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Audible.com Launches Dedicated Chinese Content Offering

Audible.com launches dedicated Chinese content offering at http://www.audible.com/chinese (Graphic: Business Wire)


NEWARK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Audible, Inc., the world largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment, today announced the launch of Audible in Chinese, a tailored listening destination where US and other international Chinese-speaking audiences can discover Chinese audiobooks and audio dramas on audible.com.

The Audible in Chinese catalogue at launch comprises over 300 audiobooks and audio dramas in Mandarin and will grow to include many more over the coming months. A dedicated landing page (www.audible.com/chinese) houses a curated content library featuring best-selling contemporary mysteries and thrillers, romances, classics, children’s titles, Chinese translations of popular English content, Chinese language learning materials and other categories, as well as helpful text and video guides for Chinese-speaking customers. Among the titles available today are 鬼吹灯 – 鬼吹燈 (Candle in the Tomb), 步步惊心 – 步步驚心 (Scarlet Heart), and 西游记 – 西遊記 (Journey to the West). 童谣经典选 – 童謠經典選 (Classic Nursery Rhymes) is also available as a special free download.

“Audible.com currently offers content in 38 languages, and I am excited to extend our catalogue to include Chinese in such a dedicated way,” said Audible Chief Content Officer Andy Gaies. “For the first time, Chinese-speaking audible.com customers can now explore and enjoy a diverse library of authentic content. Through these incredibly produced titles, Audible can now offer the tens of millions of Chinese speakers outside of China compelling listening experiences.”

Audible in Chinese is available to audible.com customers, and new customers can download any one of the Chinese titles included for free with a 30-day trial of the service. For more about Audible in Chinese, please visit www.audible.com/chinese.


Audible, Inc., an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio content, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible was created to unleash the emotive music in language and the habituating power and utility of verbal expression. Audible content includes more than 375,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Audible is also the provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes Store.



Google reportedly wants to take on Amazon’s audiobook business

Amazon has long dominated the audiobook market online with Audible, which sells retail titles and also offers subscriptions to its service. Now, it looks like Google might be getting in on the game with the impending introduction of audiobooks in the Play Store.

Android Police noted in a teardown of the code of an upcoming version of the Google Play store app that there’s a new category called ‘audiobooks’. However, it remains to be seen whether Google will sell them in the Play store, or whether it will eventually build out a separate app to list and play these titles, as the code presently doesn’t include new screens for audiobook listings.


If it chooses to do so, Google will certainly have its work cut out for it battling Audible. The company, which Amazon acquired in 2008, has a massive library of more than 375,000 audiobooks and original spoken-word programs in its catalog, along with a robust app to play back these titles across Android and iOS devices, and Kindle ebook readers.

Audible recently added a new feature to let romance novel fans skip right to the sexy bits; it also expanded to include content in Chinese, and is slated to launch in India in the next few months. Meanwhile, Google Play is yet to roll out global support for Podcasts in its Play Music app (it’s only available on Android in the US and Canada at present), so it’s not nearly ready to support audiobooks in its current suite of services.

It’ll be interesting to see if the company can take on Amazon when it enters the audiobook arena, and if it spurs the growth of the spoken-word content market – podcasts have already seen steady growth in the past year, and audiobooks could follow suit.




Audible’s new romance audiobooks service uses machine learning to jump to the sex scenes

Let’s admit it: you probably aren’t reading that romance novel for the plot. Or its literary value. Audible knows this, and is today launching a new collection of romance-themed audiobooks that come with a handy feature that lets you skip right to the action. Called “Take Me To The Good Part,” the feature will fast-forward you to the steamy sections of the audiobook, says Audible.

The feature was built in response to romance reader and listener feedback, the company notes. And Audible has doubled down on these customers’ desire to do away with the pretense that they’re actually interested in reading by debuting “Take Me To The Good Part” in over 100 Audible Romance package titles. The company plans to bring the technology to more selections over time, it says.

The feature is part of a new package of books under the Audible Romance brand, which is being sold as an add-on to an Audible membership for $6.95 per month, or as a standalone service for $14.95 per month. The package includes access to thousands of romance audiobooks, including best sellers and Audible Originals. There’s no limit on how many you can “read” monthly, either, as with Audible’s main subscription.

