An Open Letter to Audiobook Lovers Everywhere

By D.F. Hart, Indie Author and Owner of 2 of Harts Publishing

Dear Audiobook Listener,

As you may know, Audible (associated with Amazon) is a huge market presence in the world of audiobooks. What I’m sure you don’t know is just how badly their practices are damaging authors and narrators alike.

Currently, Audible allows for a return of purchased audiobooks up to twelve months from the date of purchase. Now, I can see where in the instance of a true issue with the product – corrupted file, or an honest dislike on the customer’s part of the material – that a refund policy of some sort should be in place.

What I am not okay with – and you really shouldn’t be either – is that Audible is actively encouraging their subscribers to listen to and then return audiobooks and ‘re-use’ that credit to obtain another one. Even if they’ve listened to the entire audiobook and loved it.

Sounds great, right? From a customer standpoint, perhaps it is. But here’s what happens on the author and narrator side. Each time an audiobook is returned, the (paltry, I might add) royalty payment received is YANKED AWAY from the author (and the narrator, in a royalty share scenario). It’s treated as a return, not an exchange, and authors and narrators have to pay that royalty money back.

And let me make it clear – Audible suffers no loss at all here. They happily collect their monthly subscriber fee, and place 100% of the brunt of this return policy on the shoulders of the creatives (without whom audiobooks would not even exist in the first place).
Let me put in this perspective. Let’s say you work a full-time job, and you get paid weekly. This is the equivalent of your employer arbitrarily opting to come back around up to twelve months later and take your paychecks back from you.

If you’re living in the United States, that means that in the meantime, that income that you might not even get to keep gets reported to the IRS, and you have to include it on your tax return or be penalized.

As authors, we strive to bring you the highest quality material for your enjoyment. A single audiobook can cost a minimum of $2,000.00 USD to produce – and I’m just talking about paying for the narrator’s time and talent; that figure does NOT include things like cover design. And depending on the length of the work, the price to produce quality audiobooks goes up from there.

But when the largest retailer in the market decides to pass on a poorly designed policy’s consequences to the creatives, it becomes obvious to us very quickly that listing our audiobooks with Audible is no longer safe or viable for us; most of us indie authors don’t have the financial means to both withstand this level of arbitrary chargebacks and still afford to put out new material.

Many authors (myself included) have opted to discontinue our association with Audible as a result of this practice. So many other avenues to enjoy quality audiobooks exist. Among them are Chirp, Apple, Kobo, Google, Audiobooks.com, Barnes & Noble, and Scribd, just to name a few (links to these stores below, for your convenience).

What do I think (and hope) will happen going forward?

I think and hope that as more and more indie authors realize what Audible is up to, they will decline the ‘opportunity’ to list their audiobooks there. As I said before, there are many other avenues for audiobook listeners – companies that do right by their customers, while also treating their creatives fairly.

Links to some audiobook retailers (in alphabetical order):
Audiobooks.com – https://www.audiobooks.com
Apple – https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook
Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/b/audiobooks
Chirp – https://www.chirpbooks.com
Google – https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks
Kobo (US)– https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobooks
Scribd –  https://www.scribd.com/audiobooks

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