Commencement 2014: Speaker Bio

Donald Katz, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Rutgers University—Newark is pleased to present this year’s honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree recipient and commencement speaker, Donald Katz, founder and chief executive officer of Audible, Inc.

Audible is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the Internet. Prior to founding Audible, Katz was a journalist and author for 20 years. His work won a National Magazine Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, among other prizes.

Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, since 2007, audible.com (US) serves millions of listeners and offers more than 150,000 downloadable audiobooks, audio editions of periodicals, and other programs. The company, under Katz’s leadership, 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 12 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, Inc., in 2008 and is now an Amazon.com subsidiary.

For his leadership of the company since inception, Katz won the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for New Jersey. The story of Audible, a Business 2.0 magazine profile contends, is “precisely the kind Katz would have loved to write, complete with its big ideas about how an audacious [writer] turned businessman hopes to spearhead a literary revolution by reviving the ancient art of oral storytelling using modern technology. But Katz himself is the story now.”

During his years as a professional writer Katz wrote The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears (1987); Home Fires: An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America (1992); and Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World (1994). Katz also served as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Outside, Sports Illustrated, Men's Journal, and Worth. A two-volume collection of Katz's magazine stories, King of the Ferret Leggers and Other True Stories and Valley of the Fallen and Other Places, was published in 2001.

Katz graduated from New York University in 1974, where he studied with novelist Ralph Ellison. He attributes his fascination with audio to Ellison, who emphasized the role of oral and vernacular culture as a fundamental underpinning of American literature. Katz also attended The University of Chicago as well as The London School of Economics, from which he holds a master of science in economics. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, where he served as a member of the public library board for nine 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. In February 2014, he was named chair of Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation. Katz is married, the father of three children, and an avid ice hockey player.