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eMusic to Merge with Blio – Wait, what?

blio-logoHere’s a piece of news that has me scratching my head this morning.

eMusic, one of the original online music retailers, has merged with K-NFB, the parent company of the Blio ebook platform. There’s been no formal announcement but last night the WSJ posted a copy of the email that eMusic sent to their partners (copied at the end of this post). The exact terms have not been disclosed, but the 2 companies will be collectively known as Media Arc.

This is one of those stories that makes little sense at first glance and makes even less sense when I look into the details.

One company in this deal is a music retailer, while the other is a tech company that develops spoken word reading apps for the visually disabled. Or at least that is what the K-NFB website says today, though perhaps their public face doesn’t match their activities anymore.

Sure, K-NFB developed the tech that supports Blio, a rich-text ebook format what was supposed to take the market by storm in 2010, but until yesterday Blio had been managed and promoted by Baker & Taylor. I was also under the impression that all the content deals for Blio were run through B&T, not K-NFB.

But it looks like I could be wrong. The announcement implies that K-NFB has the distribution rights to 600k ebook titles. If that is the case then we could be looking at a shift in focus; K-NFB could be planning to stop making accessibility apps and and turn to be a content distributor/retailer like eMusic.

I have contacted K-NFB and B&T for comment, and I will update this post with more info when I get it.

Update: I have a response from B&T.

While KNFB has merged with eMusic to form Media Arc, there will be no change in the relationship with KNFB and Baker & Taylor.  We will continue to support the Blio reader by providing ebooks in the Blio format for our retail, OEM and library customers.  Axis 360, B&T’s premier digital content management platform for libraries, will continue to provide the Blio reader free to the library’s patrons and provide ebooks in the Blio format.

Here is the email:


Dear eMusic Partner, We are excited to announce today the merger of eMusic and K-NFB Reading, Inc. (d/b/a Blio, Inc.) into a single company called Media Arc, Inc., which will offer a comprehensive source of more than 17 million songs, 40,000 audio books and 600,000 eBooks. Both eMusic and K-NFB will remain as operating units of Media Arc, Inc.

As a new company, eMusic and K-NFB will leverage their combined technologies and expertise to create a consumer-centric interface that makes discovering, interacting with, and purchasing all kinds of media content more accessible and seamless for consumers. The goal is to be able to sell more content for our partners by providing electronics manufacturers, retailers, MVPD/wireless companies, and others with a multimedia content solution to better compete in today’s market.

Media Arc’s mission is to provide the best digital media discovery experience possible by leveraging cross-content insights to recommend new music and books to avid readers and music collectors alike. This will present both authors and artists with a unique opportunity to expand their fan base, reach new audiences, and of course sell more content. Founded by Futurist Ray Kurzweil with financial backing from former Microsoft CFO Michael Brown and media distribution giant Baker & Taylor, Blio, Inc. has built one of the most technologically advanced e-readers on the market. eMusic is a pioneer of the digital music space, with roots in helping music fans discover their next favorite artist or album dating back to 1998.

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fjtorres March 19, 2013 um 11:25 am

Sound like they’re looking to get into the back-end media services business, ala txtr, and retreating from the consumer side. Or combining to be a juicier takeover target.

Luqman March 19, 2013 um 12:12 pm

eMusic does sell a lot of (drm-free) audiobooks.

Fbone March 19, 2013 um 1:46 pm

Independent bookstores can also use Blio for their ebook platform instead of Kobo.

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