Monday, April 27, 2009

Barnes & Noble Throw Down the MP3 Gauntlet

Barnes & Noble has announced that has launched its Audiobook MP3 Store. It will provide audio-book downloads of over 10,000 titles to iPods, iPhones, MP3 players and other portable devices. The average price per download will range between $10 and $20, but to celebrate the launch they are offering for a limited period, 9 free downloads plus up to may 3rd May, 50% off any title in the Audiobook MP3 Store.

The service will be outsourced to Overdrive’s extensive audio platform and comes only weeks after B&N bought Fictionwise to provide an ebook offer to the market. The news that B&N has selected an MP3 format is no surprise as its the only real format alternative to Audible, who are a owned by ‘fortress Amazon’. What this move will clearly do is put real momentum behind the MP3 DRM free audio market and hopefully break the monopoly that was created not by consumer demand but an exclusive DRM and prohibitive book club model. The move should sway many to drop DRM from audiobooks and free their pricing from the restrictive and exclusive Audible Book Club Model.

Once the MP3 format gets established then the files should be more widely available and served up by many so also reducing the market’s reliance on Overdrive.

We have long argued that audio books are a natural easy digital win where all that changed was that the files were downloaded and not supplied on CD. The user listening experience remains the same. What is now required is authors, agents and publishers to step up to the opportunity and embrace MP3 and if they are apprehensive on DRM free then adopt digital watermarking.

It also looks like B&N are finally getting serious about digital.

The final question is whether Amazon will, as they have with music, see the light and fold in behind B&N and MP3 or remain stuck in Audible DRM treacle?

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