Moderated Blog post on the harmful impact of exclusively Audible audio books, please read and consider
Richard Turner <richardturner42@...>
I pass this along because I think it is important to be aware of how this limits access to books for everyone, but also for those with disabilities that depend on libraries for free access to books.
I do not agree with some of the language, but certainly with the sentiment.
The Harmful Impact of Audible Exclusive Audiobooks
by Mark Pearson on July 27, 2020 in Audiobooks
We are Libro.fm, an audiobook platform that makes it possible for you to buy audiobooks directly through your local bookstore. We are fiercely independent and we oppose Amazon’s efforts to prevent independent bookstores and libraries from providing certain audiobooks, called Audible Exclusives.
One frequently-asked question we get from Libro.fm listeners is why certain audiobooks aren’t available on our platform—like Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
Is there a word for grief as it relates to being very interested in a story only to find out it’s an Audible exclusive— Bex (@BDingz) July 15, 2020
While Libro.fm has a catalog of over 150,000 audiobooks—and more than 99% of all The New York Times bestsellers—some titles are unavailable due to exclusive licenses granted by audiobook publishers and authors to Amazon’s Audible.
What does Audible Exclusive or Audible Original mean?
we all know amazon is evil, but did you know that when a book becomes an audible exclusive, libraries cannot buy copies of that audiobook? did you know that capitalism is the enemy of accessibility?— Alyssa (@imajoyk) June 10, 2020
For Audible listeners, the yellow band on a book cover reading “only from Audible” facilitates a feeling of access to premium content, but for the rest of the book world, it’s an access barrier.
It means that the audiobook in question can only be sold through Amazon’s Audible. No other retailers or providers can sell or distribute the digital audiobook, including bookstores and libraries.
Books should be equally accessible to all, and Audible Exclusive audiobooks—also known as Audible Originals—are the antithesis of that.
How does an audiobook become an Audible Exclusive?
This is going to get a little technical, but stick with us. It begins with the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a marketplace launched by Audible in 2011 that connects narrators, authors, agents, publishers, and rights-holders to create audiobooks. The decision to make an audiobook Exclusive is made by authors, publishers, and agents—it depends on who is granted the audio rights to a book.
Why do these parties choose this option? ACX offers higher royalties to creators (i.e. more money from audiobook sales) if they opt for Exclusive distribution. If a creator wants to distribute their audiobook to other audiobook platforms or libraries, they will earn 15% to 20% less of retail sales from ACX. The ACX system rewards exclusivity, so it’s easy to see why authors and publishers spring for this opportunity.
Within the ACX world, Audible Studios is the production arm of Audible. They pay authors like Mark Manson (Love Is Not Enough), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Alice Walker (The Color Purple) giant sums to keep their audiobooks exclusive to Audible, and prevent bookstores and libraries from selling and distributing them.
What does this mean for audiobook distribution?
Librarian Friends: If an audio book is part of Audible's "Only on Audible" exclusive thing, does that mean people can't get the audiobook through the library? Books in the program include "Born a Crime" and "Handmaid's Tale."— Hank Green (@hankgreen) November 14, 2019
Libraries, bookstores, schools, and anyone who isn’t affiliated with Amazon cannot distribute audiobooks that are Audible Exclusives. This means Libro.fm can’t sell Audible Exclusive audiobooks, which means our 1,200 bookstore partners can’t sell them, either.
Having the audiobook NOT be an Audible exclusive *big wink*Libraries are pissssssed by that move. https://t.co/hKuU3JSCFq— ☘🌈💰Jen is Irish everyday💰🌈☘ (@JentoInfinity) February 7, 2019
Audible Exclusives also work in direct opposition to the basic principles of libraries—free access to books, both digital and print. By limiting distribution, Amazon aids in making books, perspectives, and information inaccessible to certain communities and users.
To reiterate: There are audiobooks being published that bookstores cannot sell, and libraries cannot lend.
This hurts bookstores because they are consistently missing out on sales for big releases. When they aren’t able to sell audiobooks that are in high demand, potential customers will opt for Audible over their local bookstores. This, of course, only continues to increase Audible’s (and ultimately Amazon’s) power and influence within the publishing industry, resulting in more Exclusive deals and increasingly restricted access to audiobooks for the rest of the market.
