Technology Once Again Transforms the Audiobook Market
William Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Naxos AudioBooks, says that the industry is still trying to figure out what the appropriate price points should be for downloads. “There is this feeling that since you didn’t have to put it in a box, since you didn’t have to ship it, that it should be cheaper. But what is that price? There is still cause for concerns on what is fair to the publisher, the writer, the distributor and the supplier,” he explains.
Audible.com’s Beth Anderson says that one of the biggest benefits of digital is that it offers an instant and direct route to the market.
Piracy a Challenge
Ironically, the technologies that make audiobooks so marketable are the same technologies that make them so vulnerable to copyright infringement and unauthorized use. Scanning or copying a 200-page print book can be a tedious process, but anyone with a home computer can burn audio files to a CD or even upload them to the Internet for mass distribution.
Goff says digital rights management (DRM) controls are used to prevent some CDs and files from being copied or duplicated for fear of theft, and many audio publishers do not publish their books as MP3 files, which can easily be replicated.
“We just can’t offer our books unprotected at this point because one college student might buy it, and another 300,000 would download it. It is something we think about all the time,” says Goff.
The downside of protecting content with DRM is that it gives consumers fewer choices and control over the products that they buy. DRM-protected materials may not work on or be compatible with certain MP3 and audio devices.
William Anderson, however, says that, unlike in the music industry, where there is a huge market for cheap, pirated songs and albums, there just doesn’t seem to be an urgency to steal literature. Taking a leap of faith on that thought, Naxos has released all of its content without DRM.