The SoA View: ‘Palpable nonsense’ from Audible

26 November 2020

We have partnered with the Authors’ Guild of America, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and many indy writers, to condemn Amazon’s audiobook wing for its opaque returns and exchange policy.

Audible actively promotes the exchange of ‘any book for any reason’ as a top subscription benefit on its homepage, even if the whole book has been listened to. This in itself is not an issue, but Audible has not been paying the author if a book is returned. This policy particularly applies to indy authors as bigger publishers have different marketing terms. This means that authors are taking the hit for Audible’s commercial policies. Until this week, readers could return books for up to a year after their initial purchase.

Furthermore, we are unimpressed by Audible’s lack of transparency and their refusal to tell authors when their books have been returned, not to mention the lack of overall figures on the scale of returns.

The policy may have had a negative impact on author incomes for up to a decade, yet Audible’s Laurence Howell told us that ‘it increases the consumption of audio, which benefits everyone’. 

In response, SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon said:

This is palpable nonsense. There is no benefit to authors in their works being used without payment. These practices are in direct violation of the author-protection provisions of the Copyright Directive, and run counter to our own campaigning principles, which state that authors should be fully informed and adequately remunerated for all uses of their work.

Token U-turn

On 25 November, bending to pressure from authors and their unions, Audible changed the return period from a year to seven days. We appreciate the change, but it does not address the problem of transparency. We call on Audible to prioritise four more changes:

  • Returns should not be deducted from authors’ sales unless received within 48 hours for accidental purchases, when books have not been listened to substantially. Authors and narrators should be paid in full by Audible in any other circumstances.
  • Audible should be transparent about sales, returns and periods covered.
  • We ask Audible to release figures not only to the indy authors, but to all authors and publishers.
  • Finally, Audible needs to compensate authors for the wrongful practice to date.

Have you been affected by Audible’s returns policy? Please get in touch.