Apple, the first company to introduce an elegant digital music download service, also widened the digital debate, introducing access to over 5,000 audio-books through its iTunes Music Store.

The company is using its long-standing relationship with to introduce the new feature. Like its music offering, these audio-books can be purchased in one click, and a digital swipe of an existing US credit card.

Once a title's acquired (and the store offers free previews of titles, just like its music offering), they can be heard on any Mac, or a Windows XP or Windows 2000 PC, and also on an iPod. iPods also know where you stop reading a book.

Shrewd move Apple CEO Steve Jobs said this was an exclusive, multi-year deal with It's a shrewd move for Apple, which recognizes the wide swathe of digital content today's consumers hope for. Users can buy a book, or buy a tune, seamlessly - if they are US citizens, that is.

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said: "With the addition of Audible's exclusive content to iTunes, now Mac and Windows customers can download audio-books and music from one integrated online music store." CEO Donald Katz said: "Audio-books - and spoken word programming in general - can change peoples’ lives for the better. Audible's award-winning information and entertainment audio deserves to be marketed in an integrated way alongside music. With this iTunes Music Store announcement today, we have reached an important strategic milestone for our company."

iTunes audiobooks are professionally-encoded and the collection includes New York Times bestsellers and radio shows from NPR and PRI.

Exclusive titles include: 'Whipping Mek', an original story by Brian Herbert; Kevin J. Anderson's 'The Butlerian Jihad' and 'The Machine Crusade', which bridge the Legends of Dune trilogy.

Book readers with lazy eyes could note: A 40GB iPod can hold over 800 full-length audio-books.