On Digital Book World, professional audiobook narrator Karen Commins discusses all the things Amazon has done to move audiobooks further into the mainstream. It’s an interesting piece; I’d always thought of audiobooks as being mainstream already, since well before e-books were even invented, but as Commins notes, Amazon really has done a lot to make them more accessible to average people.
It started in 2007, when Amazon bought independent audiobook producer Brilliance Audio, which at the time produced 180 new titles per year but now produces 2,000. In 2008, Amazon bought Audible.com, which at the time had 60,000 titles in its catalog and now has around a quarter million. But perhaps most effectively of all,
Amazon Audible created the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) in 2011, a sort of open market to put publishers together with narrators for recording audiobooks independently. Commins notes that ACX is now responsible for 1/4 of the audiobooks available on Audible.
In 2012 Amazon started offering “Whispersync,” which would let readers switch between e-book and audiobook renditions of the same title almost seamlessly, and offer them a discount for buying both formats. Since 2013, Amazon has been offering the “Find Your Match” service to show users which Kindle titles they already own are eligible for discount audiobook upgrades. Also in 2013, Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads gave it a powerful tool for recommending audiobooks as well as print and e-books.
In 2015, Audible launched its Onebook program, and expanded it in May, allowing people to share an audiobook in their library with up to 1,000 people, including an optional free Audible trial membership. The list goes on and on.
Not everyone’s been happy with everything Amazon’s done for audiobooks, of course—the discount Whispersync program has aggravated some authors and audiobook producers to the point where they intentionally try to break compatibility between the print and audiobook editions. Some also complain that, unless you’re one of the big publishers, ACX is effectively the only way to get an audiobook produced that anyone can actually find.
Apart from Amazon’s moves to promote it, audiobook production has also benefited from e-book and other digital technology making it easier to read, perform, and record audiobooks. And, of course, audiobook consumption has benefited from the fact that you no longer have to lug a suitcase full of cassette tapes or CDs along with you to listen to an hours-long audiobook production.
All in all, the digital revolution has made it even easier to listen to audiobooks—by comparison to the old way—than it has to read printed books. And that’s a pretty nifty thing, in my (audio)book.
(Found via The Passive Voice.)