Amazon.com’s audiobook service, Audible.com, is coming to the Mac later this month, as we
on Jan. 29.
The electronic bookstore carries such audiobook titles as “Drowning Ruth,” (one of Oprah’s latest picks) and “eBoys,” an insider’s look at Silicon Valley. As well as a large selection of bestsellers (such as “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life”) and classics (like “Anne of Green Gables”), you can also find readings of newspapers like “The Wall Street Journal,” magazines like “The Economist,” and public radio programs like “This American Life.” Prices start at US$2.95.
Rob Kramer, Audible’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, told MacCentral that Mac compatibility for the service would be introduced in two phases this year. The first is due the middle of this month; the second should come around mid-year.
In phase one, Mac users will be able to go to the Audible.com Web site, see and sample content, and play audio. The audio playback software will be RealPlayer from
RealNetworks. Kramer said Mac users would be able to purchase any available audio, including books, lectures, recurring content (such as magazines and periodicals), and original programming by folks such as actor/comedian Robin Williams. Playback will be enabled via a RealPlayer plug-in designed to handle the nuances of Audible’s audio format.
“Since our content is the spoken word rather than music, we can offer greater compression for faster and smaller downloads,” Kramer said. “The human voice doesn’t go into the same wide range of frequency as music does, so we can use different compression algorithms.”
For example, a typical MP3 musical file requires approximately 1 MB per minute of audio. The Audible files offer between 15 and 30 minutes of spoken word per MB, depending on the quality level you choose.
You’ll need Mac OS 8.6 or higher to use RealPlayer and the Audible plug-in.
Why did the company go with Real Networks’ product rather than QuickTime?
“Deciding between QuickTime and RealPlayer was the choice we had to make last fall,” Kramer said. “We felt that QuickTime was fundamentally evolving into a video-oriented product. Actually, RealPlayer and the Windows Media Player aren’t really like QuickTime, but are more like iTunes. So QuickTime didn’t seem to be the best fit for aligning with our service. And RealPlayer was the most prevalent product with equal feature functionality between the Mac and Windows platforms.”
Later this year, Audible plans to bring full feature parity for its service to both platforms, something that’s currently lacking. For instance, Mac users can’t offload Audible files to handheld and or pocket devices. However, a mobile solution is something that is in the works, Kramer said.
“Before the end of the year, we plan for Mac and PC users to be able to get the exact same things from us,” he added.