Audible's 'Clips' aim to test boundaries of viral media

Tyler Eyre, special to
Source: Amazon Audible

Want that book you're reading — or rather hearing — to go viral? Audible's got you covered.

In March, Amazon's audio book arm released 'Clips', a function that allows listeners the option to save and share quotes or passages from their favorite audio books. By giving audio books the Vine or Instagram video treatment, Audible is trying to promote a more personal user experience, and is hoping to generate more book purchases through social media sharing of snippets.

Just this week, Audible added a new feature that lets listeners recommend audiobooks instantly via e-mail, text or messenger. Listeners can send their personal library recommendations to an unlimited number of phone contacts. The first title can be redeemed for free by the recipient.

Audible's new functionality arrives at a time when savvy users consume voracious amounts of music and video — which frequently go viral on social media. Clips is an attempt to combine the emerging medium of audio with book geeks' love of the written word — but adding a 21st century dimension to it.

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Clips are "a way to put more books into people's conversations and easily demonstrate how dynamic and entertaining a book can be when performed," Beth Anderson, Audible's executive vice president and publisher, told CNBC in an interview this week.

"Our customers are voracious readers and thinkers about books. Functionality that allows them to save a clip and make notes on it, or share clips with friends, is another example of transformative technology that will make the Audible experience more meaningful for our listeners," she added.

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To use the tool, a listener can select up to 45 seconds of audio and edit, save, and share it. 'Clips' is then able to be passed around through all of the regular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and can also be sent through email or a standard text message.

Those receiving a Clip don't need to have an Audible account to hear the excerpt, but it does come with an option to either re-share or purchase the entire audio book.

"Listeners ... love talking about books, authors, and narrators they are passionate about, and 'Clips' makes it easier for our customers to start meaningful conversations with their friends and family directly from their audio book whenever inspiration strikes," said Don Katz, founder and CEO of Audible.

In trying to make audio content more social media friendly, Clips could be the first salvo in what other tech companies may look to emulate in some form or fashion.

At least for the moment, audio clips are unlikely to have the same cultural import enjoyed by Audible's visual counterparts like Vine and Snapchat. That said, users shouldn't be surprised to see literary quotes trend across Facebook and Twitter, rather than memes and gifs.

"Once shared, the recipient can then either buy the audio book or share the clip themselves to their own contacts, giving our audio a unique opportunity to go viral," said Anderson. "The possibilities are really exciting."

Audible, who is the largest seller and producer of downloadable audio books and other spoken-word content, sees themselves as the Netflix of listening. They offer over 250,000 books and pieces of audio, and continue to develop their sphere of content.

The company largely has a corner on the audio book market, being the main supplier to Apple's iTunes Store. Membership has grown by over 40 percent from the previous year, Audible states.