The addition of new members and a growing number of digital devices that are Audible-compatible helped produce a record quarter for Audible Inc. in this year's fourth quarter. Sales in the quarter rose 52.8%, to $5.8 million, with all but $200,000 of that total coming from sales of consumer content. The company even produced net income of $23,644 before a dividend payment resulted in an overall net loss of $4.4 million compared to a loss of $3.7 million in last year's final quarter. For the year, sales rose 55.6%, to $19.3 million, with content sales up 68.2%, to $18.5 million. Net loss was cut to $10.7 million from $18.5 million.

Audible finished the year with 311,000 customers, and its service is now accessible through such devices as most MP3 players as well as iPod, which can hold up to 800 audiobooks, said CEO Don Katz. The company is also expanding its number of retail partners and is selling its service through catalogues. In addition, Audible is available on some wireless networks.

The improved financial condition and growing business opportunities prompted Katz to tell analysts in a conference call that the discussion of Audible's viability is irrelevant, but what is relevant is its ability to "sustain its dominance" in its category. And investors seem to believe Audible has a future. Its stock price has risen from a low of 15 cents on February 18, 2003, to a high on December 5 of $4.25; the stock closed at $3.25 per share at press time. Because its stock price passed the $3-per-share level, the company has been able to convert preferred shares held by Apax Partners and Random House into common stock, a move that will free some cash.