Bloomberg Businessweek

A Sleepy Medium Wakes Up

Audiobooks king Audible is driving the fastest growth in publishing. Now for the negotiations

Don Katz first heard of Jeff Bezos in 1996, shortly after leaving journalism to start his audiobook subscription company, Audible Inc. One of Katz’s early investors was John Doerr of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The firm was taken by the Japanese idea of keiretsu, a network of like-minded companies that support one another through partnerships and equity stakes. Audible and Inc. seemed like ideal candidates, Doerr told Katz when suggesting a team-up with Bezos: “He likes books, too.”

Katz flew to Seattle and met Bezos for coffee. Audible’s success, Katz acknowledged, would rely on an impending internet revolution, where both portable digital media players and the practice of downloading files over high-speed data networks became commonplace. Bezos told Katz he was focusing on selling physical books, because it’d be a quicker way to go mainstream. Audible, he predicted, was an idea that would take a decade to mature.

The two men kept in touch. At various points, Bezos stepped up involvement in Audible, until Amazon bought

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