The Harmful Impact of Audible Exclusive 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.

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?

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?

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. 

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:

Audiobooks are also a vital means of access for some readers with disabilities:

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

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 1,200 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.

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. 

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.”

“US Publishers, Authors, Booksellers Call Out Amazon’s ‘Concentrated Power’ in the Market”

“We Need to Talk About Audible” by Cory Doctorow

Have more questions about Audible Exclusives? Want more action items toward encouraging fair access to audiobooks? Reach out to us at hello@libro.fm, 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.

78 replies on “The Harmful Impact of Audible Exclusive Audiobooks

  • Troy Johnson

    Amazon is hell-bent on becoming the only place one can buy book — in any format. They are doing the same thing with ebooks. For example, N. K. Jemisin Emergency Skin, is only available on Amazon, so I can not sell it to my readers. I’ve already become accustomed to indie authors who have given Amazon exclusive rights to sell their books for a higher royalty. I then have to explain to those authors why I will not promote their books on my site — or even accept their advertisement linking to Amazon.

    Monopolies are never a good thing for anyone other than the owners of that monopoly. The reader, author, and publisher can not be well served in a world where there is only one book seller.

    Fortunately there is Libro. Libro is not just an alternative to Audible, they are a superior alternative. Libro has already demonstrated a desire to make enrich the book ecosystem through cooperative, unlike Amazon whose goal is seemingly to extract as much wealth from the ecosystem as possible.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Thanks for sharing, Troy! We hope that readers will continue to educate themselves on the impact their purchasing decisions make on the book and audiobook industry, so we can all work together to make change.

      Reply
      • Sarah Thacher

        I’m so glad this blog exists. I have been buying my books from “Books A Million” because I believe in shopping locally. Tonight I tried to get some audiobooks from Audibles as I’ve had an account with them for a long time. I don’t have time to read anyway so I listed to audiobooks at night to fall asleep. Several months ago my credit card was compromised so I had to get a new one. I was on autopay with Audibles and realized I was no longer a member as my old card had been declined. I forgot to notify them of the new card. I have several audiobooks I wanted to exchange for credits and so had to fix my billing. I’m grateful I found this information. Obviously I was aware that Amazon sucks but did NOT realized the above information. My plan is to exchange as many old audios as I can, get the new ones which I can get with credits from exchange, and cancel not purchase from them anymore. I will be getting Libro after that. Thank you Troy. I no longer have to feel guilty about Amazon.

        Reply
        • Libro.fm

          Sorry for the hassle, Sarah, but we’re glad you found the post helpful! Looking forward to adding your support to local, independent bookstores as a Libro.fm listener!

          Reply
  • Erin Wright

    Great article! I’m in the process of getting my audiobooks produced and published, and I’m going as wide as humanly possible. 😉 No exclusivity for me. I’m also a former librarian, so this is something that matters a LOT to me.

    I don’t know if links are allowed or not, but I am the co-founder and co-moderator of “Wide for the Win,” a group on Facebook that is wide-centric. AFAIK, we’re the largest wide-centric group on the internet. 😀 We’re all about NOT supporting a monopoly.

    Anywho, if there are any authors out there who are wanting to join us, feel free to search for “Wide for the Win” on Facebook. We’re easy to find, and we’d love to have you! 😀

    Reply
  • Neal

    So how is this any different than any other media deal. There are tons of tv shows I can’t watch unless I sign up and pay extra for a specific channel, or package or service. By you own definition you are asking authors to give up 20% of their money to save you the expense of signing up for Audible. This is not an audiobook or Audible issue it is an issue with capitalism. I could list other examples of shows, books and music that are not available in the USA or in a format that most have access to, but I don’t get to decide what others do with their work. Why should you be the one to decide? Also without Audible who says these audiobooks would exist or be in said quality.

