Audible: Disputed Royalities and the Alternatives
By Cameron Phillips and Emily De Vogele
There has been significant controversy among artists with debates over the breakdown of royalties that they receive from platforms who publish their work. Most commonly we have seen this with musicians and the royalties they receive per stream on Spotify. Now, a recent Twitter thread has highlighted what could be seen as a similar issue with Audible, concerning their writers and creators. Credit must go to Zachary Twamley (@wdfpodcast) for raising this in his Twitter thread.
Let's talk about royalties; a way for creators to make money from their assets. Investigations into the breakdown of Audible’s royalty percentages have turned up some interesting results. According to the thread, which provides evidence from Colleen Cross, a forensic accountant who investigated Audible’s practices, audiobook producers are supposed to acquire a contractual 40% cut of the total sales if they use Audible exclusively as a retailer to sell their audiobook, and 25% if they use additional platforms. According to Twamley, and backed up by Cross’ investigation, that 40% actually translates to around 21%, and that 25% to 13%. This happens because Amazon, the owners of Audible, are able to reduce the amount of money available to be distributed as royalties. The report finds that these “net sales” were 50% less than the actual retail sales profit. In conclusion, up to 87% of the profits from an audiobook could be going to Audible, which leaves 13% to be shared out between everyone else involved, namely the writers.
We love Audible, and we love their absolutely vital role in providing a platform for writers and creators to earn money and make themselves more visible, but if this thread and added investigative report is to be believed, then the situation must improve.
We can’t vouch for every one of the following companies, some are quite new and aren’t as well known as Audible, but these are the subscriptions and websites we recommend for audiobook lovers who want more. We also tried to pick services that work in the UK, so you can sign up to the following subscriptions without having to worry about international payment or foreign currency.
One alternative that works well is Scribd. Scribd prides themselves on “endless entertainment and knowledge,” offering an audiobook subscription for £7.99 a month. They also have e-books, magazines and articles available for an increased fee of £10.99. The one key difference is the number of audiobooks you can borrow in one month. While their audiobook collection is not as expansive, there is no monthly limit on how many you can borrow, hence their slogan of endless entertainment. They also have an app, making the listening experience easy and stress free, as well as being able to try their services for 30 days for free.
Another platform to try is BookBeat. A bit pricier than Scribd, their subscription comes in at £12.90. They have a catalogue of over 500,000+ books, both as e-books and audiobooks, and claim customers have unlimited access each month. They also allow you to listen offline by downloading your book ahead of time, a must have for readers on the go! A quick look at their catalogue shows the range of books they have, covering classics to newer releases. They seem to be one of the newer companies in the audiobook subscription world, compared to our other finds. You can try BookBeat for 14 days with no fee, before their rolling subscription kicks in.
The most cost-friendly alternative is Kobo (also known as Rakuten Kobo). At £6.99 a month they’re one of the cheapest subscription services out there. They offer one audiobook a month that you can redeem with a credit, similar to Audible. Their catalogue isn’t as wide as the other services, but they have a few new releases and classics. They have a particularly wide range of young adult titles to choose from. They also have an app for your phone, and allow you to skip a month of your membership if needed. You can try a 30-day free trial and download your first free audiobook with them today.
There are plenty of alternatives out there if you’re looking to swap out Audible for something else, a quick search reveals enough websites to overwhelm you. Regardless, Audible still has one of the most expansive libraries out there, and trying to rival that will certainly be difficult.