The program is going to formally launch on Sunday, and it really is that simple. Authors don't have to do anything other than sign up, and what's more, Amazon says that they don't have to share their earnings from the program.
I wonder why Amazon is doing it? I confess to not knowing much about audiobooks, but I would guess that Amazon has noticed how the market is growing and wants to give it a push.
Downloadable audiobooks is the one category besides ebooks that has grown over the past couple years. While I don't have current stats in front of me, the monthly AAP reports have consistently shown a solid increase each month. In January 2012, for example, the AAP reported $8.4 million for the category, up 30% from $6.5 million in January 2011.
And while it's obvious Amazon wants to bypass the publishers, I suspect that they are also working to build the social aspects as well. Authors can be their own best salesmen, but first they have to be interested in doing it and I'm not sure that was happening before. While I can easily recall authors pushing their latest ebook, I don't know the last time one pushing the audiobook at the same time.
And yes, I do think the long term goal is to bypass publishers. Amazon wants authors to sign in with their existing Amazon accounts, you know, the ones they use to submit their ebooks to KDP. This is going to let Amazon connect 2 possibly unrelated details about each author.
Also, this new program is being administered via Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), Audible's new self-pub platform for audiobooks. There are even a few subtle hints that authors might want to check the ACX help pages for tips on promoting their work. Clearly Amazon is looking to build a direct relationship.
All in all, publishers are going to hate this.