    Reply
    • Angel

      Hi Neal:

      The difference so far is that most U.S. movies and a lot of US and British TV series are available at your public library as a DVD or through your library electronic holds. Not so with the exclusive amazon audiobooks.
      So far it sounds like they will never allow public libraries to pay them so those audiobooks are available to folks that can not afford $180 dollars a year for the privilege.
      It is reasonable to ask Amazon to change that policy (and they, of course, would get paid for library use so that is not the holdup)

      Reply
    • Kirk

      Amen brother. This sounds like me saying I should be able to play every video game ever made on my Playstation, because I cant afford or dont want to buy an Xbox/Nintendo.

      Reply
    • Kristin Townsend

      I love Libro.fm, but this article makes Libro.fm look like a jealous sibling. If Audible is going to dish out the money to create these exclusives, then shouldn’t they by all rights have that exclusivity? As far as actual accessibility, the problem lies with the publishing industry. How about Macmillan delaying release of ebooks to libraries until a book had been out for two months. That is where the ire should be focused.

      Reply
      • Sarah Thacher

        Hi Kristin
        My thoughts are that when it comes to financial equality our country sucks. If we and Amazon’s competition were on a more equal playing field I would not have an issue. Problem is that you have to have money to make money. America has an outrageous amount of money but it’s not close to equal distribution. It’s analogous to Trump not paying taxes, giving corporations exorbitant tax breaks, government voting against stopping poverty, racism, and on and on. Money is power so the less companies, people, etc have we end up having very little power. Since 2016 it’s ridiculously obvious that crime does pay. And crime is in plain sight for the powerful. It makes me so angry and so sad.

        Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi Neal, thank you for your feedback. Our goal is to raise awareness about the tactics Amazon’s Audible uses to control the audiobook market, because they ultimately hurt bookstores and libraries. We believe that books should be accessible to all. Movies and TV shows are different from books in that they are not sold through independent retailers. We believe that books (and audiobooks) should be accessible to all.

      Reply
  • Lynne

    Youre kidding right. You dont have enough information and ur just going to bash it all based on what? No facts? You cant just claim capitalism is evil. A lot of people work for those companies and those authors and narrators often only get royalties amazon is one of the only companies that does contracts for free. They ask for 7 years to maybe make revenue on work they essentially do without being paid up front. You are wrong. Do you know how manu authors wouldnt be able to do those books if some of the successful ones werent signing contracts with amazon? They are not evil. Those authors you so selfishly cant get books to freely distribute are helping other new authors that are jist starting. You dont care about these authors …so stop pandering selfish unresearched articles.

    Reply
    • Erica

      I understand the point you’re trying to make; however, by throwing in all of the snarky/whiny tweets it gives your article a whiny feel too. What you’re describing is capitalism. This could apply to any and every industry.

      I’m very new to audiobooks/Audible, and I tried going the free route first through the library system. What I found is that the books I want to listen to are unavailable for 12-14 weeks. I’m not willing to wait that long, I’d rather pay to listen now. I just found out about libro.fm by reading this article so it’s something to keep in mind for the future if I ever decide that Amazon is evil.

      Reply
      • Libro.fm

        Hi, Erica. Thanks for your feedback. We understand that ease of access is a major factor for how consumers decide to access books, which is why highlighting the ways in which Amazon has created a monopoly through its practices with Exclusives is important to us. We hope you’ll join Libro.fm in support of your local, independent bookstore. With more community support, indie bookstores and libraries have more leverage within the industry to improve their offerings to customers and patrons. All audiobooks available on our platform deliver immediately upon purchase!

        Reply
    • Cathy

      I completely agree with you Lynn. Anytime a sentence is started with Amazon is evil makes me realize there is no rational ideas being presented. I think I will part ways with libro. Thanks for presenting your point, Lynn.

      Reply
      • Libro.fm

        Hi, Cathy. Thanks for your feedback. While we do assert that Amazon’s practices within the audiobook market are harmful to accessibility, we have not asserted that they are “evil.” The issue is that Audible is preventing bookstores and libraries from selling or distributing Audible Exclusive audiobooks. We understand if our viewpoints differ with yours. Thank you for joining the conversation!

