Amazon Hiring Comedians, Engineers for Growing Audio Service

31 January 2016

From Bloomberg: Inc. is ramping up its investment in podcasts and other radio-style shows to expand the types of programming it offers via Audible, the audio book company it acquired in 2008.

Audible has recruited well-known comedians, along with radio and podcast producers for the initiative, and job postings suggest a significant global push. Maria Bamford and Jonathan Katz are taping episodes of “Bedtime Stories,” a show in which comedians rewrite fairy tales, according to their manager Bruce Smith.

Entertainment plays a crucial role in Amazon’s effort to push beyond its core business of selling books, laundry detergent and televisions online. The Seattle-based company’s original films and TV shows have won critical acclaim and helped increase the appeal of its $99-a-year Prime service, which includes delivery discounts along with video and music streaming. Audible has more than 250,000 audio programs including books and plays, with downloads available for iPhones, Androids and other smartphone systems.

“Amazon is doing to Audible what it’s done to Prime Video — investing in original programming,” said Nick Quah, an executive at the Graham Holdings Co.’s Panoply podcast network who also writes a newsletter about the industry. “Amazon is hiring a ton of really good producers and managers out of public radio to acquire podcasts and develop shows of their own.”

. . . .

Podcasts and other radio programs are a sweetener for existing members and to entice new ones. Audible sells products individually, along with monthly subscriptions that include access to a certain number of titles, reinforcing Amazon’s push to engage online shoppers with gadgets and entertainment offerings.

Radio-style programs could also be a good extension of Amazon’s voice-activated speaker Echo, which already plays customized news from National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg and thanks to Nate for the tip.

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Libraries Lend Record Numbers of Ebooks and Audiobooks in 2015

6 January 2016

From Digital Book World:

Overdrive, the leading supplier of digital content to libraries and schools, reported Tuesday that, in 2015, readers borrowed more than 169 million ebooks. This marked a 24-percent increase over 2014. There was also a notable spike in audiobook usage, which saw a faster growth rate than ebook library borrowing.

. . . .

• Ebook circulation was 125 million (19-percent growth over 2014)
• Digital audiobook circulation was 43 million (36-percent growth over 2014)
• Streaming video circulation was up 83 percent over 2014
• 33 library systems circulated 1 million or more digital books in 2015
• Lending of digital magazines and newspapers grew significantly in 2015 (introduced in late 2014)
• Reader visits to OverDrive-powered library and school websites was 750 million (up 14 percent from 2014)

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

You Can Now Download The Harry Potter Audiobooks From Audible

23 November 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Beginning today, the digital audiobook editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are available for purchase at,, and Up until now, customers who wanted audiobook versions of the titles had to purchase physical copies from retailers, or download the titles from J.K. Rowling’s website/company, Pottermore.

The various Audible sites will feature the narration performances originally recorded for audiobook format in their respective territories: Jim Dale in the North American version, Felix von Manteuffel in the German version, and Stephen Fry for the version sold in the U.K. and the rest of the world. The North American version can be downloaded in the U.S. at

Audible is the sole subscription-based service to offer the Harry Potter series as digital audiobooks, and this new arrangement gives customers the opportunity to listen to the Harry Potter titles at a significantly reduced cost.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The State of a Genre Title, 2015

11 August 2015

From John Scalzi:

Eighteen months ago, as Redshirts moved from its hardcover era into trade paperback, I did an examination of its sales to the point, across all its formats, and chatted about what its sales meant, or didn’t mean, and what we could learn from the numbers. Last week, Lock In, my most recent novel (until tomorrow), transitioned from hardcover to mass market paperback, and I thought it would be interesting and possibly useful to do something similar with it. So I asked for numbers from my publishers. Here they are, up to July 31, 2015. The numbers are rounded to the nearest 100.


For those who choose not to whip out their calculators, that’s total sales of 87,500 copies in Lock In’s hardcover sales era, in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. Note the hardcover/eBook sales do not include the UK edition of Lock In, published by Gollancz, nor any foreign language editions. These are North American edition sales (Audible owns world English rights for its version, and so the audio numbers may include sales outside North America). Note also that the audiobook numbers are sales, not downloads, important because Lock In had two versions, and the pre-orders included both versions.

