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Don’t Bet Against Amazon Initiating an AutoRip-Style Program to Bundle Digital Books; In Fact, It Has Already Happened on One Level

Will Amazon ever extend the “digital bundling” principles behind its new AutoRip program for music purchases to books?

I raised that possibility the other day in introducing Amazon’s press release on AutoRip, and it has been interesting to see how many people have jumped on the topic with words to the basic effect that “that will never happen.”

Okay, let’s back up and define our terms. What’s so cool about AutoRip, of course, is that

  • first, millions of people who have purchased physical CDs from Amazons since 1998 discovered last week that dozens, or hundreds (405 in my case), or thousands of digital files of tracks from those CDs have now been added to our accounts in Amazon’s cloud; and
  • second, now you can buy any qualifying CD (there are over 37,000 of them at present), including music you buy for someone else as a gift, and it will turn up automatically for you in your cloud account.

Kindle Nation is here first and foremost for readers, so we’ve been advocating something like this for books for several years now. And pardon me for getting up in the publishing pundits’ faces with a news flash, but guess what: it has already happened, in a way that could very well lead provide Amazon with the business evidence it might need to persuade some critical mass of publishers to participate in such a program.

When I say “it has already happened,” I am referring to the “Immersion Reading” program that Amazon and its subsidiary Audible.com rolled out, with the launch of its Kindle Fire HD models in September, to encourage customers to buy both the Kindle versions and the Audible.com versions of their favorite books. In that case, Amazon has encouraged the double purchases by offering deep discounts on one of the formats when both are actually purchased by the same customer. For readers like me who make extensive use of both the Kindle reading and Audible.com formats, the chance to have both without paying full price is very appealing. (Sometimes, I might add, it’s too appealing, because even here at Kindle Nation we have to stick to a budget!)

For those who think that Amazon and the big publishers are always adversaries, let me call attention to publishing industry consultant (and frequent Amazon critic) Mike Shatzkin’s September 10 “Hats Off to Amazon” post:

Leveraging their ownership of Audible, the dominant player in downloadable audiobooks, Amazon has introduced a Whispersync feature that enables seamless switching between reading an ebook and listening to the audiobook version. One of my sisters-in-law, who is both a teacher of reading-challenged kids and an adjunct professor teaching others who do the same, had asked me a few months ago why nobody had done this. I asked around and was told “it is complicated.” Publishers can’t do it because they don’t control the delivery ecosystems. Other ebook retailers can’t do it because they don’t deliver audio. Only Amazon could do it. Now they have.

Does everybody notice that this creates a real reason to buy both an audiobook and an ebook of the same title? Seems like that is something all authors and publishers can celebrate.

There are, of course, some key differences between the music bundling program and this first stab at a book bundling program:

  • AutoRip involves just one purchase (with no special discount), and in most cases Immersion Reading involves two purchases (with a special discount on one).
  • AutoRip involves purchase of a CD hard copy, and Immersion Reading involves two digital-file purchases.
  • AutoRip is, at one level, just a convenience, since theoretically everyone could legally be ripping digital files off their CD collection and uploading them to the cloud.

So let me be clear that I am not suggesting that we are all going to wake up one morning soon to find hundreds of new books added to our Kindle libraries at no charge based on all the print books we’ve purchased from Amazon since 1998 or whenever.

But for just about any author or publisher who might consider participating in an AutoRip-style bundle allowing Amazon to send out Kindle copies of books for which they have previously sold hard copies, there is bound to be a price at which the proposition would be appealing. As the price that a customer would be required to pay for a Kindle version after paying “full price” in the past or present for a hard-copy version, something as low as $1.99 to $4.99 would probably work for the vast majority of players (assuming, ahem, no collusion.)

Why so low? There are plenty of reasons, but here are a couple:

  • For ebook purchases of past hard-copy books, the ebook purchase price is found money. There’s no incremental cost for each ebook sold in this fashion, and inherently there would be no fear that the pricing of the ebook side of the bundle would cannibalize print sales.
  • Authors and publishers who want to strengthen the life (or slow the death) of hard-copy publishing would be encouraged to see ebook bundling as something that could prop up that format, and reminded that, for the ebook bundling to work, the price would have to be low enough to be considered “nominal” by some significant swath of customers.

