Why This Author Is Taking A Stand Against Amazon’s Audiobook Monopoly

from Fast Company

When science fiction writer and activist Cory Doctorow releases his new novel, Attack Surface, next month, you’ll be able to pick up a physical copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore. If you’d prefer an e-book, you’ll be able to download it on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and other mainstream digital book platforms.

But if you’re someone who prefers an audiobook, you’ll find the novel, which deals with a corporate cybersecurity expert struggling with the morality of her work, absent from one of the biggest audiobook stores on the internet: Amazon’s Audible. Instead, Doctorow is selling the recorded version of the book through a Kickstarter campaign, and it will also be available through non-Amazon vendors like Google’s Play store and libro.fm.

That, Doctorow explains, is because audiobooks sold through Audible must be bundled with copyright protection, or digital rights management (DRM) controls, whether authors or publishers want to include such restrictions or not. The DRM technology not only makes it harder to pirate audiobooks, but also restricts playback to devices and software authorized by Audible, which Amazon bought in 2008. For traditional e-books, Amazon lets publishers offering titles on Kindle decide whether or not to include DRM.

More here.

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4 Comments

  1. Amazon.com, Inc. has been accused of being a monopoly since its widespread inception in American culture. Exponentially cultivating a name for itself and taking drastic measures to be the most successful technology company, Amazon has truly changed the modern perception of e-commerce. Now, the average consumer can go online for an astounding selection of what they are searching for, buy it at an insanely fair price, and expect it to arrive at their front doorstep within days! Yet, what most people often forget to ask themselves of something that seems too good to be true is, “At what cost?” Well, authors like Doctorow know the sacrifices that it takes in order for the consumer to live a glamorous lifestyle. The issue concerning DRM is the same issue that book publishers face when forced to lower their costs by Amazon; ‘corporate takeover’! Wait a minute. Is this case of regulating copyright protection an instance of a monopoly’s abuse of power? Or is this simply the means deemed necessary by one of the world’s largest suppliers of goods and services? At the end of the day, it trickles down to how an individual personally feels towards the company.

    As far as I am concerned, I hold no animosity towards Amazon, Inc., nor do I necessarily disagree with the author, either. Recently, I watched a documentary revolving around a similar issue to Doctorow’s. Book publishers, starting from smallest to largest, were forced by Amazon to lower the costs of their titles to be considered in-line with the company’s expectations of market values. Facing the threat of losing large profit margins, the publishers initially refused. However, Amazon’s fierce tactics of ‘blacklisting,’ or removing the titles and redirecting consumers to their most aggressive competitors, their titles cost the companies nearly all their sales from the website. Unfortunately for the publishers, who in turn submitted to the company’s demands, gain over eighty percent of their annual sales from strictly Amazon. It is no surprise, of course, that publishers and authors alike are displeased with the behavior of what started out as an online bookstore, ironically enough. The concern is often brought up in legal terms, despite always being concluded as a ethical matter. The true difference lies in taking action against Amazon and risking losing out on sales for a better future for books and novels.

    DRM, though, is just one of many cases where the company says something must be complied with. The simple answer: if you do not like the way Amazon does their business, find your own way, then. The long answer is a lot more complicated, obviously, but deserves some more attention. Typically, any company as large as Amazon would not care about such concerns when one author, out of hundreds of thousands, takes his chances elsewhere. Unless, that is, there is a large public outcry that demands change. While Doctorow is not the first of many to take initiative against Amazon in the sense of entrepreneurship, he never submits to adding DRM to his audiobook. I respect his just-do-it attitude that has pushed him to start a Kickstarter. While he may fail or even break-even in the long run, it deserves appreciation for the brass nature of going against the grain.

