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Amazon buys Audible for $300 mln has begun a new chapter in its battle for customers’ ears: it has agreed to pay $300 million for Audible, a seller of audio books that has a close relationship with Apple.

Ten-year-old Audible sells spoken-word content such as audio books, magazines and radio programs through a number of channels, including its websites in the US and UK. It has 80,000 titles in its catalogue, and a further 20,000 through partner sites in France and Germany. Amazon began reselling Audible’s content in 2000, and since 2002, Audible has also distributed audio books through Apple’s iTunes Store, when it became Apple’s exclusive supplier of spoken-word content. Apple modified the software in its iPods to allow “bookmarking” of Audible audio files. This chapter in the battle for listeners may yet have a happy ending for Apple, as the Audible team plans to continue and grow its relationship with the iTunes Store, according to Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener. But that goes for Audible’s many other channel partnerships too: “We plan to continue and grow all these relationships,” Herdener said. Apple declined to comment on the deal. The main battle front between Apple and Amazon remains the sale of digital music free of the restrictions imposed by DRM (digital rights management) systems, where Amazon has been competing with Apple in the US since September.

The $300 million price tag for Audible includes the assumption of outstanding stock option obligations. The companies expect to close the deal by April. The companies expect to close the deal by April. (Macworld)