Even if the big publishers are as slow to see the wisdom of this bundling model as they have been over the past five years to adapt in business-positive (rather than defensive) ways to the ebook revolution, it’s worth noting here that, as is so often the case, Amazon has a secret weapon on this terrain. In the case of the Kindle/Audible bundles, Amazon’s secret weapon is that it owns the dominant retail platform in each category. In the case of Kindle/print bundles, a good starting point for Amazon may well be its ownership both of KDP Select — which includes over a quarter million Kindle-exclusive titles — of Amazon Publishing’s own growing number of imprints, and of CreateSpace, which is certainly one of the dominant players in print-on-demand both for “self-published” authors and for traditionally published authors who have wrestled back their ebook and print rights for books published in print over the past few decades. And even if the big publishers are not interested in getting in on the ground floor of book bundling, I’d be surprised if some of the smarter new compact-size publishing companies like Open Road and Turner Publishing didn’t find it appealing.

We’ll be watching. But one thing that seems utterly impossible? That the thought that occurred to us, about extending the AutoRip concept to book bundling, hadn’t already occurred to Jeff Bezos.


What About TTS & Collections on the New Kindles?

By April Hamilton

We know many Kindle Fire owners have been anxiously awaiting the announcements this week to learn if two of their most-wanted Kindle Fire features, Text-to-Speech (TTS) and Collections, would be included in some kind of firmware upgrade for existing KiLarndles. KF-KND Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton attended the press conference this week, and afterward posed these questions directly to Amazon Kindle Vice President Peter Larsen.

TTS Solutions For the Kindle Fire

Larsen stated that Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading are Amazon’s TTS solutions for the Kindle Fire family of products. The original TTS functionality is still there in Amazon’s Kindle Keyboard 3G (currently priced at $139) and Kindle DX (currently priced at $379) models, but there is no audio or text-to-speech on the Kindle Paperwhite or the $69 Kindle.

Amazon is offering discounted pricing for Kindle book + Audible audiobook bundles in order to minimize the expense of the Fire TTS solutions. For example, Rob Lowe’s bestselling memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, is available at the usual retail price (set by the publisher) of $9.99. Adding the Audible audiobook after you’ve purchased the Kindle book is currently priced at just $3.95 more, as opposed to usual price of $14.69. So you end up getting both the Kindle book and the Audible audiobook for under $14: less than you’d usually pay for the audiobook alone.

Paying an extra four bucks to hear the book professionally read (in this case, by the author himself) doesn’t seem like such a bad deal, especially since doing so gives you access to the Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading services. Whispersync for Voice allows you to switch back between the Audible and Kindle versions of the book, and both formats will “remember” where you left off so you can pick up right there, whether switching from audio to Kindle or vice-versa.

For a limited time, you can test-drive the Kindle Fire TTS solutions for free with these Kindle/Audible book bundles. IMPORTANT NOTE FOR AUDIBLE MEMBERS: when you go to the Audible product page to ‘buy’ the free audiobook, by default, the box to “apply listener credit” will be checked off. Click the box to un-check it; you’ll still get the audiobook for free, and your Audible Listener Credit will remain unused.


When asked if Amazon intends to add the Collections feature to the Kindle Fire at some point in the future, he replied that while Amazon can’t share its business roadmap or discuss projects in development, the new FreeTime parental controls service is a type of Collection. He went on to say his department knows this is a feature Fire owners have been wanting, and there are some good things in the works.

Amazon Adds Audible.com Audiobooks to the Kindle Store for Direct Download to Complete the Expansion of the Kindle Content Delivery System for Audiobooks: No Cables, Computers, or USB Connections!

Related Posts:

Good news from Amazon today for Kindle lovers who, like me, enjoy listening to Audible.com audio books on their Kindles!

As we’ve been saying since last Summer, the latest-generation Kindles are fully ready for prime time when it came to playing nice with Audible.com audio books, which is as it should be since Amazon owns Audible. We posted here in the past about how you could buy Audible.com audiobooks on your computer — with the same account to which your Kindle is registered — and then find them as if by magic on your Kindle “Archived Items” listing so that you could download them wirelessly via wi-fi, with no cables or USB connections required.

The only thing that was lacking was direct access to Audible.com titles in the Kindle Store. We wrote to Kinley in the Amazon PR department last August 20 to ask when we could expect that, among other things:

It appears from the material in the user’s guide that Audible.com titles will be available directly through the Kindle Store. I’m wondering when this will be a live feature, and also if there will be a special announcement at some point during the week.