Participating authors include Nora Roberts, Sylvia Day, Debbie Macomber, Robyn Carr, and others.

There’s technology under the hood that’s powering Audible’s ability to find the “good parts.” Audible is using machine learning to identify key words and phrases, as well as groups of words, in order to determine where things get hot and heavy. The company has even gone so far as to identify 10 type of so-called “good parts,” such as “flirty banter,” “first meeting,” “first kiss,” and one it dubs “hot, hot, hot” – aka the sex scenes.


But just like how porn often drives technological innovations that later become mainstream – like adoption of the VCR back in the day, for example – we can only hope that this machine learning technology is later rolled out to all digital books, audio and otherwise, to classify scenes that are also “good parts,” but for non-romantic reasons.

Along with the Romance package and its flagship feature, Audible has also rolled out a way to classify books by level of steaminess. (You know, so you can find those with more “good parts.”) Its illustrated “steaminess meter” ranks books on a scale that goes from sweet to simmering to sizzling to hot damn and o-o-omg. Yes, really. 

And you can delve into your particular fetishes micro-genres more easily too, as the new Audible Romance service can identify 32 of these romance sub-genres and 122 story and character tropes that will let you find those that are a direct match with your interests.

The program is live now and includes a free trial.


Audible’s new romance audiobooks service uses machine learning to jump to the sex scenes

Amazon’s basic Kindle to get Audible support so you can give your eyes a break

Do you seem to spend most of your life staring at a screen? You probably grab your smartphone within seconds of waking up in the morning, glare at your tablet while getting breakfast, and perhaps resume your smartphone interaction on the way to work. There you could be looking at a computer display for the rest of the day, before coming home to spend a good part of the evening looking at your TV, laptop, tablet, and smartphone again. If you have an ebook reader, there’s another display right there you could be looking at through the day.

So here’s the thing. If you have Amazon’s basic ebook reader and you fancy giving your eyes at least a little bit of a rest, then soon you’ll be able to pass some of that sensory action to your auditory canals thanks to Audible.

A recently updated listing on Amazon reveals that the company’s basic Kindle ebook reader will support Audible “in the coming months” via an over-the-air update, according to The Digital Reader.


Audible offers a library of more than 375,000 audiobooks (some of them for dogs!), magazines, newspapers, and radio shows, all of which can be streamed wirelessly via Bluetooth to wireless headphones and speakers.

Earlier versions of Amazon’s basic ebook reader supported Audible, but the company removed the capability as its range of readers grew.

Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis, its priciest ebook reader at $250, supports the service, while buyers of the basic Kindle, which starts at $80, will soon be able to enjoy the same benefit.

Bad news for owners of the Voyage and Paperwhite readers, however, as the feature isn’t coming to these midrange Kindle models. At least, not yet. Considering Amazon has owned Audible since 2008, it seems surprising that some of its ebook readers don’t yet support the service.

Just to be clear, you’ll need Bluetooth headphones or a speaker to use Audible on your Kindle, as the device has no speaker or headphone jack.

Amazon recently celebrated 10 years of the Kindle with discounts on most of its current readers, as well as offers on ebooks. While the offers on the devices have finished, you can still find discounts of up to 80 percent on many Kindle books as part of its monthly deals.



How to get started as an Audible narrator through ACX

Losing my full-time job of 12 years in August 2013 gave me the push I needed to accomplish a life-long dream: break into the world of voice acting.

The voice-over world was once the exclusive realm of artists in major markets such as Los Angeles and New York City. But today the field is open to thousands of part-time and full-time, home-based voice-over professionals.

There are many avenues through which a self-employed voice-over artist can find work. Two of the main sites dedicated to uniting voice actors and potential employers are Voices.com and Voice123.com. Both sites require a premium subscription to reap real benefits and receive customized audition notices. The beginning voice actor will need to spend considerable time creating a profile, as well as recording and posting demos. See my Voice123 profile for an idea of what a finished profile should look like.

As lucrative as these sources can be, competition is tough. A beginning voice actor will receive many rejections before landing that first voice gig. Persistence pays off.

However, I found earlier success auditioning for Audible, the top online seller of audio books. Their interface between voice actors and book rights-holders is called ACX.

