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Audiobook Distributor RBMedia Has Been Sold – And Not to Rakuten

Along with Findaway and Blackstone Audio, RBMedia is one of several small audiobook distributors operating in the shadow of Amazon’s Audible.

RBMedia was sold yesterday to private equity firm KKR. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

From WSJ:

Investment firm KKR has agreed to acquire RBmedia, a major producer of digital audiobooks and spoken content, from investment firm Shamrock Capital, the latest sign of the growing popularity of audiobooks as a consumer-entertainment format.

The deal is expected to close by early fall. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Audiobooks have emerged as the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. book-publishing industry, in part because they can be accessed through a range of mobile digital devices. Consumers can listen while commuting or working out.

“We love the industry sector and its growth, and we think it will continue,” said Richard Sarnoff, chairman of media, entertainment, and education for KKR, in an interview. “Audiobooks create incremental time for enjoying great books, and one thing we lack today is time. We think this type of content will continue to take up more mind share, especially among younger consumers.”

KKR estimates that consumers will spend $900 million on audiobooks in 2018, up about 20% from the year before.

RBmedia owns, making it a retailer as well as a publisher and distributor. According to the press release, both parts of the company are included in this sale.

Do you know what surprised me the most about this sale? It wasn’t that it took place but the fact that Rakuten wasn’t the buyer.

Rakuten owns Kobo, OverDrive, and the ebook app developer Aquafadas. One would think that an audiobook distributor and retailer would be a good match for Rakuten’s existing ebook subsidiaries, but apparently Rakuten did not find that to be the case.

Do you suppose they were outbid?

image by davidmulder61

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