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Amazon Gets Brilliant: audiobook publisher bought for undisclosed terms

In a move hinting that Amazon may be interested in offering more than just music at its soon to be launched online music store, Amazon has acquired the nations largest independent audio-book publisher Brilliance Audio.  The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Brilliance, which was founded in the 1980s and is based in Michigan, publishes audio titles from best selling authors ranging from Deeprak Chopra to Ken Follett. Brilliance releases twelve to fifteen audio-books a month in MP3 format on CD or for digital downloads.  Amazon currently offers about 100k audio-book titles, approximately one thousand of which come from Brilliance.

In acquiring Brilliance, Amazon will be in a position to leverage its publishing relationships (as well as its own in- house efforts) to expand the availability of the audio book format to a much larger range of titles.  Mixed with their Disc on Demand system (through CustomFix subsidiary which allows them to print CD’s for sale as needed without keeping inventory), and the music store which will allow direct download, Amazon should be well positioned to gain an edge over Apple’s iTunes for the audio-book category, and also surpass smaller niche player Simply Audiobooks, if that is indeed Amazon’s shorter term goal.  (Catching up in music will not be so easy).

While the audiobook market may not seem like a terribly lucrative or exciting prospect to some, it is larger than many realize.  The industry group, the Audio Publishers Association, says 25% of the US population listens to audiobooks.  Their market survey for 2006 estimated the market size at approximately $871m in sales.  Demographics were almost evenly split between men and women, and a significant portion of listeners were well educated and affluent – all desirable things for marketers.

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