The feature is somewhat of an anomaly in the new media world, where users often have access to songs, movies or books but often can’t send an actual file to friends as one could lend a CD, DVD or physical book. Audible users, however, buy each title in their library, either with regular credits that come with subscriptions of at least $15 per month or by paying for them outright.
“It’s always been somewhat distinct in that, from the beginning, subscribers have always been the owner of these titles,” said Donald Katz, Audible’s chief executive and founder.
With this new feature, Katz said, the company wanted to highlight that sense of ownership in a way that didn’t hurt the people who make their careers from producing audiobooks. Allowing people to redeem an unlimited number of books without paying, for example, wouldn’t be ideal for the industry. But "Send A Book," he said, strikes a balance by letting subscribers send books to as many people as they want, even if each recipient can only redeem one book.
Katz said that he hopes the ability to send books for free will raise further awareness of audiobooks, particularly to those who may not have ever purchased or even listened to an audiobook before.
Audible does not release subscriber numbers but reported that its users downloaded 1.6 billion hours of audio in 2015. The “Send a Book” feature comes amid a spate of product releases, including “Clips” — a feature that allows Audible subscribers to save, annotate and share small portions of audiobooks.
The firm also started a beta program in April called “Channels,” which offers participating subscribers the option to listen to free, unlimited short-form audio similar to podcasts.
Amazon Kindle owners have a similar program that lets them share e-books, but it differs from the Audible program in that only certain e-book titles are eligible to loan and there is a 14-day time limit.