  2. As many of us have been following the growth and expansion of Amazon over the past couple of years, we have seen the rapid growth it has been able to achieve. In fact, many people have been beginning to name Amazon a monopoly as it has become the leader in many industries such as retail, cloud services, and media production as mentioned in the article. Like Doctorow, many companies fear the big giant Amazon is unfairly taking over. Thus, Doctorow had decided to take a stand and refuse to release the audiobook of his newest model on Amazon’s Audible, which is “one of the biggest audiobook stores on the internet.” Doctorow, as a part of his Kickstarter campaign, is choosing to instead make his book available on other platforms such as Google Play Store and libro.fm. Because of Doctorow’s following and his success as a writer and activist, he has the ability to be the one to initiate such a revolt and opposition towards the media giant. However, if Doctorow genuinely wants to take a stand and prevent Amazon from continuing its road to a monopoly, why only not have the release of his newest novel as an audiobook on Amazon? If one is trying to take a stand against a company for being a monopoly, they should boycott the whole company. Although Doctorow is specifically passionate about digital rights management (DRM), as an author and advocate against monopolies, I believe that the whole company should be boycotted. In the article, Doctorow even says “We should not live in a world where manufacturers get to decide how you use their products once you buy them;” hence, the campaign should focus on boycotting Amazon as a whole.
    As mentioned in the article, because Doctorow has had “fame as a bestselling author, an activist well-known in internet politics circles, and a decades-long blogger,” he has the support and means to start and lead such a campaign. However, for authors, activists, and bloggers who do not have the same fame and following as Doctorow, they may not have the same opportunity. For individuals such as them, Amazon may be the only option to get their career rolling. In the case of authors who are early in their careers, they may have to succumb to the services and monopolization of Amazon in order to be successful in their careers. Doctorow definitely has the advantage over other up and coming authors, and hopefully he can pave the way for other authors. With these efforts, Doctorow has the potential to be a viable competitor against Amazon.
    Ultimately, as the concern for Amazon becoming a monopoly continues to grow, we can begin to see successful individuals, such as Doctorow, begin to take advantage of their fame to take significant steps in the fight against Amazon becoming a monopoly. Even though start-up authors and individuals in their career may be forced to use Amazon in the beginning, with more and more established individuals taking a stand, there will be hope in the future to minimize the rapid growth of Amazon.

  3. Amazon, a billion dollar company, with may options to choose from on your own. Amazon has books, laptops, tvs , and all those other goods that you would want to get for an okay price. Author Doctorow thinks that he can boycott Amazon because of them and them being so big, he thinks that it will overshadow him because of the e-book being on amazon, so he wants to release his own. I think it would be a good idea to leave the e-book on amazon and let it gets its views and reviews, due to Amazon being so big and worldwide. I think also that he should put it out somewhere else where people may see but also want to put it on big name websites, so they know it can be legit. Even though he’s trying to prevent Amazons monopoly, there’s really nothing you can do about it due to the fact of how many people order from amazon and shop their on a daily basis, so their stock is rising all the way. They will never go bankrupt and they will always have tons of billions of dollars. I feel like if he puts more of his books on amazon that he could get some exposure from that and more people would look into him, and he can build his way up from there. I don’t think boycotting amazon is a good idea, because its not your hard earned money, and work so it doesn’t make sense, and don’t be selfish because they’re getting paid more. Everyone’s path is different and everyones finish is different. If im up and coming like Doctorow, then ill just wait my turn, and be happy that im getting recognized and that my time will come. Amazon is a a once in a lifetime company, that will forever grow and become what people use in their lives, multiple times a day.

  4. To summarize this article, author Cory Doctorow has created a platform for audiobooks to be bought and listened to without signing digital rights management on the audio. The leading reason he’s doing this is because he thinks, “it is a security/privacy nightmare, a monopolist’s best friend, and a gross insult to human rights” to take away users’ digital rights. Since he is completely against the use of DRM, he was unable to use Audible to publish the audiobook. Audible, owned by Amazon, requires all audiobooks on their cite to have DRM. This would mean the customer is restricted from redistributing or copying the audio. It also restricts customers from listening to the book on any cite other than the Audible application. After reading the article, I realized that Doctorow is not trying to eliminate Amazon completely from selling his book. It will actually be available to purchase on Amazon in a physical and e-book version. He simply does not want to give Audible DRM over audiobooks bought by customers. While I understand Doctorow’s passion behind this, I don’t really think it changes much from the customer perspective. I don’t think DRM is necessarily a bad thing, considering it prevents people from illegally copying and selling the audio for free. If Doctorow was completely boycotting Amazon from selling any version of his book I may understand that. However, it just seems inconvenient for the customer to have to go through Kickstarter to listen to the book they purchased. Considering the millions of people who use Audible, they may find it inconvenient having to use a separate application and it could deter people from buying the audio book all together. This can result in less sales and a lower income for Doctorow. Adding onto that, using Kickstarter could allow people to copy and resell the book for free which also reduces sales and in the end, may not be the smartest choice considering profit maximization.
    A benefit that I see coming from all of this is that is makes Doctorow happy. He is able to have full control over all aspects of his book. It definitely feels good not feeding into a monopoly like Audible. The silver lining is that he gets to produce the audiobook himself with trusted friends and can watch the process unfold from beginning to end.

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