Home » Amazon, Audiobooks, Big Publishing » Audible Captions vs. The Publishing Industry

Audible Captions vs. The Publishing Industry

23 August 2019

From EContent:

I moved to Nashville, Tenn., in the summer of 1999 to go to college, in the height of the file-sharing “crisis.” I put the word “crisis” in quotes because while the music industry was quick to judge on what was, and was not, ethical consumption of music, we learned a few things from the episode:

  1. Napster, Limewire, etc. opened my eyes to a vast multitude of new artists, many of which I may never have discovered. I then paid money, either through album sales, concert ticket sales, festival ticket sales, and/or artist merchandise, in support of those very same artists for decades to come. That revenue may not have ever come to exist without file-sharing services.
  2. During the process of songwriter groups and music publishers suing these file-sharing services out of business, Napster at one point tried to form a royalty agreement with music publishers by which Napster would contribute royalties per download back to the publisher. This arrangement looked similar to the arrangement music publishers have today with streaming services. Music publishers rejected this arrangement 20 years ago, causing a precipitous decline in publisher revenue while the file-sharing entities all went out of business. Everyone lost.
  3. Only after muddling through a lot of lean years did music publishers finally realize they needed amicable, mutually beneficial relationships with tech companies like music streaming services, and frankly couldn’t afford to be standoffish and uncooperative with potential partners.
  4. The eventual result is that, here in 2019, the music industry is thriving – Spotify, Apple Music and the like are making music publishers more money than they’ve made in a very, very long time.

. . . .

Audible rankled book publishers by introducing, albeit in beta, a new feature called “Audible Captions,” which allows users of audiobooks to read along with transcribed text, a few sentences at a time.

Publishers argue Audible doesn’t have the rights to do that. That’s an argument straight out of 1999. Did tech companies like Napster have the right to give music away to downloaders? Of course not. But did music publishers devastate their own revenue for years to come by not forging a path to partnership? Sure did.

In a better argument, publishers argue Audible will cost publishers ebook sales and possibly even print book sales by making Audible Captions available. This is obviously true, at least for some people, and I’d be one of them. A read-along version of a book accompanying the audiobook playing would be an ultimate version of a work, rendering owning other formats completely unnecessary. I’d go back to it over and over again and would feel no need to buy anywhere else.

The funny thing about this particular scenario is that accessibility lies at the heart of the debate. There is zero question that by providing read-along text accompanying the audiobook will help make these audiobooks more accessible to more people. This has some similarities to the fact that music file-sharing services in the late 1990s/early 2000s served the purpose of making music much more accessible to those who couldn’t purchase $20 CDs at Sam Goody or Musicland.

What the music industry ultimately learned is that it is far better to partner with tech-oriented disruptors, and monetize the new situation as best as possible, than to fight it tooth and nail and risk losing.

Link to the rest at EContent

PG agrees with the OP.

Setting aside copyright arguments, providing subtitles with audiobooks is a strategy designed to sell more audiobooks, a win-win for Amazon and the publishers and the authors.

The idea proffered by Big Publishing – that audiobooks with captions will diminish ebook sales of the same title is, for PG, ridiculous.

For someone who desires to read an ebook version of a work, reading audio captions is like running a marathon on snowshoes, way, way too slow.

For someone who has problems reading (physically or mentally), listening to an audiobook while following the captions may allow that person to consume and enjoy the book when either the printed book/ebook alone or an audiobook without captions would be far less enjoyable.

Listening to an audiobook with captions could help someone who doesn’t read learn to do so.

In PG’s written and verbal opinion, the traditional publishing industry is technologically and financially inept in the extreme.

The industry fought ebooks when it was patently obvious that creating, storing and distributing an organized collection of electrons is vastly less expensive than printing, binding, boxing, warehousing and shipping vast quantities of paper is. You can reduce ebook prices and make gobs more money than trying to sell printed books at full price.

Amazon, Audiobooks, Big Publishing

46 Comments to “Audible Captions vs. The Publishing Industry”

  1. I’d love to see them argue against Audible’s (overbroad) contract terms.
    And then there’s the ADA…

  2. The funny thing about this particular scenario is that accessibility lies at the heart of the debate. There is zero question that by providing read-along text accompanying the audiobook will help make these audiobooks more accessible to more people.

    Yep. In the event of a lawsuit, plan around the ADA coming into play.

