According to the Audio Publishers Association, downloads have grown sharply, rising to 9 percent of audio book sales in 2005; that is a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Audible .com, which pioneered downloadable audio books nine years ago, also sells them through iTunes and Amazon and has a membership model similar to that of NetFlix; its membership has grown 54 percent over the last year, to 345,200. Going exclusively to a downloadable format saves publishers the expense of duplication, packaging and distribution. And the savings are often passed along. Audible’s full-price version of “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama costs $20.97 (although various discounts are available), while the CD version retails for $29.95;
undiscounted, unabridged versions of Michael Crichton’s “Next” are $34.97 by download and $49.95 on CD.
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