        Reply
    • Chris

      Lynne…so u support Jeff bezos a super greedy…person…someone who pays almost no taxes…a super unhealthy work environment…do ur research into amazon and him

      Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi Lynne, thank you for your feedback. Our goal was to raise awareness and inform people about the tactics Amazon’s Audible uses to control the audiobook market, because they ultimately hurt bookstores and libraries. We understand if our viewpoints differ with yours. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Doris Foster

    I didn’t know! Tho when Amazon is involved, I should expect something! I have just started using audible books. I love having a book, holding it. Going through pages. They are a treasure. Rheumatoid arthritis in my hands and fingers make reading a book difficult so I am so grateful for audible. But not at the expense of denying authors and readers access through a monopoly. Pay day, beginning of August, I will join libro. Eventually I will have access to these “exclusives”. Until then, happy reading to all.

    Reply
    • Amanda Wobbema

      All of this, absolutely. Books disappear/never appear on ebooks for libraries when on KU, and now the dreaded yellow banner means libro.fm won’t have it and neither will my library or any other kind of service. I want to live an amazon-free life until their goal is not to crush all others and they treat their employees well, but a lot of that 1% of books that are exclusive to Amazon are also ones I listen to. (Perhaps it’s because of self-published authors?)

      What other options exist for self-pub authors? This doesn’t seem to be thoroughly addressed here.

      Reply
      • Libro.fm

        Hi, Amanda. Thank you for your feedback. Check out the suggestions under “Reach out to authors and publishers” above for more options for self-published authors. Thanks for your engagement!

        Reply
  • Olivier

    I am really proud of having made the decision not to buy from Amazon anymore since they left my buying in front of my house downtown and it got stolen. I try to reach them but they didn’t care at all. Who am I in the middle of millions of buyer to induce change ?
    Well my move has been to decide not to buy from Amazon anymore even if sometimes it’s become terribly difficult to find something outside Amazon plateforme. But I made a pact not to buy if this was the only available option.
    Same goes for Ebooks. And libro.fm offers a great alternative. I am not yet an audiobook lover but if I were to become I would definitely choose libro above Amazon. No doubt.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Olivier. Thanks for your feedback, and we’re sorry to hear that. We hope that as more consumers shift away from supporting harmful exclusivity in the audiobook industry and toward a model that supports their local bookstores and libraries instead, the industry will gradually shift as well. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • James

    This seems like frustration aimed in the wrong direction. As you note “The decision to make an audiobook Exclusive is made by authors, publishers, and agents”. The limitation of access, that “evil”, is on their hands, since they are in total control of whether they enter into the Audible Exclusive agreement or not. Maybe the article should focus on their priority for the finances.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, James. Thanks for your feedback. While we do assert that Amazon’s practices within the audiobook market are harmful to accessibility, we understand why some have chosen the Exclusive route. We hope that sharing this information widely will empower authors, publishers, and agents to make choices that better support listeners and their communities moving forward. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Nathan Zucker

    Duh, Audible exclusives hurt local retailers, thanks for your rant. I subscribe to you to support those retailers.

    But! I also subscribe to Audible because their ‘super terrible’ originals DO SUPPORT authors and readers.

    Plus they cost less to me, and I’m not flush with cash either. I’m not a huge fan of capitalism, but I am a strong believer in a free market. A better product at a cheaper price means a lot.

    If I had to choose between supporting a retailer or supporting a creator, I’ll choose creater every time.

    If you would like to keep me as a customer, don’t run negative attack campaigns. They make you look like the kind of toddlers that hang out in The White House.

