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MSN Takes on Audiobooks

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MSN and MediaBay are working together to offer a wide range of audiobook titles via download to the millions of MSN users in the United States.

Among the audiobook titles MediaBay will exclusively offer on the MSN Music service are those from the nation’s largest audiobook publishers.

“This announcement builds upon our leading position as a marketer and distributor of audiobooks on tapes and compact discs via the Audio Book Club,” Dittus said. “It is the first significant step in executing our digital media distribution strategy. By making our content available to the digital customer, we can expand the market for our audio content and considerably reduce the cost of delivery. The opportunity presented by this relationship is made even more significant by the multitude of compatible download devices for the MSN Music service.”

This new relationship complements the already extensive MSN Music service catalog, which provides music fans with an easy, comprehensive service for discovering and downloading legal digital music. MSN Music offers simple sign-up, no-hassle purchasing and superior sound quality, either through a Web browser or the new Microsoft Windows Media Player 10.

“We’re excited to add MediaBay’s audiobooks to our already extensive catalog of music,” said Christine Andrews, lead product manager for MSN Entertainment at Microsoft Corp. “Our goal is to bring the largest library of music and spoken-word content to MSN Music customers, and MediaBay is helping us by providing access to a broad range of audiobooks, such as the most recent New York Times bestsellers, and new and backlist titles from best-selling authors such as John Grisham, Tom Wolfe, Mary Higgins Clark, Bill Clinton and Stephen King.”

Recent research conducted by the Audio Publishers Association shows that 70 percent of audiobook users listen to them in their cars or on portable devices, making MSN Music a logical choice for MediaBay. MediaBay audiobooks add to the extensive library of the MSN Music service, which is compatible with more portable devices than any other music service.

“With the growth of broadband access having reached critical mass, we anticipate the popularity of audiobook downloads to grow exponentially,” said Jeffrey Dittus, CEO of MediaBay. “Currently, in an $800 million market that has increased 10 percent per year since 1989, sales of audiobooks should exceed $1.1 billion by 2008. We believe downloads will grow to take a much larger share of 2004 sales. We are confident that MSN will provide us with access to the growing number of audiobook listeners who are using the Internet more and more to access their entertainment and information needs, as well as attract new listeners who are unfamiliar with the format.”

Joseph Rosetti, MediaBay chairman and former head of security at IBM Corp., also endorsed the offering. “A significant feature on MSN Music is Microsoft’s Windows Media Digital Rights Management platform, which helps protect and more securely deliver content for playback on a computer, portable device or network device,” Rosetti said. “This platform provides publishers the content protection they have been looking for and is quickly becoming the industry standard.”

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MSN Takes on Audiobooks
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