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Amazon to acquire Audible for $300 million

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
In a bid to bolster its status as a premier distributor of digital content, online mega-retailer Amazon.com said Thursday it has reached an agreement to acquire spoken content provider and Apple iTunes partner Audible.com.

Under the terms of the agreement, Amazon.com will commence a cash tender offer to purchase all of the outstanding shares of Audible.com for $11.50 per share, or a 23 percent premium from their closing price of $9.33 on Wednesday.

The online retailer will also assume Audible.com's outstanding stock-based awards, for an aggregate transaction value of approximately $300 million which includes Audible.com's cash and short-term investments at closing.

Through its web sites in the US and UK and alliances in Germany and France, Audible.com offers over 80,000 programs, including audiobooks from well-known authors such as Stephen King, Thomas Friedman, and Jane Austen, and spoken word audio content from sources including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fresh Air and Charlie Rose.

In addition, Audible has maintained an exclusive relationship with Apple since 2003, whereby it offers over 20,000 audiobooks for sale and download to iPod digital music players and the iPhone via the iTunes Store.

Amazon's acquisition of Audible is just its latest move in a broader bid to garner more share of the digital media download market from rivals such as Apple, joining its recently launched digital download services for music and movies.

"Audible.com offers the best customer experience, the widest content selection and the broadest device compatibility in the industry," said Steve Kessel, Amazon.com's senior vice president for worldwide digital media. "Working together, we can introduce more innovations and bring this format to an even wider audience."

This past holiday shopping season, Amazon also embarked on its first foray into the hardware business by introducing Kindle, a $399 digital eBook reader billed as the 'iPod of reading." Though met with mixed reviews, the devices appears to be selling well, as its been on backlog through Amazon.com for the past two and a half months.

Like Apple's iPods, Kindle allows users to download audio books from Audible.com for playback through the device, either via its built in speaker or headphone jack.

The purchase of Audible by Amazon is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to close by the second quarter of 2008.
post #2 of 28
I wonder what if anything this will mean for Apple?

My guess is not much … yet.

Audiobooks don't seem to be a large part of iTunes in ether downloads or revenue.

Skip
post #3 of 28
Interesting....

I am going to go out on a limb here by saying this, but in 2008, Amazon will release a dedicated digital music player.

Dave
post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ncee View Post

I wonder what if anything this will mean for Apple?

My guess is not much yet.

Audiobooks don't seem to be a large part of iTunes in ether downloads or revenue.

Skip

I just hope my Audible.com books will still work in the near future...
post #5 of 28
Man, Apple could have gotten a bargain there. If people still read. I wonder if they still LISTEN to books??
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Man, Apple could have gotten a bargain there. If people still read. I wonder if they still LISTEN to books??

I do. I listen to books while I'm driving and when I'm at the gym.
post #7 of 28
As much as I enjoy the benefits of Apple's success in a variety of areas, I'm always torn when hearing about threats to their dominance. Do I benefit more from increased competition or from Apple being the big bully on the block? Would I pay less for iTunes+ music I buy if not for Amazon? Doubt it. Would the Touch I crave already cost less if Zune was not a poor-selling, dismissed device? Possibly.

Bottom line: I kind of like these challenges, especially when they occur in areas I don't personally care about. I've never bought an audiobook, and likely won't (I'm one of those crazies SJ seems unaware of that buys and reads books). So if threat of losing that contract, or whatever might happen as a result of this deal, spurs on the kids in Cuppertino, so be it!
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post

I just hope my Audible.com books will still work in the near future...

I can't imagine that will change. I just hope they don't alter my subscription (I'm grandfathered in and for $15 I get one book and a periodical of my choice, as opposed to one of the two they now offer people).

Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Man, Apple could have gotten a bargain there. If people still read. I wonder if they still LISTEN to books??

Personally, I love audible and listen to books quite frequently during my commute (that is, while I'm waiting for new episodes of twit and MacBreak Weekly to be released).

