Donald Katz is founder and CEO of Audible, Inc., the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment. Before founding Audible, Don was a journalist and author for 20 years. His work won a National Magazine Award, an Overseas Press Club Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and other prizes.
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Newark, NJ, since 2007, Audible serves millions of listeners and offers over 350,000 downloadable audiobooks, audio editions of periodicals and other programs. Under Don’s leadership, the company commercialized the first portable digital audio player in 1997, four years before the introduction of the iPod. Audible operates 16 global outlets, including audible.co.uk in London, audible.de in Berlin, audible.fr in Paris, audible.it in Italy, audible.com.au in Sydney and audible.co.jp in Tokyo. Audible was publicly traded on NASDAQ until acquired by Amazon.com, Inc., in 2008 and is now an Amazon subsidiary.
Named one of NJ.com’s “25 Most Influential People in New Jersey” in 2016, Don was also recognized as one of America’s Top 25 Disruptive Leaders by Living Cities for his work on behalf of urban transformation in Newark. He is the founder of Newark Venture Partners, a venture fund and accelerator that aims to catalyze Newark’s tech ecosystem by attracting early-stage companies to contribute to the city’s turnaround. Don was the recipient of a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award in 2013. The story of Audible, a Business 2.0 magazine profile says, is “precisely the kind Don 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.”
Don 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). Don also served as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Outside, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, and Worth. A two-volume collection of Don’s magazine stories, King of the Ferret Leggers and Other True Stories and Valley of the Fallen and Other Places, was published in 2001.
Don graduated in 1974 from New York University, where he studied with novelist Ralph Ellison. He attributes his appreciation for audio to Ellison, who emphasized the role of oral and vernacular culture as a fundamental underpinning of American literature. Don also attended the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, where he earned a MSc in economics. He served as a member of the public library board in Montclair, NJ, for nine years, and has served on the board of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit that manages several of the most outstanding urban college preparatory charter schools in the Northeast, since the organization was founded in 1997. He also served as a member and chairman of Newark’s economic development corporation, and he is the founder of Newark Venture Partners, a social impact early-stage investment fund and ultra high-bandwidth accelerator that seeks to connect Newark to the early-stage technology start-up innovation economy. Don is married, the father of three children, and an avid ice hockey player.
Books and Articles
AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF ONE MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY IN POSTWAR AMERICA
REVISED EDITION WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY JONATHAN ALTER
624 pages • Archer / Rare Bird Books
Available in audio and ebook formats
All proceeds from the sale of the ebook and audio editions of Home Fires will go to the Audible Scholars Program, which has provided internships and financial support to Newark students since 1997.
Home Fires is the powerful saga of the Gordon family — real people, names unchanged. Spanning nearly five decades, from the end of World War II to the early 1990s, their story has the scope, depth, wealth of incident, and emotional intensity of a great novel, and an abundance of humor, scandal, warmth, and trauma — the recognizable components of family life. This is also a masterful chronicle of the turbulent postwar era, illuminating the interplay between private life and profound cultural changes.
Donald Katz begins his account in 1945, when Sam Gordon comes home from the war to his young wife, Eve, and their two-year-old, Susan, eager to move his family into the growing middle class. After a few years in the Bronx, Sam and Eve move to a new Long Island subdivision and have two more children. As the ’50s yield to the ’60s, the younger Gordons fly out into the culture like shrapnel from an artillery shell, each tracing a unique trajectory: Susan, early into rock ‘n’ roll and civil rights, Vassar girl, feminist, author of “The Politics of Orgasm”, and recovering drug addict; Lorraine, teenage beatnik and leftie, one-time member of a women’s rock band, longtime follower of an Indian religious teacher; Sheila, the “good” daughter who married then remarried, with a big suburban house, two kids, and a therapist; and Ricky, the youngest, witness to the family traumas and cause of a few himself, openly gay, eclectically New Age, and a successful songwriter and composer. And all Sam and Eve ever wanted — like millions of others who had experienced the Depression and the war — was a “normal family”.
Katz tells the Gordons’ story — the unraveling of Sam’s and Eve’s American dream, to the slow, hopeful reknitting of the family — marshaling a vivid cast of supporting characters. Deftly juxtaposing day-to-day family life with landmark public events, Katz creates a rich and revealing portrait of the second half of the 20th century in America.
- Reissued as a revised print edition and eBook under Archer in 2014
- Print edition coming this fall
- Available as an audiobook at Audible, Amazon and iTunes
- Featuring a new introduction by Jonathan Alter and a new afterword by Ricky Ian Gordon
Praise for Home Fires:
“This is American social history at its best.” –David Halberstam
“Superb…Donald Katz never lets his material descend to sensationalism. He writes with clarity and poise. His panoramic approach, with background details fleshing out the spirit of the age, brings scene after scene to painful, poignant life.” –Dan Cryer, Newsday
“Remarkable…The collective candor of the Gordons offers then rest of us a new lens through which to view the 1960s experience.” –Washington Post Book World
“A flat-out marvel of reportage.” –Glamour
“Katz’s familial lens on recent history belongs on a shelf with classics. There is Balzac here, and Theodore Dreiser, with a touch of John Gunther, John Dos Passos and William Manchester.” –Jonathan Alter
“In this moving, perceptive social history, Katz (The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears) traces the lives of the Gordon family, which swelled to include two more daughters and a son, to the year 1990, revisiting the cultural changes of four decades… Katz’s objective yet compassionate approach to their story makes riveting reading and fosters the conclusion that upheaval and trauma are as integral to families as love.” –Publisher’s Weekly
“The King of the Ferret Leggers,” Outside Magazine, October 1987
“Jack LaLanne is Still An Animal,” Outside Magazine, November 1995
“The Voyeur,” Esquire Magazine, October 1993
“A Journey We Did Not Want to Take,” Worth Magazine, April 1995