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Apple, Audible End Exclusivity Deal for Audiobooks

For the longest time the only way to get an audiobook into iTunes – as an audiobook  – was through Audible. Thanks to pressure from European regulators, that has now changed.

The WSJ reports:

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Inc. to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple Inc.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon’s unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple’s iTunes store.

The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.

You can read the European Commission’s press release here, and the Bundeskartellamt has also made a statement.

The Audible-Apple deal was struck in 2008, before Amazon bought the audiobook company. It gave the smaller company a monopoly which, frankly, reduced competition in the audiobook market.

Regulators started investigating this deal in November 2015 in response to a complaint filed by German book publishers earlier that year. At that time physical audiobooks still accounted for 80% of the German market, so Audible’s monopoly didn’t amount to much – in Germany, that is. In global terms, it seriously limited competition.

In the long run we’re going to see more competition as Audible’s competitors, including Author’s Republic, secure deals with Apple.

image by kassy.miller

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Maria (BearMountainBooks) January 19, 2017 um 11:42 am

Would be very nice. Audible doesn’t pay the authors well (partly because there is no competition.) Amazon/audible don’t have to offer 70 percent to the authors because no one is offering that–so they don’t. Maybe this will make it better for authors to create audio books. There are many services that will create the books, but the only market for them right now is audible (a few smaller players, but nothing of significance.) It’s kept me from turning my books into audio. The upfront costs are very high (around 2k) and then Amazon gets to decide the price of the audio book, the promos that will or won’t be done, and pays approximately 35 to 45 percent. Payout varies depending on whether the author chooses exclusivity, shared royalty with the audio recorder/voice actor and so on. I’ve run the numbers several times and could never make it work. Maybe that will chance in a few years.

Irish Imbas January 19, 2017 um 8:17 pm

I’d have to agree with the previous comment. The Amazon/Audible monopoly really meant a terrible deal for most authors and kept a lot of independents out of the audiobook market. This could be a significant game-changer but I suspect there’ll be gnashing of teeth by some of those locked into the exclusivity conditions if better alternatives become available.

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