WTF Audible?

Posted 8 December, 2020 by Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms in Discussion Posts / 24 Comments

Is Audible stealing from their content creators to make their customers happy? Where will new content come from in the future if this is the case?

I don’t know if I have been living under a rock lately, but I was only told about AudibleGate yesterday by Brandee. And I am incensed on behalf of authors and narrators. I did know that there was a return policy that is very different with Audible than any other company I have ever heard of. I have even used that to my advantage one time. That one time, it was for a good reason (IMO) when a narrator was in prison for something I could not condone, and the author of the series said publicly that they stood behind the narrator, and that readers shouldn’t believe everything they had read about the case. That is the only time I have returned an audiobook, and I felt justified in doing so.

I couldn’t quite believe Linda hadn’t already heard of #audiblegate since she’s usually far more “plugged in” than I am. I only heard about it through an author’s newsletter but I can tell you I was quite fired up about it. I, too, knew about Audible’s return policy although I’ve never used it. It’s the way in which Audible is using it, against authors and narrators, that’s so maddening! And maybe some audiobook listeners only use the return perk of their memberships in justified ways, as Linda did. But I was appalled to learn there are listeners out there using Audible as if it were a library but a library whereby the creators of these brilliant and entertaining stories AREN’T PAID!

AudibleGate is well explained by author Susan May in her AudibleGate original post and her AudibleGate follow-up post. I was incredulous reading these posts. The callousness authors are being treated with is just not something I understand. And I also don’t understand how readers and listeners can say that they think it’s normal that they should be able to return an audiobook up to a year – 365 days – after they first got it. And I especially think it should not be possible to return a book in any way shape or form if more than 50% of the book has been read or listened to. This is something that is easy to check, as the audible app keeps track of absolutely everything for their listeners.

I got more and more angry as I read the articles. I know there are people out there who’ll do anything to get something for free without the first thought about how it might hurt someone. But I do like to believe that they don’t reside within our bookish community. Audible is clearly using it’s policy perk in order to make more money. Really? And if they continue to prevent authors and narrators from earning money then there won’t be any audiobooks for listeners to enjoy. And that also means no income for Audible so I don’t get it.

Can you imagine working so hard to create a story that readers might enjoy? Then, some readers will say they would prefer the audiobook because they prefer listening to a book, or that they actually need to listen instead of reading due to visual impairment or other reasons. So the author contacts different narrators, and then starts working with them. Narrators do an incredible job bringing both the characters and the stories to life, don’t you agree? They spend a lot of time creating the audiobook – and this time is their livelihood. When finally the audiobook is ready for listeners to pick up, they can choose to return it for any reason at all – they don’t even have to tell audible why they want to ‘exchange’ the book. Thus, the author and the narrator(s) do not receive any money for that title. Even after they have not only provided the work to make the audiobook, they have also provided hours of entertainment that has already been consumed. Only to be returned so that the listener can check out another audiobook.

Please tell me we aren’t the only ones incensed by this practice!?!

I live in Europe, so our libraries do not have English audiobooks, I only use Audible. As I said, though, I am not in the habit of returning books I’ve listened to, as I understand the time, money, and imagination it takes to create them. I know that in the US, and possibly other English-speaking countries, libraries use Overdrive and Hoopla so their customers can borrow audiobooks using their library card. And authors do get paid for this, as do narrators. Audible is not a library, it’s a bookstore, and I find it so very sad that some customers (possibly even a lot of customers) use it as if it was a library. I’m afraid that if this continues, there just won’t be any audiobooks at all for us booklovers to enjoy in the future.

I do make use of Overdrive, Hoopla, and Axis360 via my local library. And if you don’t want to purchase audiobooks, this is the way to go. The authors and narrators get paid for their audiobooks listened to over these media. I also have an Audible subscription because it was so easy to do it seeing as it’s tied to Amazon. But I’m rethinking my subscription. I’d like to subscribe to a service that pays their authors and narrators. And I think that the only way Audible will make a change to its policy is to hit them where it hurts.

