The Audio Version of Thomas Friedman’s Book Costs Way Too Much

I’m not a huge fan of “The World is Flat”, but I’m keen to read Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–And How It Can Renew America”. And not just because Seth recommends it.

I’m buying more and more audio books these days. I’m choosing audio books because I can consume them while I’m exercising or walking from place to place. Plus, of course, it eliminates the environmental costs of manufacturing, packaging and shipping the book to me.

I went to iTunes to purchase the “Hot, Flat and Crowded”, and was a bit shocked at the price. Then I compared it with and Chapters:

iTunes: $45.95 $19.50
Chapters: $23.52

I’m usually happy to pay a ‘green tax’ for more sustainable options, but this is a bit ridiculous. I’d have to pay more than twice the hardcopy cost for, ostensibly, less value. It’s ironic, too, given the subject of the book. Why do you suppose the audio book is priced where it is?


    1. Hi,

      Well this is an old posting but I just had a company record an audio book for me. Actually it was two stories from the same book. They plan to charge 14.99 per CD or download. I thought it seemed high too, the stoires only read as 45 min each, but some websites also sell something called one hour audios now, plus sniplits sells audios of various lengths at low prices. I agree with you though, it seems like audio books get overpriced. I’m concerned mine wont sell well, but they have their production cost to consider, and I guess the narrator has to get a slight royalty too. It’s a tough racket. I guess if the writer is well known, then some people will shell it out for them. If not, well I guess their audio book becomes wall papaer on a website.

      Happy listening.

  1. Probably because you’ve got to pay for all the audio production costs on top of everything else.

    It’s going for $14.68 (abridged) and $29.38 (unabridged) at, but a yearly membership brings the cost down to about twelve dollars per book.

  2. Heather: Thanks for the additional data point. The Audible prices seem much more reasonable. Surely the audio production costs don’t exceed the fixed costs of printing and distributing the book.

  3. I don’t know why they’re so pricey. I use Audible quite a lot since I commute by public transit. My cousin is blind, and he loves them, too – they’ve got a much wider selection than the CNIB library, and Audible is able to support the DAISY player he uses. He says that their customer support has been really good too…they’re very familiar with the adaptive devices for the visually impaired and were able to help troubleshoot for him.

  4. @The Other Heather

    I’ve also had good experiences with Audible – but I’m floored that customer support was “very familiar with the adaptive devices for the visually impaired and were able to … troubleshoot.”

    That seems completely unheard of in a service that normally aims at the cheapest option. Kudos to them.

  5. One of the reasons that title is so costly is that the unabridged version you were looking at is 21 hours in length! Even at it’s list, which I would never pay, it is a fairly reasonable value. But it should cost less than the paper version and I’m not sure it does.

    I’ve been planning to do an Audible subscription where I pay $22.95 per month for 2 titles regardless of length.

  6. You should be willing to pay a ‘green tax’ for things that are LESS sustainable. It would be counterproductive to pay such a tax for more sustainable items.

    My 2cents on cost: They have to account for copies being made and then distributed (illegally). Its unlikely you would copy a book and distribute it. Especially as far and wide as you could distribute and digital audio copy.

  7. @Shane: You’d be surprised how many people actually copy FULL books (print).

    I’m just shocked about the cost on iTunes. But then again, all things Apple are expensive.

  8. @Jeff – Audible didn’t start out with the intention to market their books to the visually impaired. But they’ve worked in consultation to improve accessibility. The website was improved, Audible Manager software was redesigned to work with JAWS (screen reader software) and they maintain contact with a Yahoo group set up by visually impaired customers.

    Services like the CNIB and VoicePrint keep periodicals and books accessible to the visually impaired, but their resources are limited.

    My cousin uses both, but the CNIB doesn’t always have the books he’d like. He’s been downloading those Robert Jordan ‘Wheel of Time’ books from Audible – they’re about thirty hours each. He hasn’t been able to ‘read’ those books since he went blind.

  9. Bobby: I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that we’ll have no say in the pricing of the hard copy edition of our book. Incidentally, it probably won’t remain “Getting to First Base”. A new title is still pending.

  10. The difference between print and audio is probably also a matter of scale. I don’t know the figures, but they’re surely on the order of 100+ magnitude.

    I’d like to suggest your publisher consider “Can’t We Just Be Friends?” as a possible title.

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