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‘Storm’ audio perfect for ‘Net freebie

Audio version of novel to be available in 20 installments through RioPort

NEW YORK — RioPort, best known as a distributor of digital music downloads on the Web, will offer a free audio version of Sebastian Junger’s bestselling novel “The Perfect Storm” for download from its site.

Move closely follows the widely publicized bow of Microsoft’s new Reader software for reading books on a PC, and the simultaneous offer of 100 free classic titles in Reader format from Barnes and Noble’s BN.com Web site.

RioPort is offering the Junger audiobook in tandem with books-on-tape publisher Recorded Books, which holds the audio rights to “Storm.” Downloads will be available in 20 separate installments of roughly 30 minutes each.

Two segments, available in both MP3 and Windows Media formats, will be offered per day, and an interview with the author will be bundled with the download.

RioPort, which was spun out of S3 Inc., which makes the popular Rio MP3 player devices, will be offering several more free promotional titles online later this month, including Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes,” Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

The promotions are a prelude to RioPort’s expanded plans for offering audiobooks on a commercial basis, according to the company’s director of spoken audio programming, Monty Hudson.

RioPort has arrangements with several top publishing firms, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and Time Warner Books, to offer audio streams of their titles on the ‘Net in the future, he said.

The fee structure for commercial downloads has yet to be determined, Hudson said.

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