So, thoughts on these numbers.

1. 87.5k is a pretty healthy number for sales here. If you want to do a comparison to Redshirts, the total sales numbers are up (Redshirts sold 79.2k in its hardcover era), although Redshirts‘ time in hardcover was shorter, so in all it may be a wash. The distribution of sales is also a reminder that all sales channels matter — if I were to lose access to bookstore distribution, for example, I’d lose roughly a quarter of my total sales for this sales pass. If I weren’t doing audio, in this particular case (I’ll discuss this more a couple of points down), I would have lost nearly half.

This continues to be my major concern with digital-only self-publishing, incidentally: there’s money being left on the table if you can’t address all these sales channels. Most self-publishers (or micro publishers) don’t have access to bookstores, nearly all of which continue to operate on a “returns” basis. This is not about the ability to create a physical copy of a book; at this point that can easily be done with print-on-demand options. It’s about having the book already on the shelves, attractively packaged and ready to buy, when the customer walks into the store. If you don’t have that, you’ve largely lost out in that sales avenue. Likewise audio if you’re not there.

At this point in my career, I’m a four-quadrant author, which means that at the end of the day my income as a novelist comes out of four areas: print, eBook, audio, and foreign sales. For any one book or project, one of these might be significantly out of proportion to others, in terms of sales. But over the length of time, they’ve all tended to even out as backlist sales kick in and other factors come into play. At this time, and I expect still for a while to come, the best way to address all these markets effectively and consistently is to partner with publishers.

. . . .

What does this tell us (anecdotally) about audio? One, that genre work can sell very well indeed in the segment, which should be immensely heartening to authors in genre; two, that audio as a segment is growing and it makes sense to get into it if you can; three, that audio has its own audience, with its own sets of desires and expectations, and that’s something you’ll want to factor in as you create you work. At this point I absolutely give consideration to how my worksounds as well as reads — I’m starting to use substantially fewer dialogue tags (“he said,” “she said”), as an example.

This also goes to my argument of why working with established publishers can continue to have its advantages for writers. Audible (in my case, other major audio publishers in the case of other authors) has the wherewithal to get the best narrators, an entire marketing and PR staff and the ability to push a title in the space, in a manner and with the wide-band strength that it would be very difficult for me, as an individual, to do. They do it well, which is a thing, and they also do it better than I would, which is another, separate thing. I benefit, and reach an audience I wouldn’t otherwise, through their competence and expertise. Which is why I’m glad to be working with them.

Which suggests this is a fine place to bring this up: Last Friday I signed a multi-year, multi-book contract with Audible, who will be the audiobook publisher for the books that are to be published by Tor over the next decade. I’m going to skip over the fiddly details of that contract right, except to say that I’m very very happywith it, and also very happy to be working with Audible for the next decade. Like Tor, they are simply the best at what they do, and I like working with the best.

Link to the rest at John Scalzi and thanks to Dale for the tip.

Here’s a link to John Scalzi’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Audible Royalties

6 August 2015

Mrs. PG recently received an email from a writer friend regarding Audible royalties.

The narrator the writer friend had always worked with on her audiobooks didn’t want to do any more work for Audible on a royalty-share basis because of the $1.99 purchase price for Whispersync versions of the author’s ebooks. The narrator said the royalties would be too low.

Mrs. PG only recently issued her first audiobook via Audible, so PG doesn’t have much real-world experience to review in detail.

A quick scan of audiobook prices for Amazon’s bestsellers showed fiction audiobooks ranging from $10-$14. Audible says Whispersync prices range from $1.99 to $12.99.

Of course, for Audible audiobooks, you have the $15 per month subscription which gets you one free audiobook per month plus 30% off additional titles.

This matter was discussed on TPV back in 2013. PG doesn’t recall hearing anything about it since.

So, is there something new or is this Internet misinformation?


Audible’s Technical Issues Aren’t a Curse of Amazon’s Monopoly, But an Opportunity

28 July 2015

From The Digital Reader:

While it’s customary to gripe about the terrible service offered by a monopoly, some forget that a monopoly, especially a digital monopoly, is not nearly the sinecure that they assume.

