Two book publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon’s audiobook company Audible last Friday over alleged improper royalty payments.
Plaintiffs Golden Unicorn Enterprises Inc. and Big Dog Books LLC claim that Audible underpays its self-published authors by falsely reporting the number of audiobooks sold. According to the lawsuit, Audible’s “Great Listen Guarantee,” which began in 2016, allows subscribers to exchange audiobooks up to 365 days after purchasing them, giving them unlimited access to audiobooks at no additional cost. In the case of an exchange, only the author of the replacement audiobook receives a royalty payment.
“All of Audible’s subscribers and customers are able to listen to the entirety of an Audiobook within 365 days and obtain a different Audiobook at no cost…Many Audible members churned through up to ten times the Audiobooks to which they were putatively entitled, without making any additional payment that would have translated into royalty payments to Authors,” the plaintiffs state.
The discrepancy in royalty payments was discovered in October 2020 when a software glitch allowed author’s on Audible to view their gross number of audiobook sales, including returns and exchanges, as opposed to the net number with which they were historically provided, court documents state.
“Authors who have attempted rough calculations now believe that most of them received between 50% and 85% of the royalty payments they would have received if not for Audible’s calculated concealment,” the plaintiffs state. “No Author can know the exact number without the benefit of discovery, though, because Audible never informed any Author of the gross number of her Audiobooks it distributed in any period, nor of Audible’s revenue on which that Author’s royalties should have been calculated.”