  3. What surprised me was all the indie authors who agreed with the publishers.

    • Received knowledge.
      It’s like the obsession some have with DRM. Or TTS.

      The idea that every possible use of the content *must* be paid for at full price is deeply embedded all over. You’d be surprised how any would happily abolish fair use or libraries.

      Indies are generally better than most tradpubbers but exceptions abound.

      • Independents are not immune from becoming part of the subset that doesn’t want anything to change. They are just as likely to see their own welfare coupled to the status quo as any publisher or published author.

        Others take a different path, so the solidarity that appeared to characterize independents as they emerged will dissipate just as it does with any other group as years pass. Self-interest rules, and there is decreasing common interest.

        God bless the free market, for it presents many paths.

        • “This far and no further.”
          Everybody has a limit to what they can imagine or assimilate. And a tendency to look to the past for guidance for the future. A lot is good. Other things…

          It’s how we find Indies paying for reviews, publicists, and what not.

  4. When publishers and author groups fought back against text-to-speech being used without being licensed, I heard the same kinds of nonsense about how stupid and greedy they were when all Amazon wanted to do was provide a bit of something extra for some readers. And, why is the world would people be willing to listen to TTS unless they had to? A few years later with some improvement of TTS voices, and there are YouTube channels which have thousands of subscribers where TTS voices read Reddit stories. Some have as many subscribers as channels where voice actors do the same stories. It’s better to fight against rights grabs now, even they don’t appear to be valuable, or be screwed later by the “altruistic” conglomerates.

    • How, pray tell, would you prevent text-to-speech from being used? Virtually every electronic device that can display text has that capability. It’s not even a question of locking the barn door after the horse is gone; there never was any door, or any barn.

      • Ebooks from sites like Kindle are configured to allow or not allow TTS. This is up to the publisher/author.

        • That is an Amazon shrug.
          They didn’t care enough to fight.
          (There’s a good chance that the publishers’ suit backfires and lets Amazon enable universal TTS under the Google books precedentm)

          As is, it is like DRM, an extra bonus for readers and it does not go unnoticed. And anybody who really cares or needs it can enable it just by removing DRM.

          • And anybody who really cares or needs it can enable it just by removing DRM.

            That’s the real point right there. You could try to demand money for TTS, but it would be like charging money for breathing. Just try enforcing your claim.

  5. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your position on this, PG. All Amazon has to do is PAY for those additional licensing right to authors. They want to offer this service? GREAT! PAY ME FOR IT.

    Why don’t you want the rights holder to get paid for this? Why should this “great” service be on MY back and not Amazon’s? They already take 40% of the revenue when they do nothing. Why can’t they offer to take 30% or 25% if they offer this service as well?

    • Captions are not separate from audio. They’re descriptions of it. So, what are you being paid for, exactly, if you’re already being paid for the audio format?

      You guys aren’t still going to insist audio captions are a separate thing entirely from audio itself, are you? Even though regulations state otherwise? What regulation and legal precedent are you relying on to support this belief?

      • I do believe they are. The publishers and their lawyers think they are. It’s not a stupid thing to think as you clearly seem to believe.

        Also, if you want to the legal arguments go read the complaint.

        • The FCC says exactly the opposite. Court cases say exactly the opposite. So, again, what is your basis for believing that captions aren’t a description of audio? Where’s the link to the regulation you’re basing your opinion on? What legal case informs your belief that captions and audio are different things?

          Again,

          1) The government says that captions are descriptions of audio.

          2) You can test for yourself that captions are accessed in the audio menu of any tech capable of displaying captions

          3) You have a contract for an audio book, so you are paid for the audio format

          4) Captions are descriptions of the audio, for which you have been paid.

          So … what is the problem here?

          • The only legitimate complaint I can see in legal terms is if the captions have errors. Authors should insist on quality control. But the idea that the audiobook medium will be the lone medium exempt from the legal requirement to be accessible to the disabled is not an idea I’d take to the bank if I were you.

        • The big publishers and their apologists also thought coodinating to implement agency was perfectly legal and filed dozens of briefs defending their move.
          It only cost them over a half billion in total fines.

          And they spent years and years fighting Google over scanning and indexing untio they finally were told to shut up. When it comes to filings, remember that “paper will accept whatever ink you put on it” and just because lawyers write it doesn’t make it true. They are paid to argue whatever position foots the billable hours. By the time it’s all said and done, as many lawyers lose cases as win.