Dr Joshua Kim has been blogging over at Inside Higher Ed, where he’s been using his podium to rail against Amazon. Kim is a Kindle and Audible customer, and over the past couple months he’s complained about Audible’s technical issues, the lack of Whispersync enabled ebook/audiobook pairs, and, just yesterday, how Amazon’s monopoly on ebooks/audiobooks is harming consumers (more Audible technical issues again).

This time around he’s having trouble buying audiobooks. While he did get his money back, he’s annoyed because he would rather have the book.

While I would normally support and work to amplify a consumer’s complaints so they will get fixed faster, Kim’s screed took a turn for the myopic:

Before I dive into the problem (which you really won’t care about anyway), a word on why it is important to pick on Audible whenever possible.

The reason: Amazon. Or more precisely, Amazon’s dominance of the digital book ecosystem.

Amazon owns Audible. Between the Kindle e-readers / books and the Audible audiobooks – Amazon owns a de facto monopoly on the digital book market. Mostly, the consumer seems to have benefited from this digital book monopoly. New books can be had cheaper than ever before. The number of audiobook titles is growing quickly. Whispersync, the name for the Amazon technology that seamlessly syncs up Kindle and Audible books, is just wonderful. (Although far too few titles are Whispersync enabled).

Amazon may dominate the digital book market, but that is because all of the other options are terrible. Apple and Google don’t care to offer a competitive service, B&N has given up, and Kobo, well, the best thing you can say about Kobo’s ebook service is that they make decent hardware.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

APA reports continued strong audio sales

27 July 2015

From Library Journal:

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) released the results of its annual sales survey, conducted by the independent research firm Management Practice in the spring of 2015, which revealed that the audiobook industry is continuing to expand in sales as well as the number of titles being published in the format.

Based on information from responding publishers, the APA estimates that audiobook sales in 2014 totaled more than $1.47 billion, up 13.5 percent over the previous year. Additionally, 1,032 more titles were published on audio than in 2013, bringing the number of audiobooks published in 2014 up to 25,787.

The APA credits industry growth to the increasing popularity of the digital download format and the increasing awareness and profile of audiobooks in general.

Link to the rest at Library Journal

How audio is beginning to make a noise

21 July 2015

From Future Book:

Over the past few years audio downloads have become the more interesting flip-side to the e-book market. The parallels are obvious. The rise of audio downloads has resulted in a format shift (away from CDs) onto devices (such as mobile phones) in a market which (since its 2008 acquisition of Audible) is also dominated by Amazon.

Like the e-book sector, the data is difficult to obtain, and tricky to analyse. According to the Publishers Association’s Statistics Yearbook 2014, sales of digital audio last year were just over £10m, up 24% over 2013, representing a rise of 170% since 2010. However, this is based on value of sales invoiced by publishers, and therefore likely underestimates the total market by some degree.

Unlike the e-book market where invoice sales can be close to the total market size to provide a meaningful perspective, in the audio download world the added complexity of the business models (a £7.99 monthly subscription with Audible gets the listener one free audio title a month), along with retailer power, means publishers’ revenue is further away from the market size.

The actual market size could be closer to £40m: last year Audible’s UK company accounts recorded sales of £29.5m (up almost £9m from 2013), so it’s not an unreasonable estimate. Audible is also the supplier of audio content to Apple’s iTunes store, the other main retail outlet for audio downloads. If there is a market developing outside of these two key channels, it remains small.

The factors driving the market are almost the precise opposite of those currently stymieing e-book growth. Audio downloads are device neutral, and publishers are prepared to make imaginative leaps with the content. Audible, for example, is producing its own “House of Cards” style audio-only content.

. . . .

“Audio is the fastest-growing genre in publishing,” Pandora White, audio publisher at Orion told the magazine. “In my 20 years in [the industry], I never thought I would say that.” Orion’s spoken-word business has “increased substantially” year on year (downloads have played a “huge part”), with White saying that the sector’s spike has been driven by technology. She added: “There has been a complete revolution when it comes to audio, with younger people listening to audiobooks for the first time, purely because of the gadgets and smartphones we all have.”

