Has audible.com quality dropped?

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mneblung

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Is it only me, or has the recent releases on audible.com seem to have dropped in quality in your view?

I normally listen to unabridged books, and the number released each week seems less also.

And some books that used to be listed on the site are no longer there. There used to be multiple Clive Cussler books for example, but now there is only one.

I've been getting books there since 2000, and it's the main reason I have my iPod.

I'm glad they still have plenty of older books in my wish list to keep me listening.

Anyone else feel this way?
 

AudioMomma

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I've noticed lately that Audible is listing fewer books and tons of interviews, cliff notes, and things of that sort. My main interest is unabridged audio books. It's also the main reason I have an iPod. Hopefully they will start getting more fiction and literature.
 

Podunk

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I think its a matter of what is currently being published in audio. I imagine Audible would sell anything that is newly available. I don't know the seasonality of the publishing business but I would imagine there is a dry spell right after Christmas as publishers aim to put out lots of stuff in time for Christmas.
 

moriond

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I am also finding fewer interesting new Audible audiobook offerings, but there are some other factors at work. First, it's more difficult to track new audiobooks on the current web site: the combination of "New Releases" and "Just Added" lists are harder to use, with the increasing mixture of other types of non-book content and no filters. Some, but not all of the new audiobooks are picked up in the rss feeds for new books. Checking the "Unabridged Audiobooks" and "Abridged Audiobooks" listing also doesn't get everything. In general the listings are more slanted towards new material in contrast to newly available audiobook versions of work that was previously not available in downloadable format. Just as an example, I found a new Simon Prebble reading of Wodehouse stories (original release for Blackstone Audiobooks in 2002) in a random site search, and then had to scour through the other lists to see where it was identified. (It did show up on the very last page of the "Just Added" list).

Some of the variation is seasonal, as Podunk noted, since publishers try to make new items available for Christmas buying and a slack period follows. I think what you're seeing is the contrast between the last two years, when publishers were rushing in to catch the upsurge in downloadable audiobooks that was boosted by the iPod and sales on the iTunes Music Store. New publishers like BBC America were joining Audible with newly converted audiobooks, and other publishers who had maintained a toehold with some Audible material were converting more of their backlist material for the downloadable audiobook market.

Now that the audiobook market (and in particular, the downloadable audiobook market) is seen as a strong growth sector and source of new profits for publishers, there's going to be more attention on audiobooks, but also perhaps at least initially more focus on audiobooks for new releases where the profit margins are larger. It's also true that most of the earlier unabridged recordings were done by audiobook companies like Books On Tape, Recorded Books, and Blackstone, rather than the publishers themselves. It's noticeable that right now a higher fraction of the new recent Audible (audiobook) releases are coming from publishers like NAXOS and Tantor who are only involved in audio productions (not marketing new books with audio and ebook rights).

The following items may be of interest:
  • Audible Cranks It Up the March 2006 Business 2.0 article (online publication date February 21, 2006) giving a short history of Don Katz's idea for Audible, and the current pressure to combat MediaBay and Amazon's entries into the field. The article is also available as an mp3 files.
  • Earlier thread on MediaBay (soundsgood.com) and DRM issues. The link to the pdf copy of the Audiobook issue of Publishing Trends given in the first post may be of particular interest; it includes an article detailing Audible's exclusive arrangement with Apple and iTunes, which runs through 2007 but which Apple can terminate with 6 months' notice. The mention of Amazon's plans for a competing audiobook download service complements the description in the Audible Cranks It Up article about how Amazon chose not to renew their arrangement with Audible in 2003.
Another thing to keep in mind is that publishers set the pricing model for the list price audiobooks, and the prices will not be set to undercut regular book sales or sales in ebook format. This thread on the slightly different topic of Publishers' ebook interests in a potential iTunes-like store describes some of the publishers who have expressed interest in "etailing" their books. If you visit their web sites, you'll see links to the different book formats priced out -- with separate links marked "Audible" and "WMA" (the latter don't yet have a directed connection -- just a generic page about how these products can be purchased on the internet).

A final comment for mneblung: the soundsgood.com site doesn't offer much in the way of downloadable Cussler (backlist), either -- it mostly gives links to how you can purchase physical CDs and cassettes. The download subscription service looks as though it is being patterned on Audible's subscription plan. Also notice that when you choose "two free books" for the initial plan that many unabridged audiobooks are marked as not eligible for selection. The guidelines for how many (limited) times you can download and copy the audio files you have purchased from soundsgood.com vary with the publisher (and potentially, when you make the purchase, since the publisher can change these terms). Also note that your digital audio player must specifically support downloading WMA DRM to play these books -- not just regular WMA content.
 
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