    ADVERTISE WHY YOU’RE SO COOL!
    Not why ‘Brand X’ is the devil.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Nathan. Here at Libro.fm, we serve as the bridge between different members of our platform—between authors and their readers, independent bookstores and their customers, and between readers. We believe that equal and non-exclusive access to books is important, and will continue to emphasize how this benefits both the audiobook market and its listeners. By creating a monopoly around certain products, Amazon Exclusives unfairly restrict the market. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Kira

    Personally i like audible because unlike others audio book sellers if i have to reformat my phone i don’t have to buy everything again

    Reply
  • Caryn Johnson

    I just looked to see if there were other audio versions of books out there for say The Color Purple, and there are, there are also audio versions read by specific people that AUDIBLE has asked to read which then become exclusive to Audible, meaning that reader reading that book is exclusive to audible.You can be annoyed with audible if you want, it is NOT a good look when you insinuate that audible is blocking access to audiobook because it’s not true. Libro FM has a market because of what audible showed that there was a market to the general public for audiobooks in a big way, also Audible was NOT started by Amazon, audible was bought by Amazon. I belong to All the places that offer Audio books, theres room here for everyone

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Caryn. Thanks for your feedback. THE COLOR PURPLE is an example of a title whose audiobook is not available on our platform or sites like audiobooks.com due to Audible’s exclusive contract with the publishers. As an important title in the American literary canon, we believe its audiobook should be widely available. In addition, while there are multiple audiobook versions of many classics, this is not the case for every book. Particularly for new and recent releases, restricting access to their audiobooks with exclusivity contracts also restricts how listeners are able to access them. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Kathleen

    When you suggest that we switch from Audible to Libra, does that mean that I can only get a Libra account if I close down my Audible account? I am happy to support my local bookstore, but I would also still like to have access to some Audible titles, especially if they are Audible Exclusives. Thank you. I actually get most of my audiobooks through my regional libraries, but Audible is useful if I need a title in a hurry for a book club.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Kathleen. If you’re interested in making the #audiobookswitch, you can find more information here: https://libro.fm/switch. You are not required to end any prior memberships to other audiobook providers, though we do hope that you’ll support your local bookstore through Libro.fm whenever possible. Thanks for your interest!

      Reply
  • RcGyver

    Audible doesn’t control the print version so what is the problem? Other publishers can lower their profit margins to attract new authors. Free enterprise! Audible worked to build it’s business. Spend the energy discrediting Audible on providing a better service
    Too many people find it easier to tear down rather than raise standards.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, RcGyver. Thank you for your feedback. Our goal is to raise awareness and inform people about the tactics Amazon’s Audible uses to control the audiobook market, because they ultimately hurt bookstores and libraries. We understand if our viewpoints differ with yours, and are constantly working to improve our platform. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Courtney Smellink

    The idea of Audibles exclusives never sat well with me for many of the reasons this article mentions! So glad I found Libro.fm and moved my subscription over. Audibles felt like selling a bit of my soul every month *Ugh*, so glad to be done with it!

    Reply
  • Emily Wilson

    Thank you for this post! I experienced this just yesterday trying to find an Octavia Butler series.

    The idea that I can’t support the estate of a black author via a black-owned bookstore. “Bummer” is an understatement.

    Reply
  • Paul Loesch

    I really want to keep Indie bookstores alive and well and would prefer to use a service like Libro.fm.for my audio books. Reading this post about amazon’s underhanded business practice increases my desire to buy from Libro.fm.
    It seems to me that a reasonable lawsuit could be filed against amazon for restricting access to free speech materials (books) to handicapped people—those who have visual handicaps, dyslexia or the visual determination of old age (which is also an age discrimination violation). Has any consideration been made to doing that? As a handicapped person myself and as a senior citizen with declining eyesight, I would certainly be interested in seeing such a suit be filed and progressed through the system.
    Since I also worry about amazon’s impact on book sales of all kinds, I worry about Indie bookstores and even Barnes and Noble. I use bookshop.org to buy books through them because it supports Indie booksellers in the same profit sharing manner that Libro.fm does. I hope other people value their free speech options and their local struggling Indie bookseller enough to do the same.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Paul. Thank you for your feedback. While we are unaware of any current legal proceedings to this effect, we do champion accessibility for audiobooks and their listeners. Thanks for your support, and for joining the conversation.

      Reply
  • Maureen Harrington

    Thank you. You have answered my questions regarding changes in Amazon books, especially those concerning availability.

    Reply
  • Nora Gallagher

    Thank you for this article. I did not know this about audible but I’m not surprised. I will make the switch to libro.