Because audiobooks are a digital product, they’re inherently easier for Amazon to monopolize. For example, the superstar-stacked audiobook for The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and DC Comics is only available on Audible:
Full-cast audiobook Sandman adaptation is a FANTASTIC idea – that I can't even get excited about properly because it's a freaking Audible exclusive. Which means libraries are excluded. Which means our patrons are excluded. So that's fun. #libcomix— Matthew Noe 😔💜 (@NoetheMatt) May 13, 2020
Audiobooks are also a vital means of access for some readers with disabilities:
due to disabilities, some people need audiobooks to read. people with disabilities are more likely to be underemployed/unemployed, thus they rely on the library for access to audiobooks.amazon putting a pay wall between someone’s disabled audience and their book is hot garbage.— whitney 🧸 (@ginkgo_ghost) November 14, 2019
How else does Audible bar audiobook access?
Audible pays some publishers to embargo new audiobook releases for 90 days—meaning that for the first three months of sales, the audiobook can only be found on Audible.
Audible also doesn’t allow Libro.fm and bookstore customers to make certain audiobooks redeemable with membership credits—books like The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante and Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.
By rewarding Exclusive distribution, striking Exclusive deals with influential authors, and paying publishers to delay the distribution of new releases, Audible’s creeping monopoly pushes independent bookstores and libraries out of the audiobook industry.
I’m an author. How do I prevent Amazon’s Audible from shutting out independent bookstores and libraries?
First, understand the contract with your publisher. Are they producing the audiobook, or licensing it to another publisher? Either way, add language into your agreement that requires your audiobook to be sold through independent bookstores and made available through libraries.
Second, if your publisher is planning to contract or license the audiobook version, ensure that your publisher puts language in their licensing agreement that prevents the audiobook publisher from selling your title exclusively to Amazon’s Audible. If your audiobook is currently Exclusive, you might be able to change the distribution rights after a year depending on the payment option you have chosen. Learn more here.
Looking to learn more about offering your audiobook through Libro.fm? Read our Author Guide.
How is this any different from television and movie streaming platforms that produce originals?
Most original series and movies are still available to loan from your public library, and you can purchase DVDs online. The level of accessibility to all is much higher. Audible Exclusive audiobooks are only available through Amazon’s platform and not available through libraries or bookstores.
How can we work together to make change?
1. Make the #AudiobookSwitch.
When you choose Libro.fm over Audible, you support our 1,300+ bookstore partners, invest in your local community, and get audiobook recommendations from real booksellers—not an algorithm.
By spending money with intention, we can collectively work to not let audiobooks become another form of privatized entertainment controlled by a single entity.
Make the switch from Audible to Libro.fm. The more people we move away from their platform, the more power we take away from a singular provider in the industry. With Libro.fm, you get to choose a local bookstore to support, so you’re putting money back into your community.
switch to libro.fm
2. Reach out to authors and publishers.
Authors can change the story by ditching Audible, so reach out or tag authors on social media who have chosen the Exclusive path and share your feelings. Sharing this post with them might be a good place to start, perhaps with the statement “Choosing Audible Exclusive for your audiobook restricts audience access and hurts bookstores and libraries.”
We recommend Author’s Republic as the ACX alternative. Their audiobooks will be available on Libro.fm, libraries, and wherever audiobooks are sold or distributed. Publishers can also produce their own audiobooks and distribute to Libro.fm via Ingram Plus, Findaway, and Zebralution.
3. Spread the word.
Share this blog post to help educate others on this issue. You can even reshare our Instagram post to your Story or retweet our tweet.
If you’re a member, tell your friends, family, colleagues, and everyone you know about Libro.fm—when you refer someone, you get free audiobooks. We also offer bulk audiobook purchases for organizations.
Refer a friend
BULK AUDIOBOOK PURCHASES
Even if you don’t make an account with Libro.fm, it’s important that people are informed and aware of the harmful tactics that Amazon’s Audible uses to control the audiobook market. When you choose Libro.fm over Audible, you support our 1,200 bookstore partners, invest in your local community, and get audiobook recommendations from real booksellers—not an algorithm.
Want to read more?
A testimonial: “Audible Exclusives limit disabled audiobook fans like me.”“
“We Need to Talk About Audible” by Cory Doctorow
US Publishers, Authors, Booksellers Call Out Amazon’s ‘Concentrated Power’ in the Market”
“[American Booksellers Association] Releases Report Detailing Amazon’s Anti-competitive Behavior”
Have more questions about Audible Exclusives? Want more action items toward encouraging fair access to audiobooks? Reach out to us at hello@... and a real, audiobook-loving human will get back to you.
Mark is a cofounder of Libro.fm. He lives in Seattle where he enjoys running in the rain, playing tennis when the sun makes an appearance, over and undercooking food, and reading The New York Times on paper.
"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it."
- John Ruskin, 1819-1900
Web site: www.turner42.com