I'm actually really happy to hear about this. I've been hearing for years about how Audible was struggling to stay afloat, and judging by the $300M price tag, I'd say those reports were fairly accurate. I suspect that Amazon will discontinue their (exclusive) relationship with Apple, but I don't see that as any big loss. I think that anyone who regularly listens to audiobooks would be foolish to pay full-price through the iTMS, when they can be had far cheaper via Audible's subscription service. Even if one goes through more than the one or two per month they receive via subscription, the discount members get for purchases through Audible can be significant as well.

My hope is that Amazon can bring an even large library to Audible's offerings. Granted, Audible's catalogue is huge, but I still frequently find that I have to go elsewhere for titles I'm specifically looking for.
post #9 of 28
I listen to audio books a lot. Especially with the wife.

However, most of the ones I get are from the Library. Audiobooks cost WAY too much. If they were $5 to $10 each I would buy them but not at $25 and up. That's just not going to happen.

I import the CDs into iTunes, set the "songs" to remember where I last stopped listening to it, create a SmartPlaylist with the "album" name and "Playcount = 0". Then I sync it to my iPod which is connected to my car with a DICE unit. When I play the SmartPlayist it starts with the last "song" in the book that I was listening to at the exact spot that I stopped it at. It works great.

The DICE unit plugs into the back of the car radio and let's you control the iPod with the radio and steering wheel controls and when you turn off the radio it pauses the iPod automatically. It also auto-pauses the iPod when I get cell phone calls.

For the person that asked if his audiobooks are going to have any problems. Not your current ones. They are yours. You own the right to play them as many times as you want. The question will be whether Amazon will renew contracts with Apple. Unless they drop the prices to $10 or below I won't be interested.
post #10 of 28
I also like the iTunes audiobooks. Hope they don't go away...
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabon View Post

I listen to audio books a lot. Especially with the wife.

However, most of the ones I get are from the Library. Audiobooks cost WAY too much. If they were $5 to $10 each I would buy them but not at $25 and up. That's just not going to happen.

I import the CDs into iTunes, set the "songs" to remember where I last stopped listening to it, create a SmartPlaylist with the "album" name and "Playcount = 0".

As I read the first half of your post I thought I had written it for myself. Same here on all the above.
post #12 of 28
I prefer the sound of my own inner voice that reading provides over listening to someone who you can't stomach reading a book to you.

Audiobooks are great for those with visual impairments and other reasons, but for cryin' out loud, just read a damn book.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

just read a damn book.

Especially when you spend forty minutes in traffic!
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabon View Post

However, most of the ones I get are from the Library. Audiobooks cost WAY too much. If they were $5 to $10 each I would buy them but not at $25 and up.

You're on. Become an Audible Platinum member for $229 and you get 24 book credits, which brings the price of each book down to $9.50.

So are you going to put your money where your mouth is, or was your post simply a rationalization as to why its okay for you to steal content?
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kishan View Post

Especially when you spend forty minutes in traffic!

Exactly. And FWIW, I do "read a damn book" when my three-year-old isn't demanding my attention (which gives me exactly seven minutes per day)
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabon View Post

For the person that asked if his audiobooks are going to have any problems. Not your current ones. They are yours. You own the right to play them as many times as you want.

Thanks, but your assurances mean little if there are no devices on which to play all of those audiobooks. Should Apple and Amazon get huffy, Apple could well drop Audible support from future generations of iTunes and iPods, in which case people with iPods and iPhones and a large Audible collection would be SOL.

I doubt this would happen, as I could see a major backlash against Apple from their customer base if they did so.

Then again, Audible could potentially create their own player for Touch and iPhone devices if the forthcoming API will support it, swinging things back the other way.
post #17 of 28
I listen to audiobooks on my iPod more than any other content. I can "read" 10 times as many books that way without having to stop doing everything else I do. I listen at work, in the car, doing chores, exercising, etc, all times where a physical book couldn't be read anyway. I love it.

I tried to used Audible several times, but they never actually activate my account, and they will not respond to emails, ever. So I use the library.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

was your post simply a rationalization as to why its okay for you to steal content?

He's using the library.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenka View Post

He's using the library.

Yeah, but one could argue that ripping the library's audiobook to one's iPod would be stealing. I'm not personally arguing the right or wrongness of doing so (I've done this myself), but it still is illegal
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

I prefer the sound of my own inner voice that reading provides over listening to someone who you can't stomach reading a book to you.