    Reply
  • Tore

    So, let me get this straight… Your problem is that authors have an additional way of selling their intellectual property, by offering exclusivity, and thus can make more money? And you try to make it into a bad thing by blaming the corporation offering the money to the authors?

    I’m not buying it. I think it’s good that Amazon is offering authors more money. More money to authors means more books will be written.

    And please don’t make this into a “capitalism is evil”-thing. The truth is that without capitalism and intellectual property rights it would be very hard for authors to make a living writing books.

    This entire blog post feels like a bad Ayn Rand-parody. I almost expected Wesley Mouch to appear at the end to suggest that “authors should give away their books for free to give the small bookstore owner a chance”.

    I give this publicity stunt blog post one star out of five.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Tore. Thanks for your feedback. Here at Libro.fm, we strongly believe that exclusivity is the enemy of accessibility. We support authors, bookstores, and consumers by forming a bridge between them in order to support local communities. One example of this is our Bookstore Champions initiative (https://libro.fm/champions), which celebrates individuals who go above and beyond to advocate for local, independent bookstores. We understand if your viewpoints differ from ours. Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Reply
    • Oana

      This isn’t good for authors. In the long game, it’s only good for Amazon.

      Giving authors full ownership of their creation is one thing. Narrowing their distribution platform to one company is quite another. This is textbook empire-building – the type I thought we decided to reject back in 1890 with the Sherman Act.

      Wanting competition in the marketplace isn’t anti-capitalist. It’s the only framework under which capitalism makes sense. Without it, authors will be little more than serfs under feudal lord Bezos.

      Reply
      • IndoorCat

        Why doesn’t Libro.fm try to compete by matching Amazon’s deal for authors? Instead of trying to shame indie authors who are trying to sell enough to pay the rent, why not support them by offering an equal or better deal?

        Reply
        • Libro.fm

          Hi, IndoorCat. Authors can make more money if they sell their audiobooks on other retailer platforms and libraries in addition to Amazon’s Audible.com. We recommend Author’s Republic as the ACX alternative. The authors 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. When authors elect to make their audiobooks Audible Exclusives, it limits the customer pool who is able to access the audiobook, which in turn earns them less money in the long run.

          Reply
  • Maggie Lynch

    I am an indie author who has never been exclusive for ebooks or audiobooks. With over 20 titles in ebook and print and 9 audiobooks at the moment, I’m happy to be supporting my local bookstores as well as other online vendors.

    I train authors on distribution. The problem is that too many authors go exclusive based on things they’ve hard from other authors or they believe the Amazon hype. Their two primary reasons are 1) Amazon has the highest marketshare and will promote you if you are exclusive; and 2) It’s too hard, complicated, technical (take your pick of difficult verb) to go to so many places. And it’s not worth that given #1. Let’s take that apart.

    1. Amazon is the only game in town.

    It is true that, in the U.S,. Amazon accounts for 83% of the market in ebooks. But in Audiobook it is only 41%. However, just because those are the current stats doesn’t mean an author won’t succeed if they aren’t exclusive. Amazon is the majority of my ebook income at 57%, but the other 43% is spread among many other markets and growing. However in my audiobooks, Amazon is a mere 14% of my income. My biggest audiobook income is from libraries that Audible doesn’t reach, and iTunes. Audible does distribute to iTunes but the royalty is small compared to what you can get going direct or through a different distributor. Going wide with audiobooks opens my market to thousands of libraries as well as bookstores with Libro.fm.

    What about the promotion? In ebook, Amazon promotion is all about sales and reviews. You’ll be promoted equally well whether exclusive or wide. It is true you MIGHT get more promotion because of page reads in the subscription of KU members. But that is a big “might.” In Audiobook, Audible actually holds you back because they are a subscription model and they don’t allow you to determine your price. They purposefully make the price at or above their subscription whenever they can. Their #1 goal is to sell more subscriptions.