          Try looking at the case law and historical record instead of buying what the Manhattan Mafia spins.

          Like it or not, Audible has three lines of defense, all court tested and validated. And they only need one.

          First there is the accessibility *requirement* which can only be avoided as “unduly burdensome” and by creating captions out legally licensed audio Audible just proved it isn’t burdensome at all.

          Second, if you bother to read the standard Audible contract you’ll find an overly broad future proofing law that allows Audible to process the legally licensed audio in *any* way and convert it into any format, present or future, or add anything to the final product. This is just like the very clause HarperCollins used to argue (and win!) their lawsuit claiming a 40 year old contract gave them ebook rights. What’s good for the goose is for the gander.

          Third, Google’s case was decided on fair use grounds because they were processing legally acquired content and transforming into a product that in no way resembled or substituted for the licensed product.

          The only thing Audible has to prove is the captions are derived from the legally licensed audio using a contractually (and legally) autborized process to produce and output that neither resembles nor substitutes for what they licensed. Captions in no way resemble the actual audio they descrive not do the substitute for the audio, because Audible doesn’t distribute it *separately* but only as an enhancement to the legally licensed content.

          Sorry but as heavy handed as Audible has been, they have done nothing prohibited by law or contract. If anything, they are proactively complying with the requirements of existing accessibility laws without waiting to be sued.

          The only way they could be guilty is if they were selling the captions as a separate product that could be read without the audio. But as long as it is part and parcel of the audiobook they are golden.

          This case isn’t as open-and-shut as the Agency case but it’s close. It might even be win peremptory dismissal with prejudice.

          But the Publisher mouthpieces won’t say that because it’ll highlight how shortsighted they have been and are.

    • They already take 40% of the revenue when they do nothing.

      Any author can safely test this at home. Just withdraw a book from Amazon and compare sales with Amazon to sales without Amazon.

      If sales bounce to just above zero, we might say that Amazon is necessary for material participation in a modern digital commerce.

      Amazon stores, distributes, sells, downloads and promotes books. Both author ansd Amazon are necessary to bring books to the digital market.

      But neither is sufficient. the author is certainly not sufficient since he can’t do nearly what Amazon can. if he thinks he can, ok, do it.

      Amazon isn’t sufficient either. It can’t market books unles it has a book.

      Authors over estimate their importance in the market. they are one piece..

  6. If there were no basis for the lawsuit, the lawyers would not file it. It would unethical to do so.

    It’s not so black and white as you seem to believe. The law rarely is. And I’m a lawyer in real life. Believe me, there is nothing as set as you seem to think it is. And if you are a real lawyer you should know that too…

    Go to the complaint. See what they are saying. They are being paid to make a case. Maybe you’ll be able to see what the opposite arguments are to yours.

    • If there were no basis for the lawsuit, the lawyers would not file it. It would unethical to do so.

      Are you not aware of the phenomenon of “frivolous lawsuits”? There’s a reason that “tort reform” is an issue in legal and political circles. That’s actually the name of the website at the link. I’ve been hearing calls for tort reform for just this issue for years and years. I didn’t realize it wasn’t common knowledge that frivolous lawsuits exist.

      But I can turn your quote around on you, and point out that it would be unethical for a company to roll out a feature that would be subject to lawsuits, if it didn’t think it could prevail in court. Notice Audible’s statement — one assumes their lawyers were involved — that they disagree that captions violate rights.

      I read the complaint, which hinges on the idea that captions are a different thing than what they are. The lawsuit is filed by the same people who think that inexpensive e-books harm the market, but I was amused by their claim that they publish high quality e-books, and that they protect freedom of speech, and so on.

      Per the complaint, here’s a link to what Audible says about this feature, and it sounds just as high-minded:

      We developed this technology because we believe our culture, particularly in under-resourced environments, is at risk of losing a significant portion of the next generation of book readers. We have heard from so many teachers and educators that they want to find new ways to improve literacy rates and inspire students to pick up a book and read.

      Even the legal filing notes that Audible is intending to roll this feature out to students and parents, which is a clue here as to their intentions. The Immersion experience, which the complaint notes is the feature that allows the ebook and audiobook to work together, won’t come into play for people who aren’t reading books — think of the dyslexic. But audio captions work for that market.

      I notice the Publishers were complaining that the captions interfere with their own products that they prefer to market to the education market. No competition allowed, I guess, a mentality that sounds familiar coming from them.

