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Amazon Makes Audiobook Noise

Amazon is making itself heard.

Hoping to increase the number of audiobooks produced, the company said today it acquired Brilliance Audio, an independent audiobooks publisher. Amazon also announced that its subsidiary CustomFlix now supports CD and MP3-CD audiobook formats via its Disc on Demand service.

The news follows Amazon's recent decision to sell digital music free of copy-protection.

Loud and clear, right?

Amazon calls Brilliance Audio the largest "independent" publisher of audiobooks in the United States. The buy complements the CustomFlix announcement, Amazon said, because now publishers and authors will have an "easy and economical" way to introduce new titles on an inventory-free basis.

An Amazon spokesman told internetnews.com it's long been a company view that the audiobook market is under-served. He said that even some of the most popular books in physical format remain un-produced as audiobooks.

"With this acquisition we can make it more efficient for authors and book publishers of all sizes to expand the number of titles produced in increasingly popular audio formats, offering customers a much broader selection," Amazon vice president Greg Greeley said in a statement.

With these announcements and its recently announced decision to sell copy-protection-free MP3 format songs from more than 12,000 record labels, Amazon is stepping up its competition with Apple and its iTunes store. Apple's in a good position, however.

Apple claims the iTunes Store has sold more than 2.5 billion songs, 50 million TV shows and more than 2 million movies, good enough to make it the world's most popular online music, TV and movie store. It doesn't hurt that Apple sells the iPod, unofficially the millennium's most coveted gadget.

Brilliance Audio is located in Michigan. It will stay there and continue to be run by founder Michael Snodgrass, Amazon said. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.