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eMusic To Offer Audiobook Downloads

The company started out offering MP3 downloads of independent music, but today eMusic is holding its breath and taking a giant step into the future as it also offers audiobooks for download.   Initially there will be about a thousand titles on offer, many of them going for a lower price an iTunes – the only company to outsell eMusic on downloads. For example, as reported in The New York Times, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope will cost $9.99, as opposed to $18.95 on iTunes. Spring for it on CD and it’ll set you back $29.95.   What’s always set eMusic apart from other download services is that it doesn’t digital rights management (DRM); everything is in mp3 format. Once you’ve bought it, you’re free to copy it as much as you like. That might have scared major labels, but it’s proved astonishingly successful. Apple might dominate the download market with 71%, but eMusic comes next with 10%, more than twice as much as most other companies.   Publishers are certainly interested, even if some of them still holding back from a complete embrace. Random House has so far only committed about 20% of its catalogue, around 500 titles, writer Andrew Adam Newman reports, although Penguin Audio will sell the same 150 titles it has on iTunes.   The big concern for publishers is piracy, and Random House will watermark its eMusic titles and keep an eye on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. However, in an interview with The New York Times, eMusic dismisses the concerns.   “Our customers don’t steal music,” said David Pakman, chief of eMusic. “A lot of them are technically sophisticated, but they’re not prone to piracy.”   It’s yet another sign that the period of pre-eminence enjoyed by iTunes might slowly be ending. eMusic currently has about 300,000 subscribers.