      Again, the only legitimate complaint I can see in the complaint is the question of quality control, and Audible agrees — per the lawsuit filing — that its captioning service has a 6% error rate in the captioning, which is why it’s exempting books with fanciful words for the moment (so, no Lord of the Rings, for example).

      Quality control is worth fighting over.

      • Of course no competition is allowed.
        If they had tbeir way they would do away with fair use, first sale, and libraries.

        How dare anybody do anything but what they say and are paid for?

        They fought look inside, they fought free samples, they still fight ebooks and discounting. except when *they* do it. Ideally even looking at a shrink wrapped book would cost money. Because they *own* publishing and anything that resembles it.

    • So what if the lawyers filed a briefing?
      That’s their job.
      When it comes to filings, remember that “paper will accept whatever ink you put on it” and just because lawyers write it doesn’t make it true. They are paid to argue whatever position foots the billable hours. By the time it’s all said and done, as many lawyers lose cases as win.

      The big publishers and their apologists also thought coodinating to implement agency was perfectly legal and filed dozens of briefs defending their move.
      It only cost them over a half billion in total fines.

      And they spent years and years fighting Google over scanning and indexing untio they finally were told to shut up.

      Try looking at the case law and historical record instead of blindly buying what the Manhattan Mafia spins.

      Like it or not, Audible has three lines of defense, all court tested and validated. And they only need one.

      First there is the accessibility *requirement* which can only be avoided as “unduly burdensome” and by creating captions out legally licensed audio Audible just proved it isn’t burdensome at all.

      Second, if you bother to read the standard Audible contract you’ll find an overly broad future proofing law that allows Audible to process the legally licensed audio in *any* way and convert it into any format, present or future, or add anything to the final product. This is just like the very clause HarperCollins used to argue (and win!) their lawsuit claiming a 40 year old contract gave them ebook rights. What’s good for the goose is for the gander.

      Third, Google’s case was decided on fair use grounds because they were processing legally acquired content and transforming into a product that in no way resembled or substituted for the licensed product.

      The only thing Audible has to prove is the captions are derived from the legally licensed audio using a contractually (and legally) autborized process to produce and output that neither resembles nor substitutes for what they licensed. Captions in no way resemble the actual audio they descrive not do the substitute for the audio, because Audible doesn’t distribute it *separately* but only as an enhancement to the legally licensed content.

      Sorry but as heavy handed as Audible has been, they have done nothing prohibited by law or contract. If anything, they are proactively complying with the requirements of existing accessibility laws without waiting to be sued.

      The only way they could be guilty is if they were selling the captions as a separate product that could be read without the audio. But as long as it is part and parcel of the audiobook they are golden.

      This case isn’t as open-and-shut as the Agency case but it’s close. It might even be win peremptory dismissal with prejudice.

      But the Publisher mouthpieces won’t say that because it’ll highlight how shortsighted they have been and are.

    • If there were no basis for the lawsuit, the lawyers would not file it. It would unethical to do so.

      Are you standing on the notion that lawyers don’t do unethical things? There has to be a book in there somewhere.

      • Let me clarify about lawsuits and legal ethics. This is speaking generally and there may be a few relatively small differences between states in the United States and, on rare occasion between state courts and federal courts.

        Quotes will be from the Model Rules of Professional Conduct created by The Center for Professional Responsibility of The American Bar Association.

        In the United States, each state has its own rules of court and its own bar association. In order to practice law and appear in a state court, an attorney has to be admitted into the bar of that state or, in a few cases, to be specially admitted to the state bar for the purpose of participating in a particular lawsuit, usually in association with an attorney that is a member of the state bar.

        As opposed to the mandatory state bar association membership, The American Bar Association is a voluntary organization comprised of attorneys from all states, but not all attorneys who are members of mandatory state bar associations choose to join the ABA.

        The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct are influential, but not binding, on state legislatures and state bar associations that set the rules of conduct for attorneys practicing in the state.

        With that preamble, PG will quote from a few of The ABA Model Rules regarding lawsuits and legal ethics with a comment here and there. PG will note that, as with almost all things legal, other attorneys may not fully agree with PG’s opinions and interpretations of these rules and, given the variations between rules of practice in various states, The ABA Model Rules might not be applicable to the Audible litigation.

        [1] A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

        [2] As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system. As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealings with others.

        . . . .

        [5] A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.

        . . . .