The Audible.com feature is going to create a lot of buzz, of course, around whether there will be another shoe to drop soon regarding direct purchase and download of music MP3s.

Kinley wrote back that “as for Audible, I’ll have to ask you to stay tuned.” We did, and as of today the Kindle’s in-built Kindle Store has been nicely built out to include over 50,000 Audible.com titles.

Just click on the Audible Audiobooks line at the upper right to search or browse for any of these books, select the one that’s right for you and click either the cash or credit buy button to begin automatic downloading via your latest-generation Kindle’s wi-fi connection.

Two important caveats:

  • Audiobooks are much more storage-intensive than Kindle books, and if you get five or six of these babies on your Kindle at once there may not be room for anything else.
  • If you are new to Audible.com, you are in for a treat, but I heartily recommend checking out the Audible.com website on your computer where you can find save a ton of money by buying credits in advance. I purchase the 24-credit annual plan and pay in advance and as a result each Audible.com title costs me just $9.56 — a lot less than I would pay for some of these books in the Kindle Store!

I also recommend going back to the October post on this subject for more details on how to get the most out of Audible.com audiobooks on your Kindle. So far this month I’ve listened to The Information, The Social Animal, and The Paris Wife on my Kindle for just $9.56 each.

Here’s the text of Amazon’s own blog post today on this subject:

The Latest Kindle Offers Wireless Delivery of Audible Audiobooks via Wi-Fi

by Kindle Editors on 03/24/2011

Now hear this! We’re thrilled to announce that more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks are available for download on the latest Kindle via Wi-Fi delivery. Of course, owners of any Kindle device can continue to purchase Audible audiobooks from Audible.com and transfer the titles to Kindle via USB.

Audible offers two free audiobooks with a 30-day free trial of AudibleListener® Gold Membership. To get started, go to the Audible Audiobooks Store to view audiobook titles available for purchase from Audible, read by your favorite celebrities, authors and professional performers.

Hear Donald Sutherland breathe life into The Old Man and the Sea; Listen to Frank Brady recount the remarkable arc of Bobby Fischer’s life in Endgame; Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is illuminated by three different narrators who portray the maids and the white families they toil for in 1960s Mississippi…

Whether you enjoy histories or mysteries, romance, or sci-fi, the latest bestsellers or timeless classics, Audible has something for every discerning audiophile and bibliophile.

We’re watching of this carefully, of course. We’ve known for the last three years that Amazon has developed a great content delivery system for text, and it is also clear now that the Kindle is a great content delivery system for Audible.com audiobooks and, perhaps in time with greater storage capacity, other MP3 files. With the launch of the Amazon Android AppStore the other day, we can’t help but think as well that we are getting ever closer to the time when Amazon will roll out an Android-compatible Kindle-branded tablet that is a great content delivery system for text, audio, apps, and video.


Amazon Expands the Kindle Content Delivery System with Direct Wireless Downloads of Audible.com Audiobooks with No Cables, Computers, or USB Connections!

By Stephen Windwalker

10.14.2010, 5 pm Eastern

Here’s something new and very exciting for anyone who thinks they may enjoy listening to Audible.com audiobooks on their Kindles … or for that matter, anyone who wonders about the future of the Kindle as a delivery system for Amazon’s content:

Now you can download any audiobook directly and wirelessly from your Audible.com library to your Kindle 3 or Kindle Wi-Fi without the use of a USB cable or any other connection with your computer!
I’ve posted recently about how audiobooks from Audible.com’s extensive catalog of 75,000 professionally produced audiobooks work beautifully on all Kindle devices and can actually provide a less expensive alternative when agency model publishers fix foolishly high ebook prices such as the $19.99 set by Penguin — so far, at least — for Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants ebook.
Now, thanks to Kindle’s relatively new wi-fi capability — standard and free on both the wi-fi only and wi-fi+3G Kindle 3 models — and the fact that Amazon owns Audible.com, Kindle 3 owners no longer have to hassle with USB connections, computers, cables, and manual downloads to begin listening to any of their audiobooks on their Kindle. 

How big a deal is this?

