(New York, NY) — PEN America today announces Audible Founder and Executive Chairman Don Katz as Business Visionary Honoree for its 2022 Literary Gala, recognizing his transformative contributions to the world of literature and audio storytelling. At once celebratory in spirit and urgent in aim, the gala supports PEN America’s cultural programming and its crucial advocacy work on behalf of free expression worldwide. Held in person beneath the blue whale in the American Museum of Natural History’s (200 Central Park West) majestic Hall of Ocean Life, the event will convene writers, humanitarians, thinkers, and other luminaries on May 23.

An accomplished journalist and author, Katz created Audible 25 years into an extraordinary career in which 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, Audible has revolutionized the way we experience literature, melding traditions of oral storytelling with technology, and has become the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling and the home for talented creators in audio.

Under Don’s vision and leadership, Audible has spent over 25 years at the forefront of the continuous evolution of storytelling, having commercialized the world’s first-ever digital audio player, created a new category for a wealth of creativity and diversity of perspective, catapulted audiobooks into the entertainment mainstream, and in so doing supported thousands of writers and actors.

Katz and Audible have simultaneously helped catalyze rebirth in Newark, NJ, initiating multiple programs to help advance equality, education, and economic development in the city where the company has been headquartered since 2007. One such program, the Audible-led Newark Working Kitchens, has activated local restaurants to provide over 1,300,000 meals to more than 10,000 city residents.

PEN America Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel said, “Don Katz’s unwavering devotion to the written and spoken word has revolutionized the form that merges them. The breadth of voices to which Audible has provided a platform, and the ease and immediacy with which its inventions have allowed listeners to access works both canonical and obscure, unite Don’s vision with PEN America and our tireless protection of expression from powers that seek to hide it away from view and out of earshot.”

PEN America’s 2022 Literary Gala will begin with a VIP reception at 6pm, followed by a cocktail reception at 6:30pm, and dinner and awards at 7:30pm. In the coming months, PEN America will announce the evening’s host and the recipients of the 2022 PEN/Benenson Courage Award, the 2022 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, and the 2022 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

About Don Katz

Don Katz is founder and executive chairman of Audible, Inc., the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling. Prior to founding Audible, Katz was a journalist and author for twenty 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, NJ since 2007, Audible serves millions of listeners and offers over 700,000 downloadable Audible Originals, 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 supplier of audiobooks to Apple’s iTunes store worldwide and operates nine audio services beyond audible.com in the U.S.: audible.co.uk, audible.de, audible.fr, audible.com.au, audible.co.jp, audible.it, audible.ca, audible.in and audible.es. Audible was publicly traded on NASDAQ until acquired by Amazon in 2008 and is now an Amazon subsidiary. 

Recognized as one of America’s Top 25 Disruptive Leaders by Living Cities for his work on behalf of urban transformation in Newark, Katz was named New Jersey’s most influential tech leader by ROI-NJ in 2021 and was also named No. 7 on the 2020 NJBiz Power 100 list.  He was the recipient of a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award in 2013. 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, Don 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; Home Fires was re-released in 2014.

Katz graduated in 1974 from New York University, 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 an MSc Economics. He served as a member of the public library board in Montclair, New Jersey for nine years, and 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 was founded in 1997. He also served as both 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-bandwidth accelerator that seeks to connect Newark – Audible’s global headquarters – to the early-stage technology start-up innovation economy. Katz is married, the father of three children, and an avid ice hockey player.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org

Press Contacts 

For more information, please contact Blake Zidell or Adriana Leshko at Blake Zidell & Associates, 917.572.2493, blake@blakezidell.com or adriana@blakezidell.com