In a bid to bolster its status as a premier distributor of digital content, online mega-retailer Amazon.com said Thursday it has reached an agreement to acquire spoken content provider and Apple iTunes partner Audible.com.
The online retailer will also assume Audible.com's outstanding stock-based awards, for an aggregate transaction value of approximately $300 million which includes Audible.com's cash and short-term investments at closing.
Through its web sites in the US and UK and alliances in Germany and France, Audible.com offers over 80,000 programs, including audiobooks from well-known authors such as Stephen King, Thomas Friedman, and Jane Austen, and spoken word audio content from sources including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fresh Air and Charlie Rose.
In addition, Audible has maintained an exclusive relationship with Apple since 2003, whereby it offers over 20,000 audiobooks for sale and download to iPod digital music players and the iPhone via the iTunes Store.
Amazon's acquisition of Audible is just its latest move in a broader bid to garner more share of the digital media download market from rivals such as Apple, joining its recently launched digital download services for music and movies.
"Audible.com offers the best customer experience, the widest content selection and the broadest device compatibility in the industry," said Steve Kessel, Amazon.com's senior vice president for worldwide digital media. "Working together, we can introduce more innovations and bring this format to an even wider audience."
This past holiday shopping season, Amazon also embarked on its first foray into the hardware business by introducing Kindle, a $399 digital eBook reader billed as the 'iPod of reading." Though met with mixed reviews, the devices appears to be selling well, as its been on backlog through Amazon.com for the past two and a half months.
Like Apple's iPods, Kindle allows users to download audio books from Audible.com for playback through the device, either via its built in speaker or headphone jack.
The purchase of Audible by Amazon is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to close by the second quarter of 2008.