eMusic’s entry into the audiobooks market may help aspiring writers get an audience, though most of the top book publishing houses may stay away from the digital download site.
Starting September 18, audiobooks will be available from eMusic at a price of US$9.99, which is lower than the price for audiobooks at competitor Audible Inc. The music download site will likely try to further offer bargain prices on its audiobooks as it has done with its music downloads.
As eMusic uses the MP3 format and does not support DRM (digital rights management), it will very probably not have support from most of the big publishing companies, a problem that it faced with most of the large music labels, which shied away from offering their music on its site.
eMusic’s strategy around MP3 and DRM did not hurt the company. It is now the second largest vendor of online music downloads after Apple’s iTunes. That was because eMusic focused on small labels and aspiring musicians who were ready to trade DRM for an opportunity to feature on a popular site. Its low price also attracted a large number of users.
Apple Computer Inc. and Audible Inc., which is a large online site for downloading audiobooks, both use DRM technology. The DRM in downloads from iTunes blocks their use in devices other than the iPOD or iPhone.
Opposed for ideological reasons by a large section of Internet users, DRM is also found to be cumbersome by many who would like to rip CDs as often as they need to, and play the downloads on a variety of devices. Music companies, in particular, are seen to be using the online download route to curb the misuse of purchased music. Some of these restrictions are a far cry from the freedom still available to users to rip and mix, and copy to various devices tracks from traditional music CDs.
eMusic may hence be planning a re-run of its strategy with music. They are likely to aim at smaller publishers or aspiring authors some of whom may to start with just focus on audiobooks, rather than more expensive print editions of their books. eMusic has emerged as a filter for people looking for music, and now audiobooks, beyond what is sold by the big brands.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, while promoting lesser known artists, and now authors, eMusic will have to do a much better job than it is doing now in selecting talent, making its recommendations, and generally playing as a mentor to its customers.
eMusic will offer more than a thousand audiobooks from major audiobook publishers including Blackstone Audio, Hachette, Naxos Audiobooks, Penguin and Random House, with hundreds more to be added each week, it said in a statement. Subscribers will find regular reviews of the books by critics from top newspapers and magazines, it added.