By picking the right books, submitting high-quality auditions, and preparing for the time and effort it will take to complete an audio book project, even inexperienced voice actors can find themselves with a production contract.

This can be a long and complicated process. But that shouldn’t scare you away from giving it a try.

Here are the three main things you must accomplish to become an Audible narrator through ACX.

1. Set up your digital audio workstation

If you already have a moderately good computer – laptop or desktop – you’re about halfway there. The other main components to an adequate workstation are a condenser microphone, a preamp/interface, reference monitors (a fancy term for speakers), studio monitors (a fancy term for headphones), and audio recording and editing software.

But to achieve a high-quality sound you also must prepare a silent recording room or space. There are probably hundreds of ways to do this, from building a blanket fort to spending thousands of dollars on a high-end isolation booth.

My first recording space was a customized closet. I tacked carpet remnants onto the walls and added Auralex acoustic foam where needed.

When we moved to a smaller home last year, I had a custom-designed recording booth built into the corner of a spare bedroom. My increased level of experience warranted the extra expense. The result is a superior-sounding space that will give my clients a much better product.

The point isn’t how much you spend, but whether or not you can achieve the totally “dead” mic sound necessary for audio book recording. Search YouTube for a wealth of DIY recording booth and workstation videos from amateurs and professionals all over the world.

My equipment of choice:

  • Apple MacBook Pro with 8 gigabytes of RAM and a solid-state hard drive. These hard drives are more expensive, but much quieter and faster. They are also standard equipment on the latest MacBook Pro models.
  • Audio Technica AT-4050 microphone
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 preamplifier
  • I record using GarageBand software (available only for Mac) and edit using Adobe Audition.
  • Mackie CR3 reference monitors
  • Audio Technica ATH-M30x studio monitors

There are hundreds more options, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Take the time to find the setup that’s right for your budget and skill levels. Recording and processing a single audio track doesn’t require a lot of computer power. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need the latest, greatest machine for the job.

However, the reason I chose the MBP over the standard MacBook or the MacBook Air was available hard drive size. The extra processing power helps, too.

I caution against using cheap plug-and-play USB microphones, such as the popular Blue Yeti. Many of these models do sound quite good. But for a few hundred dollars more you can get a much higher-quality condenser microphone that will achieve a superior sound. This is why you’ll also need a small preamp unit, which is a power interface between the mic and your computer. Focusrite makes excellent products, but there are good competitors, too.

About speakers and headphones: Do not use or purchase standard, consumer-level products. This is because your typical household audio gear is designed to make music sound good, not to provide an accurate representation of spoken-word audio.

Studio and reference monitors, on the other hand, are designed to provide a “flat” frequency response. There’s no bass boosting or high-end attenuation you’ll find in products such as Beats headphones. Your audio equipment needs to give you the closest possible representation of what your voice sounds like. It will take some time to train your ears to appreciate the difference. But trust me … this is a critical detail you should not ignore.

Currently at $79.99 on Amazon, the Mackie reference monitors I use are hard to beat. You can opt for larger versions at a higher cost, but I have found this model to be more than adequate. It’s important that you mount or position your monitors to point directly at your ears. You can find stands or mounting equipment to achieve this goal.

Your studio monitors should be comfortable enough to withstand hours of recording time. Any of the ATH models will be an excellent choice, depending on your budget. Ensure that whatever you purchase is an over-the-ear model, not on-ear. This will help isolate your voice as you record and block out any external noises.

Once you have everything set up, it’s time to test your recording environment. I strongly recommend you submit some sample recordings to a qualified audio professional before your first audition. Get the opinions of a knowledgable person about whether or not you have truly achieved the right sound. It may be worth the expense to pay for a personal sound consultation before you begin auditioning.

2. Establish a profile on AXC

ACX is the online interface between audio book narrators and book rights-holders. There is no cost to join ACX, but you’ll have to do the work to establish a proper profile. See mine for an example.

Next, scan the list of available book titles seeking narrators. There are usually a couple of thousand titles on any given day. Begin by selecting male or female from the gender filter. That way you can at least immediately narrow down the books according to what rights-holders want.

After that, it’s up to you to find the right book for an audition.