I can't parse it in a way that makes sense.

Quote:
Audiobooks are great for those with visual impairments and other reasons, but for cryin' out loud, just read a damn book.

I don't get this post at all. Such a narrow perspective.
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by djames42 View Post

Yeah, but one could argue that ripping the library's audiobook to one's iPod would be stealing. I'm not personally arguing the right or wrongness of doing so (I've done this myself), but it still is illegal

You only listen to an audiobook once in most cases. What device you use to listen the tracks is of no consequence. Worst case, one might say that you should delete the files after you listen to them. No matter how you slice it though, it's not stealing on any level.
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I don't get this post at all. Such a narrow perspective.

That was my thought as well, but clearly the poster either has no commute, or it simply never occurred to them that some people like to catch up on their reading while they drive (or maybe is too young to drive ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenka View Post

You only listen to an audiobook once in most cases. What device you use to listen the tracks is of no consequence. Worst case, one might say that you should delete the files after you listen to them. No matter how you slice it though, it's not stealing on any level.

Oh I agree completely. As I said, I have also ripped books from the library to listen in my iPod, and as long as I delete them when I'm done, I don't consider it theft. I doubt the lawyers would be so generous with their own interpretation of copyright law, but that's a topic that's been beaten to death...
post #22 of 28
so i take it that itunes will not be able to sell the books, well this is no biggie, no one really buys off itunes, i have an audible subscription, and not allowing audio books in the future to play off this would be foolish, i think itunes is gonna sink, amazon may come out on top
post #23 of 28
For those that are worried about iPod compatibility:
1. Books already in your library will probably continue to function just as they have always have.
2. The question is if Apple will renew the FairPlay license with Amazon. This will depend on if Apple sees Amazon as a competitor or a supplier. If Apple sees Amazon as a supplier they may surprise us and let Amazon continue with the Audible license.
3. Amazon may sell these audiobooks without DRM. I don't think this is likely as book publishers make the RIAA look like Pirate Bay supporters. But Amazon already sells mp3s and ebooks without DRM.
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post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by djames42 View Post

I'd say those reports were fairly accurate. I suspect that Amazon will discontinue their (exclusive) relationship with Apple, but I don't see that as any big loss. I think that anyone who regularly listens to audiobooks would be foolish to pay full-price through the iTMS, when they can be had far cheaper via Audible's subscription service. Even if one goes through more than the one or two per month they receive via subscription, the discount members get for purchases through Audible can be significant as well.

Based on Amazon's business model, expect the Audible.com site to become incorporated into Amazon.com. Audible will redirect there, and their content will be accessed directly via Amazon downloads. This will also force anyone buying audiobooks to try out Amazon's service and, probably convince a lot of people who have exclusively used iTunes for content, that using Amazon isn't much of a hassle, and can in some cases save them money/DRM/waiting for Apple to make deals with providers/etc.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenka View Post

He's using the library.

He also said he'd pay for them if they were under $10, quoting price as his rationalization. But as I pointed out, they ARE under $10.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

He also said he'd pay for them if they were under $10, quoting price as his rationalization. But as I pointed out, they ARE under $10.

But there is still that pesky huge up-front investment to get that price.
post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

He also said he'd pay for them if they were under $10, quoting price as his rationalization. But as I pointed out, they ARE under $10.

I'm talking about audiobooks not ebooks. Most audiobooks are $25 or more. I'm talking about ones that most people would want.

There is a series of books called, "The Cat Who" series by Lillian Jackson Braun. They are murder mystery books and there are 28 or 29 of them now. The iTunes store only has nine of them.

The older three are $14.95, $15.95, and $16.95. But all the newer ones are $20 plus dollars. That's quite a bit of money.

I do realize they have the writer who gets paid and the (at least in this series) great vocalist reading the books that gets paid and so on with the publisher and distributer.

And I realize that books are a lot longer than albums. It's still just too high for me.

Again, I'm talking audio books not e-books.
post #28 of 28
I have to second Sabon here about the price of audiobooks. I've been wanting to buy one for awhile, just to see how they work in iTunes. But I have yet to find one that I am both willing to buy and at a price I am willing to pay. I understand the cost structure, just not willing to pay it.
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