Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

One of my readers, Deborah Meyer, gave me a heads-up on an interesting story.

According to this communication from Overdrive reproduced by Infodocket:

Overdrive document from Infodocket

Brilliance Audio (acquired by Amazon in 2007…Press Release) “…will suspend the availability of all download audiobook titles across all vendors…” on January 31st, 2012.

Licenses for titles already in the system will stay there, but purchasing additional licenses (for the same or different titles) will not be possible, according to that communication.

When the publisher¬†Penguin recently restricted Overdrive access, there was a lot of pushback. People don’t like the idea of books (e-books, audiobooks or other) not being made available to public libraries.

Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don’t license e-books to libraries at all.

HarperCollins restricts the number of check-outs.

Honestly, this just doesn’t feel like an Amazon move to me, but I know that’s just my emotional reaction based on having had a good personal relationship with Amazon as a customer.

Of course, Amazon wasn’t in the Overdrive system for e-books for quite a while after people with NOOKs and Sony Readers were able to get them.

This does seem like a dramatic change. Brilliance has promoted its connection to libraries in the past:

BrillianceAudio for Libraries

However, when I look at the

Most Downloaded Books at Overdrive

I’m not seeing anything from Brilliance in any of the categories they list.

I see a few possibilities here:

  • Amazon is doing something substantial to Brilliance overall, and this is just part of that
  • Amazon is doing something dramatic with its relationship with Overdrive…maybe setting up some distribution of its own with public libraries? Overdrive really dominates that market right now
  • Amazon is going to add Brilliance audiobooks to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). Amazon has indicated that Prime members were going to get additional benefits. This might make a lot of sense: It could introduce people to audiobooks. It takes a long time to go through an audiobook…which would reduce the number of “borrows” from the KOLL, which improves the profitability for Amazon. It makes the KOLL more attractive, which sells more Kindles (people with Kindle apps can’t use the KOLL, currently), and gets more Prime members, which sells more “diapers and windshield wipers”. Of course, it wouldn’t automatically mean that the books couldn’t also be available to public libraries, so this might be it. I can imagine there having been a negotiation with rightsholders…”We’ll put you in the KOLL and drop you from public libraries.”
  • This could just be temporary while some contract negotiation with Overdrive is worked out

I have written to Brilliance this morning, asking for a statement.

I’m also interested in your thoughts on this, especially if you work for a public library…or if you use one for audiobooks. If this Amazon/Brilliance simply withdrawing from Overdrive, how would that affect your perception of the company? Would you use audiobooks as part of the KOLL? Are audiobooks a significant part of your book experience? Feel free to comment on this post and let me know.

Update: One of my readers, Mary, made the good point that this apparently doesn’t impact audiobooks on CD, just digital downloads. Interestingly, those presumably work outside the Overdrive ecosystem…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

10 Responses to “Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?”

  1. Mary Says:

    The way that I have read the story, and that seems to be your interpretation as well, is that it is only the Overdrive audio that Brilliance is discontinuing. However, it seems as if they will continue to sell books on CD to libraries. Audiobooks are a part of my “reading” because I enjoy listening to them in the car and while I work around the house. I subscribe to audible.com and also check books on CD out of the library. I’ve only used Overdrive audio minimally because you are stuck with the audio for the full two week period, i.e., can’t return it early when finished as you can Overdrive books. Thus that cuts into my 5 digital downloads allowed by my library.

    There are some narrators who are so good that I prefer the audio to the written book. A case in point is Simon Prebble who reads several authors I like. Also Lisette Lecat who reads the Number One Ladies Detective stories, and Will Patton’s readings of James Lee Burke.

    I do not understand the Brilliance withdrawal from Overdrive and find the whole thing very mysterious.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mary!

      Yes, I probably should have emphasized that: it’s only downloads. I think the process of libraries getting CDs of audiobooks is unaffected.

      However, I do believe that sales of audiobooks on CDS have been declining, and downloads have been increasing. While sales and library lending aren’t necessarily parallel channels, my guess is that the same trend may be happening in public libraries.

      I’m hoping we get more clarification on the situation before too long and/or that it is short-lived.

