The following is a testimonial by Robert Kingett, an accessibility consultant for Libro.fm. Robert discusses the challenges that Audible Exclusive audiobooks pose to listeners like him.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I have a list of audiobooks for almost any reading taste. Comic books are a different story, though. Because I’m totally blind, and am just now learning grade-two Braille, I haven’t found many accessible comic books I can read offline.
Graphic Audio is a publisher that often adapts comic books into elaborate audio productions. ‘Movies in your mind,’ they call them, but Graphic Audio doesn’t have as many titles as I’d like, due to audio publishers turning to Exclusives. One in particular really vexed me. A sighted friend suggested I check out the recently released Audible Original The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman. It’s narrated by a wide cast including Kat Dennings and James McAvoy. I didn’t know it was an Audible Original. Upon looking it up, though, I went through the four stages of Audible exclusivity: shock, disbelief, denial, and begrudging acceptance.
“Upon looking it up, though, I went through the four stages of Audible exclusivity: shock, disbelief, denial, and begrudging acceptance.”
Audible is the largest audio bookstore on the internet today, and I’ve shopped there before. But that was before I discovered the joy of independent bookstores and the efficiency of local libraries. Sure, I have the National Library Service for the Blind, as well, but they don’t have the things I’m looking for half the time. I’m very partial to queer-friendly books, powerful books about Black lives, and intricate snippets found in asexual anthology collections. NLS doesn’t have a lot of these offbeat topics, so I usually download books from my local library. When that’s not an option, I often shop indie bookstores because I know my money is going back into the community, rather than a corporation that doesn’t truly value books or writers. When I shop at indie bookstores, I feel as if I’m doing real good in the world. Plus, I appreciate the work indie bookstores do that Amazon doesn’t—and probably will never do—such as showcasing new authors with book clubs, community readings, and literary events where people get together and connect.
“When I shop at indie bookstores, I feel as if I’m doing real good in the world. Plus, I appreciate the work indie bookstores do that Amazon doesn’t—and probably will never do…”
Because I’ve stopped shopping at Audible unless I’m forced to, it really makes situations like being forced to purchase an Audible Exclusive even more apparent. Audible Exclusives all utilize DRM, which means the actual audiobook files cannot be downloaded. With Libro.fm, I can buy an audiobook and put it on any player of my choosing. Simply put: it’s mine. I bought it.
I not only enjoy shopping at Libro.fm because I currently do accessibility testing and consulting for them, but also because they are more socially aware. After the death of George Floyd, they featured many Black writers on their homepage and in their curated playlists section. I felt as if they were actively listening to the conversation and engaging with it. Plus, they feature a curated disability selection of audiobooks in their playlists section.
I’m sure The Sandman is a great adaptation. I bought it, but I didn’t really have a choice. I couldn’t check it out at the library. I couldn’t buy it at my local bookstore. I couldn’t giggle with other customers about how gorgeous some of the male voices are in this production. That community element is completely erased. To Amazon, and, by extension, Audible, I’m just another credit card. But to Libro.fm, I feel like I’m a valued customer who simply loves books.
Want to read more?
Read our stance on the harmful effects of Audible Exclusive audiobooks.
Find playlists that feature Disability in Fiction and BIPOC authors.
Learn more about our story and how Libro.fm partners with local, independent bookstores.