Commencement 2014: Speaker Bio
Katz is CEO of Audible, Inc., the company which he founded in 1995. Audible is the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks.
Donald Katz, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Rutgers University takes great pleasure in recognizing Donald Katz for his contributions as an entrepreneur, high-tech innovator and award-winning author and journalist.
Katz is founder and CEO of Audible, Inc., the company which he founded in 1995 and which already is the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks. Audible provides hundreds of jobs – 600 in the company headquarters in Newark, N.J., making it the city’s fastest-growing company -- and serves millions of listeners by offering more than 150,000 downloadable audiobooks and other spoken word content.
Under Katz’s leadership, Audible commercialized the first portable digital audio player in 1997, four years before the introduction of the iPod. Audible is the exclusive supplier of audiobooks to Apple’s iTunes Music store worldwide and operates 11 global outlets, including audible.co.uk in London, audible.de in Berlin, and audible.fr in Paris. Audible was publicly traded on NASDAQ until acquired by Amazon.com in 2008 for a sum reportedly in excess of $300 million and is now an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary.
Assessing the impact of Audible, the New York Times applauded Katz for “pushing the digital revolution in audiobooks.” Katz also received the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award which is given to those “whose ideas have broken the mold to create significant impact.” Business 2.0 magazine described Katz as an audacious businessman striving to “spearhead a literary revolution by reviving the ancient art of oral storytelling using modern technology.”
His leadership of Audible also was recognized in 2004 by Ernst & Young, which named him the Entrepreneur of the Year for New Jersey.
The Newark Museum honored Katz with its second annual Kevin J. McKenna Award for helping to revitalize Brick City.
For the 20 years before launching Audible, Katz was a journalist and the author of five books. He was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, among other publications, and earned a National Magazine Award and selection as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Katz earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and political science in 1974 from New York University (NYU), and received the Master of Science in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1975. As a student at NYU Katz studied with Ralph Ellison, author of the landmark American novel Invisible Man. He credits Ellison for his fascination with audio. Ellison emphasized the role of oral and vernacular culture as a fundamental underpinning of American literature.
Under Katz’ leadership, Audible is an engaged and active member of the Newark community. Audible has supported North Star Academy, a nationally recognized Newark charter school, since 2007. Audible Scholarships provide outstanding North Star graduates with Audible internships and other financial support throughout college. Audible also is committed to the Newark Public Library (its main branch is adjacent to Audible’s offices). Katz has made “active participation in the Newark Renaissance” a centerpiece of Audible’s company culture, and the company regularly patronizes new restaurants and sponsors tickets to New Jersey Performing Arts Center events as well as Devils, Nets, and Red Bulls games. During the winter holidays, Audible is an annual participant in Operation Santa, which provides toys, clothes and other necessities to Newark’s neediest children. Employees wrap gifts together as a prelude to the annual holiday party.
Katz lives in Montclair, New Jersey, where he served as a member of the public library board for several years. He has served on the board of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages several of the most outstanding urban college preparatory charter schools in the Northeast since the organization’s founding, and he also serves on the board of Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation.
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