Audiobook biz brews at coffee chain

Starbucks, Random House pact for 'Velveteen,' 'Christmas'

Starbucks is getting into the audiobook biz.

The mega-mochamaker will announce today that it is pacting with Random House imprint Listening Library to release musical audiobooks “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “The Night Before Christmas” in thousands of Starbucks outlets.

Both titles are narrated by Meryl Streep. “Velveteen Rabbit,” written by Margery Williams, features music by George Winston, while a number of musicians perform holiday carols for “Night Before Christmas,” penned by Clement C. Moore.

Move continues Starbucks’ foray into the entertainment biz just after the coffeetailer promoted its first movie, Lionsgate’s spelling bee drama “Akeelah and the Bee.”

Starbucks Entertainment prexy Ken Lombard said the audiobook deal really falls under the chain’s successful retail music program and isn’t part of Starbucks’ new effort to break into the book biz.

For its part, Random House’s Listening Library is using the Starbucks partnership to reintroduce the Rabbit Ears Collection to the market after a decade-long absence. Audiobooks also come with an illustrated storybook.

Random House acquired worldwide distrib rights to the collection earlier this year from Rabbit Ears founders and owners Chris Campbell and Mark Sottnick.

“Velveteen Rabbit” will bow in Starbucks stores and outlets Aug. 29, while “Night Before Christmas” bows Nov. 7.

Starbucks will sell the two titles exclusively for four months, after which time they will be broadly distributed to retailers by Random House. Starbucks will share in the profits of those sales as well.

“Starbucks has a massive customer base. Millions of eyeballs will see those titles each week, and those customers include parents of young children,” Random House Audio senior VP and publisher Madeline McIntosh told Daily Variety.

Lombard said the decision to release these two particular titles is part of the company’s ongoing “commitment to offer compelling family entertainment.”

Starbucks Entertainment, which is setting up shop in Los Angeles, recently signed with the William Morris Agency. Lombard said the Random House deal was already in the works and did not involve the tenpercentery.

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