Audible is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. Through its production arm, Audible Studios, Audible has also become the world's largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. Audible's content is usually only accessible through special proprietary closed software, including unauthorized-playback prevention by means of an Amazon account. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw people in several countries confined to their homes, Audible made many children's and classic titles free to access via its website, with no sign-in required.
|Key People||Don Katz|
|Platform(s)||Android, iOS, Apple macOS, Microsoft Windows, Kindle, Windows Phone|
|Pricing model||Variable subscription and a la carte|
|Alexa rank||962 (January 2020[update])|
|Website||Audible, Inc. (US) , Audible, Ltd. (UK)|
On January 31, 2008, Amazon.com announced it would buy Audible for about $300 million. The deal closed in March 2008 and Audible became a subsidiary of Amazon. The company is based in Newark, New Jersey, and is expanding its presence in the city with the creation of a new technology center, called the Innovation Cathedral, located in a former church. Audible is the United States' largest audio book producer and retailer.
In January 1995, Audible introduced the first production-volume digital audio player almost six years before the introduction of the iPod. It only supported playback of digital audio in Audible's proprietary, low-bitrate .aa format that could be downloaded from Audible.com. The first player had about 4MB of memory, which is about two hours of .aa format audio. Audible holds a number of patents in this device area.
On October 24, 1999, Audible suffered a setback when its CEO at the time, Andrew J. Huffman, died of an apparent heart attack. Development proceeded, however, leading to Audible licensing the ACELP codec for its level 3 quality downloads in 2000.
Audible scored a coup in 2003 when it made an exclusive deal with Apple to provide their catalog of books on the iTunes Music Store. Books purchased on iTunes would have a .m4b extension (a variation on MP4) and would contain AAC audio covered by Apple's FairPlay Digital Rights Management.
Audible's success began to increase interest in the profile of Audible's founder, Don Katz. Consequently, he had his profile highlighted by AudioFile magazine in early 2003, was called upon to give a recorded talk on IT Conversations in May 2005 about the early history of Audible, and was tapped to deliver the keynote address at the Podcast Expo in November 2005.
Audible launched Audible Air in 2005, software that made it possible to download (copy-controlled) audio books over the air - wirelessly and directly to devices such as a smartphones or PDAs. This eliminated the need for the intermediate step of downloading copy-controlled audio books first to a computer in order to then transfer it to Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Symbian Mobile devices. Audible Air content would update automatically, downloading chapters as required that would then delete themselves after they had been listened to. Interest in Audible and its founder would continue to attract attention as Don Katz was featured in the March 2006 issue of "Business 2.0".
In April 2008, Audible began producing exclusive science fiction and fantasy audiobooks under its "Audible Frontiers" imprint. At launch 25 titles were released. In 2008, Amazon bought the company for $300 million.
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. 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. 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. In 2014, at Audible's headquarters' six recording studios, producers and voice actors create new audiobooks 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Technical innovation returned to center-state for the company in September 2012 when Audible launched Whispersync for Voice, an innovation that enables readers to switch seamlessly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the corresponding audiobook without losing their place. Along with Whispersync for Voice, Audible released Immersion Reading, a feature which highlights text on a Kindle book as the audiobook is narrated. It was also the focus in June 2015 when audiblebooks from Audible.com was made available on Amazon Echo, a voice command device from Amazon with functions including question answering, playing music and controlling smart devices.
In November 2017, Audible claimed its customers listened to over one billion hours of content during the year.
Website, pricing, and catalogEdit
Audible's content includes more than 200,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers and business information providers. 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.
In addition to the regular price charged for audiobooks, Audible offers subscriptions with the following benefits:
- Credits: For a monthly subscription fee, a customer receives one or two audio credits. Most titles can be purchased with one of these credits. Some titles (usually larger books or collections of more than one book) may cost two credits, while others (usually very short works) cost only a third of a credit. (Users may also purchase a year's subscription at a time, for a discount, receiving all credits at once, but only in some countries.) Platinum subscribers also receive a complimentary subscription to the digital audio version of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
- Subscriber Discount: A subscriber may choose to purchase additional books without credits for a 30% discount.
- Access to the daily deal and monthly deals.
Additionally, some content—particularly political speeches, government hearings, content such as the 9/11 Report Speech, excerpts, and short stories from books—are available for free.
Once a customer has purchased a title on Audible, it remains in that customer's library and can be downloaded at any time, or the customer may listen to the file directly from the website, regardless of whether it has been downloaded before.
Audible audio files are compatible with hundreds of audio players, PDAs, mobile phones and streaming media devices. 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.) Currently there is no support for Linux, although AudibleManager is known to work through Wine (though this is not officially supported by Audible).
Prospective buyers of media players can check the audible.com "Device Center"  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.
The following qualities have been available from Audible. Currently, only the "Format 4" and "Enhanced" formats are available for download.
|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. 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 managementEdit
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. While multiple software products are capable of removing the Audible DRM protection by re-encoding in other formats, 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. 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. 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. 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.
There were hopes 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.
In 2015, Audible hired Eric Nuzum, formerly VP of Programming at NPR, to create an original content team. In July 2016, Audible introduced Audible Channels, offering original audio series to its subscribers. Nuzum likened the approach to those followed by Netflix and HBO in creating original video series.
Over two years, Audible produced a number of original series, before scaling back the initiative in August 2018.
Audible's original series include:
Where Should We Begin?, a podcast that brings you inside relationship therapist Esther Perel's office as she sees anonymous couples in search of insight on everything from infidelity to sexlessness to grief. The couples include both heterosexual and same-sex couples. The first episode aired on Audible in May 2017, and became publicly available on iTunes on October 9, 2017. The series is hosted by Esther Perel. The Executive Producer is Jesse Baker. Where Should We Begin? received a 2018 Gracie Award.
Sincerely, X, a podcast featuring anonymous TED Talks, created as a co-production between TED and Audible. The anonymous speakers included a doctor who believed she killed a patient; a Silicon Valley executive who experienced a mental breakdown; a yoga instructor who unleashed pepper spray in a department store; and a woman in a violent marriage who invented a ritual that she believes saved her life. The series is hosted by June Cohen, created by Deron Triff, and executive produced by Deron Triff and Colin Campbell. The first episode aired on Audible on February 1, 2017, and became available publicly on iTunes on July 19, 2017. Sincerely X received a 2018 Gracie Award for the episode "Rescued by Ritual."
Ponzi Supernova, an investigative podcast that offers an inside look at Bernie Madoff and his $65 billion ponzi scheme, based on previously unheard interviews with Madoff from prison, as well as other interviews. The series is hosted by journalist Steve Fishman, who spent more than 10 years on the reporting. The Executive Producer is Ellen Horne.
West Cork, a true-crime podcast, investigating an unsolved 1996 murder in West Cork, Ireland. The series is hosted by documentarian Jennifer Ford and investigative journalist Sam Bungey. The Executive Producer is Jesse Baker.
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. Audible produces 10,000 titles a year and may be the largest employer of actors in New York City.
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