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Citing Embargo, Libraries Plan Boycott of Blackstone Digital Audio

31 July 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

The Washington Digital Library Consortium (WDLC), a statewide coalition of some 44 public libraries across Washington state, is organizing a potential six-month boycott of Blackstone Publishing’s digital audiobooks. The move follows Blackstone’s decision, announced last month, that as of July 1 it would embargo selected new release audiobook titles in libraries for 90 days. The WDLC is urging libraries across the nation to join them in their protest, which is set to begin on August 1.

“As advocates for equitable access for our residents, we protest your decision and, as a result, will boycott Blackstone’s e-audiobooks for six months (August 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020). We ask you to reverse the embargo and to refrain from creating future barriers for libraries,” reads a draft letter making the rounds in the library community. “We take these steps because we truly believe that services without special barriers to libraries are best for both for our patrons and your business.”

In urging other library systems to join the boycott, the WDLC offers a range of resources, including an FAQ for patrons, talking points for stakeholders, and even sample press releases. “We will communicate this boycott,” the letter reads, “and the reasons behind it, to library patrons and community stakeholders through press releases, reports via social media and other digital platforms, and in one-on-one conversations with patrons, community leaders, and elected officials.”

. . . .

Blackstone quietly announced its 90-day window on new audiobook releases last month in a message to library customers delivered through its vendors. But that message did not mention that the 90-day window appears to be tied to an exclusive deal with Amazon’s Audible subscription service. In a subsequent message explaining the change to librarians (seen by PW), a rep for Blackstone explained that the publisher “was recently given the opportunity to enter into an exclusive deal” with an unnamed “important strategic partner,” and that under terms of the deal, “audio editions of selected Blackstone Publishing titles will be available exclusively in digital format on our strategic partner’s platform for 90 days upon initial release.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon, Audiobooks, Libraries

5 Comments to “Citing Embargo, Libraries Plan Boycott of Blackstone Digital Audio”

  1. Hmmm… There must be some more back story to this as the Washington Digital Library Consortium does not contain the state’s two largest public library systems — Seattle Public Library and King County Public Library.

    • I can provide a little background. The Washington Digital Library Consortium is a group of smaller libraries who cooperate on using OverDrive. It gives the small fry a little more leverage in dealing with Rakuten. SPL and KCLS are large enough to go it alone. I’m not familiar with the SPL and KCLS digital platforms, but they have the IT resources to be more independent.

  2. As advocates for equitable access for our residents, we protest your decision and, as a result, will boycott Blackstone’s e-audiobooks for six months (August 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020).

    Sounds like six months of inequitable access for their residents.

    • Better a short disruption than the permanent damage if they don’t address the embargo.

  3. I am also wondering if this is a response to increased competition from distributors like Findaway Voices. I have recently shifted all my audio books from exclusive distribution with through ACX (the audiobook arm of Amazon) to non-exclusive distribution so I could distribute through Findaway Voices (which gets my books in over 30 retailers), and one of the main reasons I did this was to be able to get access to sales to libraries.

    Until recently ACX and Audible hasn’t really had to worry about competition, because they were the only viable game in town. But once ACX lost exclusive right to distribute to Apple, and authors began to find other ways besides ACX to produce audiobooks, and with the growth of global distribution of audiobooks by places like Stoytel, (and the partnership between Findaway Voices and BookBub’s new promotional endeavor-Chirp) I think this might be the first sign Audible is feeling the pressure of that competition.

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