Amazon News, January 2021

Amazon Publishing may shift their longstanding stance against allowing libraries to lend their ebooks. The company is said to be in “active discussions” with the Digital Public Library of America to alter its policies. Amazon is reportedly “testing a number of different models” and may lend books as early as 2021, with a spokesperson saying, “We believe libraries serve a critical purpose in communities across the country, and our priority is to make Amazon Publishing eBooks available in a way that ensures a viable model for authors, as well as library patrons.” Amazon is the largest publisher to unilaterally forbid digital library lending, and a recent petition has circulated asking Congress to launch an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s ebook policies.

Amazon is changing its digital audiobook policy, too. The company has long had a very flexible return policy, and authors who distributed books via the Audiobook Creation Exchange program at Audible didn’t receive royalties for audiobooks returned within 365 days of purchase. Authors and organiza­tions including SFWA, the Authors Guild, and RWA objected on the grounds that customers could easily listen to a work in that time and simply return it for full credit, denying writers payment. Going forward, the company will pay royalties for any audiobook not returned within seven days of purchase. Audible will still allow later returns; they just won’t make the authors pay for it. The Authors Guild says,

While we appreciate that Audible is acknowl­edging the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to making changes to its policy of deducting royalties for returns up to 365 days, we don’t think that the proposal goes far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a 7-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook and exchange, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We also think Audible should be completely transparent about the returns so authors are aware of the royalty deductions from their accounts. We have communicated this to Audible.

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