        [8] A lawyer’s responsibilities as a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen are usually harmonious. Thus, when an opposing party is well represented, a lawyer can be a zealous advocate on behalf of a client and at the same time assume that justice is being done.

        . . . .

        [9] In the nature of law practice, however, conflicting responsibilities are encountered. Virtually all difficult ethical problems arise from conflict between a lawyer’s responsibilities to clients, to the legal system and to the lawyer’s own interest in remaining an ethical person while earning a satisfactory living.

        . . . .

        Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions

        A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

        It’s Rule 3.1 and various state versions of it that appears to be involved in this discussion. Boiled down:

        1. A lawyer should not file a suit:
        A. Unless there is a basis in law or fact supporting the suit
        1. That is not frivolous
        2. Which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

        If you were to conclude there were some gray areas in this rule, PG believes you would be correct.

        Note, however, that an attorney can ethically file a suit that includes a good faith argument for a “reversal of existing law”. A number of successful criminal appeals to the US Supreme court have involved established state laws that the US Supreme Court has held to be a violation of the United States Constitution, thus reversing the individual’s conviction for committing a crime.

        PG will also note that there are a great many rules of professional conduct that don’t have anything to do with filing an unethical lawsuit. He suspects that a very small portion of ethical complaints involve a violation of ABA Rule 3.1 or its state analogues.

  7. On the quality control front, I think it’s interesting that in the legal filing by the publishers vs. Audible, Audible said it was currently not rolling out the captions on audiobooks with fanciful or foreign words. The last time this came up, I wondered how the captions would work with “Daenerys” and “mithril.”

    So it turns out that Audible recognizes the problem of mixing fantasy and sci-fi with their caption content. I’m skeptical they’ll leave the problem as is, since it would mean excluding such works as the Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or Dune from their offerings. I don’t see a business case for permanently ignoring those genres, anyway, which means Audible will have to find a solution to make the captions more accurate.

    Like I said, I think authors should fight for QC (quality control), I just don’t think they’re going to have to fight too hard. It’s very plausible that Audible would work with them. They claim they want to work with publishers, anyway. And indies are publishers…

    • The “strange names” problem is just a proofing problem, easily handled with exception tables in the file metadata.

      As in: feed the first pass captions through a dictionary filter that flags the output and the matching time stamp into a temporary file that is vetted by a human (only rejected words) who then inputs the correct word into the metadata table.

      Every time the file is played and hits the listed timestamp it displays the exception instead of the baseline algorithm spelling.

      Over time a secondary AI tuned to specific authors or series could crank out the exception table. It’s all a matter of whether the extra coding is cheaper than a paid intern.

      • That’s the problem: ‘vetted by a human’. That costs a lot of money, and unless the book in question is a perennial bestseller, the possible return simply isn’t worth the added expense.

        And no ‘secondary AI’ is ever going to be able to extract from third-party sources the correct pronunciations of those non-dictionary names, anyway.

        • Not necessarily.
          Unless the book is written in elvish or klingon it’s only a small part of any book and it would only apply to a few books. Plus they don’t process every book the same day.
          One part-time employee would suffice.

          And don’t sell pronunciation tech short, even made up laguages follow standard linguistics. That’s how they’re made up to start with. And they have the audio to work with.

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vDD7bQTbVsk

          Or the AI can refer to the pbook to see the spelling of exceptions. De minimis.

          It’s not a big deal.

          The real quality concern is correctly transcribing basic english despite narrator inflexions and accent.

      • Would it hurry the process if the author submitted a style guide, like the editor, Katherine O’Moore-Klopf, did for “Purgatory Ridge” in this link? Notice how she puts the page numbers where certain words first occur, in her word list starting on page four.

        An indie author would generate such a style sheet for a human editor anyway, so one could just as easily index every page where “fedaykin” and “Bene Gesserit” show up, and send the document on to Audible. Then when the rejected words are flagged, the intern immediately knows where to start with corrections. Honestly, I wonder if an indie would have an easier time with this aspect of the captions, since indies don’t have to go through middlemen for the proofing part.

        • Would it hurry the process if the author submitted a style guide, like the editor, Katherine O’Moore-Klopf, did for “Purgatory Ridge” in this link?

          Probably not, as they want to generate captions for every audiobook. Any procedure that relies upon the author (or, worse, a Pig Five publisher) to take extra time and trouble is, I suspect, a non-starter.