In addition to the considerable pleasures of listening to the spoken word, this new development will prove to be a very big deal in all kinds of other ways for Amazon and its customers. While Apple continues to confound many of its customers by forcing us to engage in never-ending and always too lengthy dances of downloading and synchronizing by tethering our iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches via USB cables to our computers, Amazon has nailed the processes of wireless, effortless, in-the-background, cloud-to-Kindle synching, first for Kindle ebooks, magazines, newspapers, and blogs and now, just as elegantly, for large audiobook files. Clearly it is just a matter of time — and a short time at that — before there will be a next-generation Kindle sibling or cousin that provides equally seamless and effortless delivery for other audio and video products from Amazon.

Importantly, we are not talking about Kindle text-to-speech here, with the semi-robotic voice choices that I find fine for newspapers, magazines, and blogs, but which can be a tad annoying if you are listening to something of, ahem, finer literary quality. Audible.com recordings feature world-class voice acting talent.
And, while past hardcopy audiobook-on-disc prices in the $30 to $100 range may have ensured that we were more likely to acquire audiobooks from the public library or a yard sale than at retail, Audible.com pricing is just what you would expect of an Amazon subsidiary:
  • reasonable
  • competitive with print-book and ebook format prices, and
  • with a monthly billing plan reminiscent in some elements of Netflix — structured in such a way that customers like me are going to find it very, very easy, er, compelling, er, addictive to keep coming back for more.
Here are the steps, and the good news is that you only have to follow the first four steps once, or in the case of the fourth step, once a year:
  1. Sign into the Amazon.com account that is associated with your Kindle.
  2. If you don’t already have an Audible.com account, set one up starting from an Amazon-based page like this one for Fall of Giants. (Don’t let the $31.48 price for Fall of Giants scare you away. If you set up a monthly billing account with Audible.com, you’ll never have to pay even half that much for Fall of Giants or any other audiobook.)
  3. Use your Kindle-associated Amazon.com account as your Audible.com account. This is a new feature and it is important to make the steps that follow work, so if you already have an Audible.com account be sure to switch it over to your Amazon.com account (you’ll probably see a link for this in the upper right corner of an Audible.com page).
  4. Follow the prompts to choose a monthly or annual billing plan that’s right for you. Most Audible.com audiobooks cost either 1 credit or some dollar amount that is usually in the $15 to $30 range, so you will want to pay for most audiobooks with “credits” rather than cash. If you choose a plan that bills you monthly for a single credit, each credit will cost you $14.95. By choosing a plan that bills me annually in advance for 24 credits, each credit costs me $9.56. Credits accrue to your account when you pay for them and some can be rolled over; you certainly do not need to purchase an audiobook every month. (When a new account is set up, you should also receive a free credit to use during the first month.)
  5. Once your account is set up, select and purchase an audiobook. Pay for it with a free credit or any other credit that you have on account, unless you are selecting a title that costs less than your cost for a credit, in which case you may want to click on the option that allows you to pay the cash price instead. Complete the purchase process and verify that your new audiobook is in your Audible.com library.
  6. Turn on your Kindle 3, make sure the wireless is in the “On” position by checking the menu, and also make sure that your Kindle is set up for wi-fi and within range of an active wi-fi signal.
  7. From the “Home” screen, press the “Menu” button and select “View Archived Items.” Find your audiobook (hint: it will say “audible” just to the left of the title), and use the 5-way to select it.
  8. The audiobook will begin downloading, and when it appears on your Home screen you can begin listening to it. The downloading process will take a few moments, depending on the length of the book and size of the file, and during the download you may select “View Downloading Items” from the Home menu to to check on download progress.

Two important warnings:

  • Audiobooks files generally take up between 50 and 500 megabytes of storage space on your Kindle, whereas ebook usually take up less than 1 megabites. Generally you should avoid keeping more than two or three audiobooks on your Kindle at a time, in order to keep from having storage problems.
  • Many Kindle Nation citizens are likely to find, as I have found, that the process of buying and listening to audiobooks on the Kindle is seamless and addictive. Spend wisely!
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At Audible.com, you can choose to download any of 75,000 audiobooks and more, and listen on your Kindle™, iPhone®, iPod®, or 500+ MP3 players.

Your Audible.com 30-day free trial membership includes:

  • This audiobook free, plus a bonus audiobook of your choice
  • 30% off any additional audiobooks you purchase
  • A free daily audio subscription to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal
  • Member-exclusive sales and promotions