  2. Deborah Meyer Says:

    Hi Calvin! Thank you for your response to my question. I too am a happy Kindle owner in fact I bought my 1st Kindle they year they came out and still have the 1st generation Kindle, it’s still my favorite. We also have the 3rd and Kindle fire. I am a satisfied customer of Amazon over the years and continue to be. I emailed Amazon last weekend concerning this issue because it came to my attention that they owned brilliance audio and their rep assured me that they would look into this and forward it up the chain.
    My concern with the upcoming change is that many of the favorite authors Robb, Woods (i have quite a list of authors whose books under Brilliance will be unavailable to our patrons. How long, I have no ideal because brilliance have not indicated why or what the game plan is. I work at a public library. When downloadable media became available I was excited and thrill for several reasons, I’ll just list two of them: 1) because of limited shelving space in a small library (we’re trying to get the county to build a new library), 2) audio Cd’s get damaged (nothing more frustrating than not being able to finish a story). I purchase audiobooks downloadable and CD’s based on what our patrons authors. This too will past. Again I thank you taking the time to respond. Keep up the good work, I enjoy your blog, articles and your books have been most helpful. I just hope that all concerned will remember to consider their customers.

  3. Deborah Meyer Says:

    By the way, we have many Brilliance audio’s on CD by various authors. Space remains an issue.

  4. miki casalino Says:

    I much prefer to listen to my audiobooks on my iPhone. I belong gto audible.com and really dislike that my audiobooks have been moved to my Kindle Touch. i do like the idea of the library finally getting books available but i haven’t tried it yet.I have so many kindle books and audiobooks still waiting. if it was moved to Koll that i would love I have had Prime for years and the extra features (instant TV movies for Roku ) and free books makes it even more worth my membership. All the ans. to this audio library questions will be interesting to me.
    Miki C

    • Mary Says:

      Miki, I assume you are referring to the fact that Audible/Amazon has combined the audiobooks with e-books in your account, making a huge morass to sift through in your archives. I had an Audible account for many years before I had a Kindle so there are a lot of audiobooks mixed in and I don’t want them there. It is something we should keep hammering Audible and Amazon about. I will never listen to an audiobook on my Kindle since I listen on the go and the lightweight iPhone is also my preference. I do occasionally use text-to-speech on the Kindle but that is a whole different thing. And sadly, the volume on the Touch is so low that it is almost useless for even that.

  5. weaverjudeJudy Says:

    Bufo, I don’t agree with you about the length of time it takes to listen to a full audiobook. I walk for an hour every morning listening to an audiobook. I do many other tasks in my day listening to audiobooks and can go through a story pretty quickly, especially if I really like the story. I must add that boring household duties are much more enjoyable while tuned in.
    Aside from this comment, I read your daily blogs and have been enlightened many times. Thanks as always for sharing your diverse knowledge about everything literary.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, weaverjudeJudy!

      Thanks for disagreeing! :) When somebody disagrees respectfully, that is my favorite thing. :)

      Sure, it will depend on lifestyle, in terms of the results of the reading. For me, I’m much more often in a place where I can sight-read, then I am when I can listen. For example, I may be in a cafeteria at lunch, and I need to be alert to people coming up to me.

      Text-to-speech has been huge for me, because driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”. :) However, I can sight-read faster than text-to-speech can read. In the same amount of time, I can get farther sight-reading than I can listening.

      In your case, you have the opportunity to listen when you don’t have the opportunity to sight-read, so even if sight-reading would be faster compared to covering the same material listening, you don’t have the chance to sight-read.

      It’s one of the reasons I think blocking text-to-speech access is a bad business move. It allows you to take advantage of opportunities to sight-read (the cafeteria, in the above example) and opportunities to listen (the car, in my case).

      So, for you, you may consume audiobooks more quickly than sight-reading a book, because of the balance of opportunities. For me, it’s the other way: I have more opportunities to sight-read than I do to listen. Oh, another great example: I can sight-read with my Significant Other in the room (and carrying on a conversation with me, for that matter), but I couldn’t listen in that situation.

      Thanks for sharing that great observation!

  6. Connie Says:

    I do use library audio downloads. My library doesn’t have too many, but I was hoping for more. I also use audible, but that is very expensive. If Amazon cuts off libraries then I would say watch out for Amazon. Monopolies are always bad and Amazon is heading that way. That said, I’m a Prime member and buy lots of things through Amazon rather than going out to get them myself. Quite a problem!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Connie!

      Well, Brilliance hardly has a monopoly on audiobooks. :) I am still hoping that they get back to me with a statement on the policy, but nothing last time I checked.

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