          • Probably a non-starter, true. At the end of the day, whatever method Audible uses, authors should insist on having some way to ensure that Audible’s captions are accurate. I agree that any vetting by humans will likely be a bottleneck, so I’m curious how Audible plans to route around that problem.

            I would like to see more progress on the caption-quality front in general, so I’ll be watching to see how this plays out.

  8. Audible could have simply given authors/publishers the option to turn that feature on. They do that now if you want to add a .pdf (for appendices, photos, etc.). The marketplace will dictate whether this is a valued feature for both parties.

    • A pdf is a clear add-on, they are not inherent to audio. Captions are part of the audio, so Audible didn’t have to ask. There are no legal or technical grounds for objecting to the captions.

    • The law allows no opt outs.

      Once it became doable it became mandatory.

      And if Audible didn’t do it somebody else would. Ultimately it’s not a marketing issue: it’s an accessibility issue and to sell to the education market they need to be fully accessible. They didn’t want to be sued out of business like Kindle DX was.

      They *should* have sent out emails before publicly announcing it but they would have been merely informational.

      Tin eared, yes.
      Illegal no.

  9. What you don’t apparently understand is that audible pays crap. My audiobooks, which cost like 10x my ebooks, make me maybe HALF what I get for an ebook.

    and now they want to give my ebook away?

    No, this isn’t a win-win for anybody. This is a win-LOSE. Audible wins, ebook authors LOSE. Audible give me zero control over pricing, they run sales or even give my books away with no input form me (and adjust my royalty to match). Because they have a monopoly they can (and do) do whatever they want.

    Seriously, if they go forward with this and I have no say? I’ll pull ALL of my audiobooks from audible. Because I don’t make all that much money from my audiobooks (while I’m making 6 and 7 figures off of my ebooks). I do audiobooks as a service to my fans, not to make money, (because to date it’s maybe five percent of my income but takes up lots of my time).

    I always love it when people who aren’t in the business (the EC person) tell us what’s ‘best’ for us. I know what’s best for me, and this isn’t it. And please don’t wave the ADA at me. They can buy the book, instead of the recording, and read that instead. It will cost them far far less, and I’ll make way more money.

    Audible will eventually abuse this, just like they have everything else. But they’re the only game in town, so you have to do business with them.

    • “…and now they want to give my ebook away?”

      Uh… Noo…
      Whoever told you that misinformed you.

      Captions are not ebooks nor do they come from ebooks.
      They are a transitory, phrase by phase description of the audio. They aren’t separate nor can they be seen at *all* without listening to the audiobook.
      Audible is not even distributing them since they appear to be generated on the fly upon playback. Even if the weren’t it still wouldn’t be illegal.h

      Now, if tbey were selling captions as a separate product they’d be in serious trouble but since captions just a part of the audiobook, like chapter breaks, they are not a separate product. It’s just a new feature of the already licensed product.

      I won’t get into contracts or pricing, but when you say the audiobook is less profitable than the ebook, are you sure you aren’t extolling the ebook format instead of complaining about the audio market?

      eBooks are generally more profitable than POD books and most traditionally published hardcovers but that is simply because of the efficiencies of the ebook market, not necessarily deficiencies of the print markets. They each are distinct and separate markets.

      As to your costs, that is a lot like the complaint non-chain vendors routinely make, that their costs are higher than competitors so the competitors must be cheating. Alas, that is not how the business world works.

      Cost does not mandate price nor does it mandate profit.

      Nobody is guaranteed a specific level of profit nor do they get to set it: unless you live in parts of europe, the market decides. They decide how much they will pay or if they will pay at all. Not buying is always an option even for european consumers.

      The eBook market has many virtues, not least of which is that it is a fairly big, high margin market. Audiobooks is a much smaller lower margin market.

      Oranges and kumquats.
      They each stand alone in their own market and address different consumers according to their own rules.

      As for Audible being the only option… well, I just got out of a discussion about Bookbub’s CHIRP. Among other things, I saw no less than 7 commercial digital audiobook vendors and there are more. Some are substantial players in audio, like Apple.

      Times are tough and the business world is tougher but it all comes down to what works for you. You are hardly the first to finger Audible’s crew as heavy handed jerks. They certainly haven’t handed the addition of the feature as smoothly as they should’ve but that does not mean captions are ebooks or illegal.

      The courts will decide soon enough but under existing precedent and published contract terms, they can do this.
      In fact, given the variety of federal accessibility laws, it might actually be illegal *not* to do captions.