I have never heard of anything else that we can buy, and consume, that we can actually return and get a full refund for within a whole year of the purchase date. How would you feel if at the end of the month, instead of getting paid, your employer told you that you had to pay them? Because that’s kind of what’s happening here for authors and narrators. Some have negative amounts on their royalty statements. Even for books that have been reviewed positively and with 4 or 5 stars. How is that possible? Do we not want authors to be able to continue to tell their stories for us to read and listen to?

I know Linda and I DO NOT want to lose audiobooks. And we certainly want ALL authors and narrators to be fairly paid for their work.

If you have any suggestions for other ways to support authors and narrators when it comes to audiobooks, please let me know. And you’ll get bonus points for sharing something that is available overseas and in non-English-speaking countries.

The Author’s Guild has written a letter to Audible / ACX that you can sign if you want to let your voice be heard to help the authors and narrators negatively impacted by AudibleGate.

There is also a new(?) site for audiobooks, called where you can buy audiobooks, and where authors are not being screwed over.

Both Linda and I hope you’ll take the time to read the #audiblegate articles. And we will appreciate any help y’all can offer about sites where we can ALL get audiobooks and the authors and narrrators are paid justly.


Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

About Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

Linda is an English as foreign language teacher and has a Master's degree in English Language and Literature. She's an avid reader, blogger, compulsive one-clicker and a genre omnivore. Ever since she learnt how to read she has been seen with a book or two in her hands everywhere she goes.

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24 responses to “WTF Audible?

  1. okay….WOW!!! I had ZERO idea about this to be honest. I have had my issues with Audible lately, but this is just another major mark against them for me. I rarely have used that credit return system they have though. Only once have I used it and that was due to technical issues of the audiobook I received. But to punish authors and narrators that way is cruel. What I have been using more and more is “Authors Direct” its a way to listen to audiobooks while supporting the author and narrators directly. I do use Overdrive/Libby quite a bit though as well.

    Thank you for sharing this enlightened post all readers and bloggers need to be aware of.

    • It’s horrific, isn’t it? I just can’t believe some readers and listeners use audible as if it was a library, without any thought of basically taking the authors and narrators’ money and making it so that we might not even get audiobooks in the future.
      A technical issue would also have me return a book, but I would hope I’d realize that it was there long before a full year had passed.

  2. I hadn’t heard anything about this… but I also don’t use Audible for my audio books. Currently all of my audio is via the library through Overdrive. I think it’s crazy that this is going on. I could maybe understand if they simply issued an Audible credit on a return past 30 days (the norm for returns of most retailers) or a return on a book that has been started (as is the norm with most retailers on opened merchandise), but to issue a full refund up to a year later and deduct if from the earnings is ridiculous.

    • I guess it’s a good thing not all of us usually use audible for our audio books, right? I wish I could use Overdrive from Europe!
      I agree, a full refund 365 days later is definitely exaggerating, especially because the full amount is deducted from the author’s royalties.

  3. What?! I hadn’t even heard about this. Gonna have to look into using something other than Audible but I feel like there are not many choices because I also live in Europe like Linda. I have used Scribd in the past but I don’t actually know if you can get ANY audiobook, I don’t think you can but I’m not sure.

  4. Ailyn Koay

    I personally do not listen to Audible, mainly because I prefer paperbacks. But that is appalling beyond question, does that apply to eBooks too? What is to say that these people aren’t doing the same thing to ebooks? Ah, to think that books were once treasured items to be passed down in generations. Perhaps I will stick to the humble paperback now.

  5. I knew nothing about this. And actually the narrator part kind of shocked me. I didn’t realize they received royalties. I guess I just thought they were paid after doing their job. Learn something new every day.

    1 year return is pretty ridiculous! And stealing from authors! I agree.

    • Some narrators receive money straight away, but some also ask for royalties – as this could be very beneficial to them, right? If an audio does really well, it’s partly thanks to them, and the other part is thanks to the author who wrote the story.

  6. Sophia Rose

    I’ve never paid attention to Audible return policy since I’ve never had to return one and had no idea about what was going on- just Wow! Weird about the one-year thing since they have a vastly different policy for returning ebooks.

