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Audio in the Spotlight
Trudi M. Rosenblum -- 6/5/00
B&N Launches New Releases section, CD section,
20% discount on bestsellers for audio

On May 1, Barnes & Noble raised audiobooks' profile considerably by revamping the chain's audio departments. The audiobook department now features separate New Releases and CD sections, and audiobook bestsellers will be sold at a 20% discount.

"We are very excited about the changes to the audio section," said B&N spokeswoman Debra Williams. "These changes are part of our ongoing commitment to serving the interests of our customers."

Audiobook publishers were delighted with the changes. "We're thrilled to see B&N extend this kind of support to the audio category," said Jenny Frost, president of the Random House AudioBook Group. About the new CD section, she added, "We've felt that the potential growth for CDs is tremendous, but that the key to making consumers aware that CD was available was broadening selection and increasing visibility in the accounts. We [at Random House] currently offer all of our major titles on CD. Barnes & Noble customers will now be able to see clearly the selection that will be there for them."

On the Publishing Front
Meanwhile, audio publishers and retailers are gearing up for Audiobook Month with a variety of promotions. Random House is running a multipronged Audiobook Month campaign. All stores that feature Random House, BDD or Listening Library titles during the month of June will receive a free Walkman or Discman. "They can raffle it off to customers or give it to employees as an incentive," said Mary Beth Roche, director of publicity for the Random House AudioBook Group. To qualify, stores must work with Random House sales reps to create the promotion.

Random House is also doing two radio promotions in June. In the first week, sports radio stations in five markets will each give away five copies of Rick Pitino's Lead to Succeed and Bob Costas's Fair Ball. During the second week of June, talk radio stations in 10 different markets will give away copies of Mario Puzo's Omerta, John Grisham's The Brethren and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The giveaways will mention audiobook month and encourage listeners to go to their local bookstores for more audiobooks.

In addition, Random House is running a promotion with Bookpage in which audio listeners can enter an essay contest called "Where Do You Like to Do It?" Contestants must submit a 100- to 150-word essay on their favorite place to listen to audiobooks. The winning response will be printed in the September issue of Bookpage and the prize will be a Walkman or Discman and a selection of audiobooks. Three runnersup will also receive audiobooks.

Simon & Schuster Audio is offering customers a $5 rebate on all Simon & Schuster titles over $14 sold during the month of June. The rebate applies to all S&S titles of $14 or over, whether frontlist or backlist. "We'll have easels available for in-store display and a rebate coupon on our site and other online retail sites," said Patricia Keim, S&S director of publicity.

Brilliance Audio is promoting June is Audiobook Month with a free audiobook offer. All Brilliance audios released in May, June and July will feature a sticker on the package noting the offer. Inside is a card consumers can mail in for any one of eight featured titles. Consumers pay only for shipping, and have a year in which to redeem the offer.

Audio Partners is running an "Onerous Commute Story Contest" with local radio stations. Listeners are asked to call in during rush hour and share their commuting stories, explaining how audiobooks improve the commute. One winner a day per station will receive a free audiobook. The company has also donated audiobooks to local library, schools and retirement homes, and was responsible for printing the APA's Library Poster packets and mailing them to 3,000 libraries across the country. The APA Audiobook Month poster will be featured on 150,000 Audio Editions catalogues mailed to consumers and libraries.

Retail Endeavors
Bookstores and libraries, too, are getting into the act. The four-store Bibelot chain in Baltimore will have a two-hour audio event each Sunday in June at 11 a.m., in a different store each week. The store will play one of four BDD audiobooks on CD (A Walk in the Woods, Hannibal, The Greatest Generation and Into the Woods) in the event alcove, with comfortable chairs set up, and will raffle a Walkman or Discman (courtesy of the Random House promotion, above).

Waldenbooks will feature two audiobook endcaps in all stores throughout the month of June.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers will feature a big audiobook display of Books on Tape titles. "The display will feature a large winding two-lane road with four cutouts in the tarmac," explained audio buyer Michael Fraser. "We will feature a single title in each of the spaces and will change the titles every week."
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