    2. It’s too hard to track multiple income streams and load everywhere or learn all the differences.

    I get it that authors are busy–most of them working a full time job and writing on the side. However, there are other ways to get distribution without going exclusive. Use an aggregator. Most good aggregators can get your ebook to all the majors (including Amazon if you want). And audiobook distributors like Findaway Voices, Authors Republic, and ListenUp all send your audiobook to many distributors including Audible/Amazon.

    Amazon and Audible are good platforms, but they are not the only platform nor the best. Why not reach more readers and libraries and bookstores by not going exclusive. I’ve found that even my fans who love Amazon will still download my audiobooks from other platforms. Most listen on their phones anyway or a tablet. They just download the appropriate App (Libro.fm has an app) and they are fine.

    Reply
  • IndoorCat

    This is a poorly researched article. I am an avid library user and Amazon user / reader, and also a disabled person.

    To my knowledge, Netflix originals and Prime originals also can’t be checked out at the library, at least not via OhioLink, Overdrive, or Hoopla. Like, I tried to check out the Ellen Paige movie ‘Tallulah’ back when that was new and it wasn’t available. I just checked Hoopla and “Chewing Gum” (a sex-positive Netflix original series) is also unavailable.

    Pretty much every Kindle ebook can have font and lighting adjusted to maximize readability, and almost all are compatible with the text-to-speach software on my phone. Same cannot necessarily be said for every Overdrive ebook.

    Most disabled people that I know *prefer* Kindle ebooks because they’re so easy to use with the software. We actually don’t “largely” depend on audiobooks performed by actors, we occasionally indulge in professionally produced audiobooks. Mostly we listen to text-to-speach ebooks or magnify/ alter font to read to ourselves.

    Also, guess what? The vast majority of indie + small bookstores cannot be navigated by anyone with any mobility disability. They are not designed for walker or wheelchair users. Furthermore, most indie bookstores are not on the bus route, and most do not have enough (or any?) disabled parking spaces with van-unloading space.

    Indie bookstores are not, and have never been, for disabled people. We have always, ALWAYS been excluded. We have always been an afterthought.

    Libraries, on the other hand, have provided me, and people like me, excellent experiences and resources. My local library even provided free WiFi hotspots during the Covid-19 closure for people without internet at home. Did indie bookstores do that? NO!

    Indie bookstores are run by snobby, white, able-bodied, neurotypical hipsters. They hold people like me and people I care about in contempt.

    Do not try to pretend now that you give a single fart about disabled people. You don’t. Libraries do. And, bizarrely, so does Amazon, even if it’s only in the sense of caring about our money. They made affordable, accessible ebooks before anyone else.

    Furthermore, I know and love four close friends who are disabled, who used to live in poverty, who now are financially safe because of Amazon. Three of them write ebooks, often Kindle exclusive, and one narrates on ACX from home.

    Not wealthy, not even middle class, but no longer in danger of missing copays on meds or getting the lights shut off. It’s 100% ethical to choose a payment option that gives you 20% more per book when that 20% is the difference between making rent or risking eviction.

    Indie bookstores are for pretentious people who had the luxury of going to an expensive college and grad school. You never supported us when we struggled in school and in the job market. Now y’all want *our* support all of a sudden?

    Maybe actually interview some disabled writers and disabled library patrons before making claims on our behalf. We are NOT your allies.

    Reply
    • Madi Mullen

      Hi IndoorCat, thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. Unfortunately, Audible Exclusives hurt libraries as well as bookstores, as libraries cannot lend Audible Exclusives. We do understand why some have chosen the Exclusive route, but we hope that sharing this information widely will educate everyone on the implications of exclusives. It was not our intention to make any claims on behalf of the disabled community, just to illuminate some of the many reactions we’ve seen to Audible exclusives. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      Reply
      • Benjamin Gulick

        But the national library for the blind can make an audio version of any book they want, and they do take peoples suggestions into account.

        Audible has done more to make audiobooks affordable than any other company. Not too long ago you would never find an audiobook for less than $100.

        Exclusives are nothing new, but an audioboon for most books published is. Audible is also partially responsible for that.