. . . .

As my colleague Tom Tivnan pointed out in the magazine, the very top of the first edition of Download Chart does not vary much from the physical book charts. E L James and Paula Hawkins, the two big publishing stories of 2015—until Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was released this week—are comfortably ensconced in first and second positions.

Yet further down the list there is a broadening of the download market which diverts sharply from print, with deep backlist titles, strong showings from bespoke audio publishers and original content. Single purchase costs vary greatly, but the current selling price for the top 10 titles averages out at £24.61, ranging from £13.99 for George R R Martin’s A Game of Thrones (HarperCollins) to £54.69 for Brilliance Audio’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

Link to the rest at Future Book

The Long Goodbye

28 June 2015

For those who like Raymond Chandler, Brendan says:

The Long Goodbye is Audible’s deal of the day, today-Sunday June 28th.

Here’s a link to the audiobook of The Long Goodbye

Reader analytics as a self-editing tool

26 June 2015

From Futurebook:

Comma Press is working on a research project, in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University and, to explore disruptive (forgive me) approaches to three key issues facing the publishing industry: audiobooks, content-discovery and open-analytics.

To this end, we’re about to launch a digital self-publishing platform called MacGuffin [in pre-launch beta]. Free to use for readers and writers, it’s designed to help authors target a sample of their writing — particularly short stories and poetry — to a specific readership.


We want to learn whether self-publishing authors can be encouraged to follow the lead of amateur podcasters, who’ve shown in recent years that technological barriers to entry have fallen away. So MacGuffin hosts text and audio. Writers must upload a reading of their work along with the text, in order to publish it; end-users can read, listen, and toggle between the two (MacGuffin will be available as a website and an app for iOS and Android).

But this kind of DIY approach to audiobooks is about reader expectations, too. Does recording have to be done in a professional studio, by an actor, to be enjoyable? Lots of authors who’ve tried the MacGuffin beta have uploaded beautifully-performed readings with flawless audio. But on some of my favourites, you can hear birdsong in the background, or a dog barking in the distance, or the sound of kids playing in an adjacent room. Will readers feel the same way? We don’t yet know.

. . . .

We’re experimenting with a “broad-folksonomy” model of content curation.

In layman’s terms, this means that any user can add hashtags to anyone else’s work. Tagging is something of a blunt tool when only a few people do it, but as more content is added and tagged, we hope it’ll accrue into a huge database of really searchable literature. This opens up all kinds of functionality for users: searching for multiple tags means readers can quickly narrow down what they’re looking for, so a crime fiction fan with a 25-minute commute might search for #crime #25minutelisten.

Publishers or spoken-word nights can upload samples of content, grouped together under a tag. Readers can create lists to share (e.g. #sundaysonnets #jimsslipstreamstories). Kind of like in the old days, when you’d make mix-tapes for your friends — on MacGuffin, you can do this with poetry and stories.

. . . .

Perhaps most controversially, MacGuffin has open-analytics. Anyone can see the “drop-out points” — where (anonymised) readers quit a story or poem before the end — plotted onto a graph. While I expect that many writers will find this unnerving, it undoubtedly has some potential as a self-editing tool – you can identify that weak scene in your story where you’re losing readers, then republish it.

It doesn’t give the whole picture, of course (the readers dropping out might have poor taste!), but at the same time, ushering readers from the start to the finish of a text is undeniably something a writer ought to be interested in.

During the beta test, we found that most stories and poems typically have a lot of drop-outs right at the start of the text or audio (sometimes over 50% during the first 10% of a story or poem). It seemed readers were scanning the first few lines of text, or listening to a few seconds of audio, then deciding it wasn’t for them. I panicked a bit at first, until I took a look at some of the public domain classics we’d uploaded, for comparison. It seems this simply reflects the way we browse literature, whether digitally, or picking up a book in a bookstore: scanning the first few lines, then deciding it’s not for us, and moving on to something else. The really useful drop-out stats for authors seem to come after that initial bedding-in phase, where you’ve won the reader’s confidence, only to loose it again with a miss-step in plotting or pacing or tone.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

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