At least in my experience, it is extremely rare that a rights holder will contact you out of the blue to offer a recording deal. The two or three times this has happened to me I have turned the projects down because the books did not match my personal requirements or preferences.

It’s much more likely you’ll have to do the work of searching through available titles and sending in auditions. Here are a few tips that may save you some time in this process. Ask yourself …

  • Do I have the free time necessary for this project? Each “finished hour” of an audio book will probably take you four to five hours to produce. Will you be able to complete it by the contract deadline? Some rights-holders are lenient about deadlines. But don’t assume.
  • Would I read this book myself? If a book isn’t something that interests me purely as a reader, I won’t audition for it. Your enthusiasm for the material will reveal itself in your recording. Plus, if you get the contract, you’ll have the added benefit of reading the book for free.
  • Can I accept a royalty contract, or will I only work for a payment per finished hour? Most of the contracts available on ACX are royalty-only. You have to decide if you think the book will sell well enough to be worth your time and effort. Of course, you can help out by promoting the audio book through your social network.
  • If this is a fiction title, do I have the skill to voice multiple characters? Fiction authors will want this from you. Do you have a theatrical background, or are you more of a straight reader? If you’re unsure, pick nonfiction titles until you get a few under your belt. If you really do want to pursue fiction titles, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take some acting classes. I have personally performed in about 20 stage productions, both comedies and dramas. They have been invaluable experiences in learning the skills of vocal characterization.
  • Is this project truly something I can put my name on? Once your book is finished, your name and profile will be associated with it through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. If there is any hesitation about whether or not this title is right for you, don’t do it.

3. Complete your first ACX project

Being awarded that first contract with Audible is both thrilling and frightening. You’ll inwardly doubt whether or not you can really get it done. Pressing on and doing your best despite your fears will be a great accomplishment and will prepare you for future projects.

Here are some tips that will get you to the finish line more quickly and with less stress.

Be communicative. Keep a dialogue going with your rights-holder. You can do this through the ACX message interface or via your own email or phone. Ask as many questions about the book as necessary. If you have problems, let them know right away.

During production of an 18-hour book I came down with an illness that wrecked my voice for three weeks. I thought it would ruin my reputation. But being honest with the rights holder helped us both come to an agreement to extend the deadline. They’re going to want the best product possible from you. That will mean being patient if you get sick.

Be consistent. Nothing is worse than having one chapter sound different from another, or forgetting how you voiced a character from one scene to the next. Write up character descriptions if you have to. Keep listening back to previous chapters. It hurts to have to do it, but re-record when necessary rather than settling for mediocrity.

Be caring. Your voice is your instrument and your livelihood. Be realistic about how much it and your ears can handle. You only have so many good hours a day of recording and editing before fatigue sets in. Don’t push it. You will discover your limits by trial and error. My personal limits: three hours of recording and five hours of editing per day, period.

Be your own calling card. Every audio book you complete can become an advertisement for your next gig. It isn’t just a product you help sell. Its a digital resume that helps sell you!

So, be ruthless about quality. Allow for more time than you think you will need. Learn as much as you can about audio editing. Keep pushing yourself for better performances. Do not settle for a meager product or hope they won’t notice the mistake.

And one more critical point … Back up your work every night. I don’t need to tell you how devastating it would be to lose your recordings forever before you’re able to submit them for approval.

Beyond these three basic items, your journey toward becoming an Audible narrator will differ depending on your skill level, determination, and sometimes just plain luck.

Don’t give up. And keep seeking advice from the voice-over communities online and through other web-based channels. There is more free help and information out there than you could ever use.



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Audible for Fire TV Now Available

Amazon has just released an official Audible Audiobook app for the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. This will allow users to access their existing digital catalog and make purchases. There are free samples for every title available and they can be listened directly within the app.

Audible for Fire TV includes 180,000+ best sellers, new releases sci-fi, romances, mysteries, classics, and more. New users can get a free 30 day trial, where they can access to one free title. Existing subscribers can import their entire audiobook collection within the Fire TV app or browse the store and use a credit to get an title they want.

Ever since the Fire TV first got released, users have been begging for an official Audible app. It is now available as a free download. Sometime in the next few weeks Amazon will be releasing two new Fire TV models.