        Reply
        • Libro.fm

          Hi, Benjamin. We agree that any effort to make audiobooks more prevalent and available is good for listeners and for the community. Making the content exclusive, however, hinders access by creating unnecessary barriers and hurdles. This is the component of Audible’s platform that we hope will change as more audiobook listeners and authors are made aware of it. Thanks for joining the conversation!

          Reply
    • wintheera

      IndoorCat, I feel like you are not grasping the point of this article. No one is suggesting not using Kindle or Amazon, or that all content on every platform should always be made available for free. But Amazon Exclusives are not able to be sold even through bookstores, and people can ONLY access that content through Amazon. These are not like Netflix Originals which are produced by Netflix. These are books from many authors and publishers whose distribution is completely controlled by Amazon. If access is important to you, and it sounds like it is, this is a situation you should not support. Also, just as you do not wish to be spoken for, your characterization of indie bookstores does not at all match my experience of them. For the record, I am a disabled person.

      Reply
  • Billy Einkamerer

    This seems more like a PR rant slating the competition than a balanced and informing article.
    In my view, offering an author or publisher more money to exclusively use a platform that you spent money either building or buying is a justifiable strategy.
    Instead of complaining and trying to moan people onto your platform, why don’t you try and find ways that aren’t accessible to Amazon?
    Take Bandcamp as a usecase. They were faced with a highly contested spot in the music streaming space, and they became the champions of the indi music community.
    If you face Amazon head-on, unless you have more money, a better platform and a better thought-out strategy – you don’t stand a chance.
    Also, they are not forcing anyone to do anything – they have an advantage, and they are using that to maintain their lead.
    It’s fair competition, I mean it happens in a good game of tennis.
    Spend some money, pay a genuis strategist to make your offering more compelling: to both your customer and authors and publishers.
    If you’ve done that and this is part of that strategy, then good luck. 🙂

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Billy. We are proud to support the indie bookstore community, and also partner with librarians and educators who use audiobooks to make an impact within their communities. Many listeners have asked why they are unable to access certain audiobook titles on our platform. Those titles that are Audible Exclusives cannot be sold through independent bookstores, or lent through libraries. We believe that books and information should be available to all, and think it’s an important part of the conversation to discuss barriers to accessibility like Amazon Exclusives. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • John L Payton

    I knowingly gave up a lot of free content when I switched away from Audible. Amazon’s business model is exactly the same as the big stores that deliberately undersell the small stores just to put them out of business. Where are those big bookstores now?

    Today I still get plenty of decent content and I’m not aiding & abetting. I like a solution that helps me sleep at night.

    Reply
  • Chris

    This is what I get as spam in my email? This is how you introduce your company to me – by complaining about another company? It’s like dirty politics. I don’t care what Audible is doing that you don’t like – what you are you doing that I might like? But not really, because now I’m not interested in your services.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Chris. We think it’s important for both new and long-time audiobook listeners to understand the barriers to access that Amazon Exclusives creates. You can get to know more about us here: https://libro.fm/story. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Amy T

    Thank you for alerting me to this disturbing phenomenon. I got Born a Crime a few years ago from a free sign-up offer on Audible, and it is my favorite audiobook ever. I had no idea how lucky I was. Is there a good way to contact Trevor Noah about it? I assume he is aware.

    Reply
    • Libro.fm

      Hi, Amy. No problem! We’ve reached out to his team in the past, but you can also let him know your thoughts at https://twitter.com/Trevornoah. We hope that by making authors more aware of the restrictions that Audible Exclusives pose, more will opt out of exclusionary audiobook avenues. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Reply
  • Grace

    I would LOVE if authors stopped doing Audible Exclusives. I have an Audible account begrudgingly because it’s the only way I can get audiobooks by Leigh Bardugo (the Grisha books) and Genevieve Colman (the Invisible Library books). For all other books I use Libby which lets you check out audiobooks from the library. Sharing the article to spread the word and maybe convince authors to drop their Audible exclusivity

    Reply

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