      Which might be quite a pickle for the other audiobook vendors…

      • Audible gives me no control over pricing. Did you get that part? Audible gives me no control over sales or free giveaways either.
        Audible’s contract could probably be described as ‘onerous’ in many cases, but there is no other place to go.

        My POD books, which I trim the prices on to make them competitive (I price for less than a store bought book of the same size goes for by cutting my profit) make me more money.

        As for the snide remark on markets, understand that I do quite well as an author.

        If I had control over the price points my audio works sell at, on audible, I’d be earning a lot more. Audible has set up a system that favors certain types of books over others and heavily penalizes anyone not in that range. Everyone knows this, and everyone struggles with it. Audible has very effectively stacked the deck and they know it. This has had a major effect on how audiobooks are sold and the rules that they impose on indy’s via ACX make this even more difficult to deal with at times.

        You may have seen 7 others, but that doesn’t change the fact that Audible is over 90 percent of the market and that Amazon will not sell anyone else. Those 7 others account for what, 8 percent of the fiction market?

        Transcribing in real time, if it’s limited to that, wouldn’t be an issue. However, I don’t trust the folks at audible. Their business practices tend to drive that home.

        Honest question: do you have a dog in this race or not? I honestly get the impression, from your response, that you don’t. It’s all well and good to look at things from outside and say that they’re fine, but it’s quite a different view from the inside.

        • I’m not sating they fine.
          I am saying that whatever you do has to be based on fact, not myth.
          On rationality and facts, not emotion.

          Captions aren’t substitutes for ebooks.
          That is a fact.
          Accessibility is legally required. Fact.
          Audiobooks, with or without captions, can’t substitute for ebooks. Different markets, different prices, different uses, different customers. Fact.

          Basing decisions on any other idea will lead you astray.

          Whatever your relation with Audible, however you choose to run your business is up to you. You feel treated ill, work with that. But the captions aren’t it.

          Basing your choices on a false view of the world is not going to lead you down the best of paths. Examples abound, too numerous to list. They litter the history of human commerce.

        • Audible gives me no control over pricing.

          Sure. You’re not selling the book. They are. Bookstores do the same thing. Authors have no control over prices on the bookstore shelves. Same with widgets and gizmos at the hardware store.

          Retailers routinely control prices. Happens all the time. Consumers buy from the retailer, not the author.

          • Most of tbe time when producers try to control retail prices they end up in court. There are exceptions but very few.
            It’s that darn First Sale rule. (Created by publishers trying to control book sale prices, circa 1910. They try it every century apparently. Still hasn’t worked.)

            Now, producers controlling what retailers pay them, well that’s a different kettle. Usually negotiable…

            • The last time I read it, the KDP contract explicitly said Amazon controls retail price. That’s what the consumer pays Amazon for the goods.

              Retail price is different from List Price in the contract. The author gets to set List Price. List is what the 70% is calculated against, so the author gets to set how much he gets for each book. But, he has zero control over what Amazon charges the consumer.

              Amazon might set retail equal to list, or they might set it equal to the daily high temperature in Needles,NV multiplied by four.

    • You need to look up what captions are. You clearly think they’re the same as a book. They’re not. You clearly think they’re a substitute for a book. They’re not.

      This sentence: They can buy the book, instead of the recording, and read that instead.

      Legally not true. At all. Accessibility is not about whether alternative media exist for a given medium. It IS about whether a medium itself is accessible. As has been pointed out numerous times, accessibility is precisely why the Kindle DX doesn’t exist anymore. Look it up. Amazon did not have the legal right to tell blind people to go read Braille instead, which is what your reasoning would have them do.

      Your option, on ADA grounds, is to: 1) Publish audio books and accept captions, 2) Don’t publish audio books at all.

      It is technologically feasible for captions to exist, ergo they will have to going forward. Trouble yourself to learn the law on this point. As technology advances, it will come up more and more often.

      • The key point is that ADA doesn’t apply to companies or product lines but to each individual product. Separate but equal has a bad reputation in DC.

        (Mostly because it rarely is actually equal.)

        • Yes, this. Fighting Audible isn’t going to make a difference on those terms. There is no point in getting angry with Audible over this issue.

  10. If there were no basis for the lawsuit, the lawyers would not file it. It would unethical to do so.

    Are you standing on the notion that lawyers don’t do unethical things? There has to be a book in there somewhere.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.