    • Isn’t it? Especially because, suddenly, some authors and narrators owe audible money… because of returns. And the sad thing is that several authors now think it’s not worth it to create audios of their novels, as they lose money this way.

  7. Jen

    I was vaguely award something was going on, but I’m pretty unplugged these days. I do use audible and have their “max/premo” plan. But I’ve never returned a book – well, once, but that’s because I clicked the wrong book! I never listened to it.

    I know there is a push for other apps/sites, like, but I’ve had a lot of issues with the app. It tends to jump back after I’ve listened to a block of the book. It also has severe playback issues when I listen via Bluetooth in my car. I’ve deleted the app and reinstalled it, with no impacts to the app issues. Maybe someday that app will work better and I will use more frequently.

    • That’s interesting to know about, I have only just installed it, so I haven’t tested it yet. Hopefully, the app will get better so that we can use it and make sure we do our part so that authors and narrators get paid, and won’t have to reimburse anyone up to a year later and thus lose money.

  8. Berls

    Well I’m living under a rock clearly, as I had not heard a thing about #audiblegate and I’m blown away. I did know about Audible’s return policy and I have used it – 2 times I think – 1 for a book that I listened to maybe 10 minutes and realized that there was no way I was going to make it through that narrator. The other, Dante bought a book on my phone and when I saw it, I returned it.

    I can’t imagine reading an entire book and returning it… even if I HATED it. I agree – if someone has consumed 50% (hell, I’d say 20%) they should not be able to return it. My yearly subscription renews next week…. I’m seriously considering if I want to renew. I have so many books to read already (and I won’t lose them). And then I can look into Plus, I use my library a lot.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like I have to cancel my membership. I can’t put money where I don’t support the practice. It’s why I haven’t had Chick-Fil-A for a few years (and I love their food!). Thank you for sharing this! I’m appalled.

    • Yeah, if Brandee hadn’t pointed this out to me, I would have remained ignorant of this as well, Berls. I think that returning a book you’ve only listened to a very small part of is normal, and lol – Dante ordering a book for you 😀
      I can’t imagine returning a book I’ve read or listened to fully, either. I mean, that’s just not done in my opinion. My yearly subscription is about to renew, too, and I’m checking to make sure that my downloaded books will stay on my computer to make sure that the books I have paid for will still be there for me to listen to when I want to.
      I also agree with you about not putting your money where you can’t agree with the company politics, I think the only way we as consumers can try to change things is to hit them where it hurts – and that’s economically.

  9. Nicci @ Sunny Buzzy Books

    I was furious about all this too. It’s common sense to me that if you purchase something by accident, you can return but that is discovered quickly. It also makes sense that sometimes you’re going to start an audiobook and, for some reason, not be able to continue (dodgy narrator or something) so being able to return it is good… But there are limits! I think being able to return under a certain “read” percentage AND within a short period is the only sensible thing. You can’t eat a chocolate bar then return the empty wrapper complaining it’s finished and you want to replace it with another one, you need to BUY another one… Some people just have no morals. Audible is completely contemptable in enabling this.

    My issue is that they pretty much corner the market… I’ll check out and see if that would work for me. Our libraries in the UK don’t have the cool borrowing systems for audiobooks that the US libraries do. 🙁

    • Yeah, the fact that Audible has such a big market share is definitely not good for authors and narrators, Nicci. I didn’t think of it, but iTunes also has audiobooks (but I know they can be a bit shady at times, too). Hopefully, there will be more places that show up, because this just cannot continue. Some authors have said they might just stop doing audiobooks all together, because they’re losing money. And I think that would suck for all readers – and even more for readers who rely on audiobooks to be able to read at all.

  10. Unbelievable. I have only ever returned one audiobook and I listened to the first 20 minutes or so and could not listen to the narrator anymore. It was not my cup of tea. That is the only time ever. I would not consider returning an audiobook after I listened to it. That is just awful. In fact, I didn’t even know you could do that, why should you be able to do that. No store would let you return items for 365 days, especially after using it. Wow, just wow.

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