A few minutes ago, Amazon made a big announcement. If you point your Kindle 3 to Amazon’s Kindle store, you’ll now see a new link at the top of the page — “Audible Audiobooks”. Amazon will now wirelessly deliver audio books — read by a human voice — directly to your Kindle 3 over a Wi-Fi connection! You can now purchase these audiobooks right there on your Kindle, including 3,747 mystery/thriller books, 5,255 children’s books, and 14,449 works of fiction.
“We’re very excited to announce that more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks are now available for purchase or download on the latest Kindle via Wi-Fi delivery,” Amazon posted in the Kindle’s discussion forum at Amazon.com. And they’ll give you two free audio books — the digital version of a “book on tape” — if you sign up for a 30-day free trial! It’s always been an intriguing way to use your Kindle, and Amazon’s new policy should make it much easier to enjoy a new audio book. Prior to today, “you had to transfer it,” an Audible representative told me this morning. You’d use your web browser to download the audio book to your computer’s hard drive — and then you’d have to connect your USB cable to your Kindle, and manually upload the audio book.
“Now you can do either way,” she explained. Using your Kindle 3’s ability to make a WI-Fi connection to your computer, you can transmit the audio books directly into your Kindle…
Of course, you don’t have to listen to the audio book on a Kindle. You can also listen to the same file on your iPod, iPhone, or Blackberry, or even on an mp3 player. What they’re selling is the convenience of enjoying a book with your ears. “Now you can catch up on books even when you can’t read,” boasts Amazon’s web page, “during your commute, while working out, anytime and anywhere.”
I was surprised by the selection of audio books that are now available. There’s even an audio version of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and several books which are actually read to you by their author, including two by Jon Stewart and Donald Rumsfeld’s “Known and Unknown.” For the next three months, they’ll let new customers explore Audible’s service at a lower monthly subscription price — just $7.49 a month. (After three months, the cost of the subscription increases to $14.95.) These subscribers get one free audio book each month, plus a 30% discount on any subsequent audiobook purchase. And they’re even throwing in a free daily subscription to audio versions of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
But what’s also interesting is the way Amazon announced this change. They didn’t issue a press release. Instead they quietly slipped the news into Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum at Amazon.com. There was also a post on the official Twitter feed of the Amazon Kindle team. (“The latest Kindle now offers wireless delivery of more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks via Wi-Fi.”) And of course, Amazon also snuck an announcement onto the Kindle’s official page on Facebook (at Facebook.com/Kindle)
The news created a small frenzy of excitement. (Within an hour more than 250 people had clicked the announcement’s “Like” icon.) And it’s been really fun to read the real-time reactions from Kindle owners. “isn’t the term ‘audible audiobook’ redundant?” someone asked — before being reminded that Audible is the name of the web site! But another user posted enthusiastically that “That is awesome I have been waiting for this option.
“I will be downloading audio tonight!”