Monday, September 17, 2007

Emusic to challenge iTunes

It finally looks like iTunes is going to get some serious competition. I use iTunes on a daily basis but, even though, their individual song price is reasonable, their video price at $9.99 is way too high. I'm hoping EMusic will be more reasonable with its video offerings. It looks like its audiobook offerings are going to be cheaper than Audible.com. However, since I have an extensive library on Audible.com, being one of their early members, I won't desert them now.


"The company that has given Apple’s iTunes the most competition in the song-download arena will now compete with it in selling audiobooks, too.

Beginning tomorrow, eMusic, which is second to iTunes in music download sales, will offer more than a thousand books for download, with many of them costing far less than on iTunes. For example, “The Audacity of Hope,” read by author Barack Obama, will cost $9.99 on eMusic compared with $18.95 on iTunes. The retail price for a five-CD version of the same book is $29.95.

The biggest selling point for eMusic is also its biggest point of controversy: the site uses the MP3 format, which works on any digital player but lacks the technology, known as digital rights management, that protects copyrighted material from unlimited duplication.

Some publishers are just dipping in a toe. Random House Audio, for example, will be selling about 500 titles, roughly 20 percent of its catalog, through eMusic. “We’re very interested in testing this, but we didn’t think it was appropriate to put all of our titles in a test program,” said Madeline McIntosh, the group’s publisher.

Like her counterparts in the music business, Ms. McIntosh is concerned about piracy, but doubts it will be as big an issue for audiobooks, which draw an older audience and are unwieldy to circulate. Unabridged audiobooks sold in stores often comprise more than a dozen CDs, and, in digital format, the enormous files cannot be e-mailed as easily as single songs.

Hachette Audio will start by selling only about 15 titles on the site, but that includes bestsellers like “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction” by Jon Stewart.

At the other end of the spectrum is Penguin Audio, which will sell on eMusic all the audiobooks it currently makes available in a digital format on iTunes, about 150 titles. “Publishers have been waiting for other companies to play ball,” said Patti Pirooz, the executive producer.

Most publishers have been playing ball with Audible Inc., which pioneered downloadable audiobooks 12 years ago and sells its wares through iTunes and its own Web site, audible.com. Audible sells about 15,000 audiobooks and another 20,000 recordings of public radio shows and periodicals like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Audible has its own proprietary digital format, which plays on both iPods and non-Apple devices, but still cannot be duplicated except to copy onto CDs just once. Spokesmen from Audible and Apple declined to comment on eMusic.

Since it was founded in 1995, Audible has grown steadily. It went public in 1999, and its 2006 revenues of $82.2 million were up 30 percent over the previous year."
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