Marvel legend Stan Lee is creating an original story for Audible

Comic book fans (and comic book movie fans) are very familiar with Stan Lee, who has a cameo in pretty much every Marvel movie. Now, the legendary Marvel writer is creating yet another shared universe. Varietyexclusively reports that Stan Lee will produce a brand new book for Audible described as “Mr. Robot set in John Hughes world.”



Given that the agreement is with an audiobook company, the project will be (you guessed it) an audiobook. Stan Lee is signed on to narrate the introduction to the project. Lee, along with Ryan Silbert and Luke Liebermen, promise that this will be the beginning of an entirely new shared universe. Presumably, if this project does well, we’ll see more of it in the future.



It’s unclear whether the long-form work will later release in print form. However, seeing as Audible is owned by Amazon, which has its own publishing arm, it’s certainly a possibility.




Audible Suspends The Ability To Gift Credits

Audible has just disabled the ability for people to send credits to each other. This is a system in which authors would commonly send credits to users to get a free copy of their audiobooks, but it was abused by people on EBAY selling the credits at a steep discount. Audible has stated that the reason why the killed this system was so they could focus on popular gift memberships and send this book feature.

I believe one of the reasons why Audible disabled the ability to gift credits was because of what a small minority of users were doing. A user by the name of Sixbucks explained what he used to do with the credits “Back when there were a bunch of promos running I would have 4 accounts all taking advantage of the deal and gifting the credits to my primary account.” This resulted in one user with many accounts accumulating a massive amount of credits. They would use the credits to rack up a huge library of audio titles or simply sell the credits on EBAY.

I am very sure that authors and narrators that used to give out credits so people can be exposed to their work will be overjoyed that the credit system has been suspended.



Amazon’s Audible launches ‘SINCERELY, X’ audio series with true stories, told anonymously

Over the course of her abusive marriage, a mom from the Midwest developed a life-saving idea that she couldn’t share with anyone. It was a ritual focusing on the love in her life and it helped her deal with — and eventually work through — her violent circumstances. She thought it could help others but didn’t think she’d ever share what she’d learned because it was so deeply personal.

That is, until she discovered “SINCERELY, X” a new audio series that allows people to share their ideas and stories anonymously, in the style of a TED Talk.

The series is premiering on Audible Channels, a product of Amazon-owned Audible. Members of Audible and Amazon Prime will be able to listen to the first three episodes starting Wednesday. They include stories from the midwestern mom, a doctor who feels responsible for her patient’s death, and a former hedge fund manager seeking redemption for lying to investors.

The show is hosted by June Cohen, an 11-year veteran of TED Media. Cohen is also one of the executive producers on “SINCERELY, X.”

Storytellers share their ideas with Cohen while the rest of the Audible production team works from behind a curtain. The guests’ voices are disguised and Audible uses code names, internally, to protect their anonymity.

“The kinds of ideas that are told anonymously are the ones that people don’t want to be known for or they can’t be publicly associated,” said Cohen. “I think of these as ideas in hiding. Ideas that can never be told under a spotlight but that deserve to be heard.”

Cohen and her colleagues at TED hatched the idea before partnering with Audible to make it a reality.

Audible Channels launched last year as a new product distinct from Audible’s traditional audiobook business. The service features a wide range of original audio content, including comedy shorts, professionally read news articles, and short stories. It’s available to Audible subscribers for $15 a month and members of Amazon Prime. Amazon acquired Audible for $300 million in 2008.

The 10-episode first series of “SINCERELY, X” will stream exclusively on Audible. Ultimately the episodes will be available on other platforms, Cohen says.

Cohen is excited about the show’s potential to join what she calls a “Renaissance in audio,” spawned by the popularity of podcasts like “Serial” and “Startup.” She thinks it’s the perfect time for a show like “SINCERELY, X” which relies on the audio format to protect storytellers’ anonymity.

“The thing that fascinates me about this, too, is why they want to tell the story and share the idea at all, if they weren’t going to be associated with it or if they didn’t get credit for it,” she said. “I actually felt really moved by the generosity of the speakers who participated. They don’t get the moment on stage, they’re not going to have their inbox fill up with love letters and opportunities the day that their talk goes live. What they get out of it, really, is the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve helped people.”



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