In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at Audible’s new returns policy and Microsoft bringing AI-generated art to everyone.
Do listen to September's Self-publishing News podcast here. We talk about Spotify, of course, and took a deep dive into what the controversy over AI-generated art means for indie authors and the wider book business. This week's #indieauthorchat is in its usual Wednesday slot, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be asking: Should writing set the Agenda or follow it?
New Audible Returns Policy Goes Nowhere Near far Enough to Satisfy Rights Holders
If you cast your minds back a few weeks, you will remember that one of the biggest news stories was Amazon’s reversal of its ebook returns policy.
I ended my report on that story by wondering whether Audible might follow suit. This week, Audible seems to have made a move. Of sorts. In an email to Audible customers who had returned a book that hadn’t been bought with an Audible credit, they explained that they would no longer be giving full refunds up to 365 days after people purchase a title. Fabulous. But this would only apply to audiobooks purchased with a credit or debit card. These would no longer be eligible for returns. For anything someone buys with an Audible credit, the rules remain the same.
Susan May, who tirelessly runs the Audiblegate campaign and the Facebook group Fair Deal for Rights Holders and Narrators, has summed up creators’ response to this move well. I highly recommend you join the group and read what she says in full. Here is a snippet, reproduced with her permission.
This latest development seems a cynical move to entice more readers into the Audible membership eco-system. It certainly beefs up the benefits of their membership program over any competitors.
May also points out that sales from outside the membership schemes are relatively small. So while this is a victory, hard-won by the Audible campaign, the real material benefit to rights holders is yet to come.
Microsoft to AI-generated Art Available as Part of Office Suite and Edge Browser
AI generated art remains at the forefront of the news. Artists’ concerns have started to cross into the mainstream. Or at least the mainstream of business news. A long piece in Business Insider this week outlines the way people are using not just image concepts (a cat sitting on a mat), but artists’ names (a cat sitting on a mat in the style of David Hockney) to prompt AI image generators. This means people can get pictures in the style of their favourite artists without having to pay those artists. And those pictures are only possible because a computer programme has learned how to paint them from the artists’ work – for which they also haven’t paid. You can see why artists aren’t happy.
This comes as Microsoft announces plans to make AI technology available to all. It will be incorporating DALL-E 2, which I have featured several times, into two new products. Both will be available for free in the short term. DALL-E 2 is the image generator developed by Elon Musk’s Open AI. It has been available to the public to use since last month. But it requires some skill to use it to get exactly what you want. Microsoft’s products will make it user friendly. They will have a set of templates ready to slot the images into. And they are right there on someone’s computer if they run Windows.
Of the two products, Designer is a tool that will work rather like Canva. In the longer term, it will move to become part of Microsoft’s Office package. That means technically you will have to pay for it. But it will still be as widely available as some of the world’s most commonly used software like Word and Excel. The other product, Image Creator, will be an extension for Microsoft’s Edge browser, and will be free forever.
Ingram Invests in eBook NFT Marketplace
Ingram has spent a lot of the last year or so consolidating its position in the distribution chain. More recently, it has started to look to new technology to expand its distribution networks. Last week, I reported that Ingram was a fulfilment partner for the AI-driven discovery app Tertullia.
Now Ingram has invested in the blockchain. Specifically, it has invested in Book.io, a marketplace for NFTs. Book.io mints limited editions of ebooks. It kicked off with versions of the Gutenberg Bible, but its doors are open to more regular titles. NFTs are usually “special editions” of a regular ebook. They offer more than just the text. In the case of Book.io’s offerings, this seems to mean special covers. Which is very reminiscent of the heady days of collectors' edition CDs.
As is the general case with NFTs, you can only buy an ebook from Book.io using cryptocurrency. In this case, that means Cardano, one of the many alternatives to Bitcoin and Ethereum that boast greener credentials than we have become accustomed to from cryptos. Of course, cryptocurrency's price is notoriously volatile. That means anyone buying these special editions as an investment is taking as much of a gamble on the future value of crypto as much as they are on the future value of art.Self-publishing News: Audible's Change to Returns Policy Not Enough for Rights Holders Click To Tweet
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Re Audible, I understood from a FB group that if the listener returns a credit-purchase audiobook within 7 days the author loses their royalty, but after that Audible takes the hit. Still not satisfactory (they should align with Amazon’s new policy on ebook returns imo) but less of a disaster for authors than your article suggests.
I also read (and I wish I could remember who posted it!) that non-credit sales are actually quite a big proportion of overall sales, presumably because of a) Audible’s habit of offering listeners 3 credits for a low price and b) the offer to buy an audiobook for a low price when you buy the ebook, or even when you borrow the ebook on KU.
My feeling is that this is a desperate attempt to hold on to market share and/or a bid by Amazon to gather as much user data as possible prior to taking audio in-house.
Actually now I think of it, a) above doesn’t make much sense if those low-price credits are to be treated as credits by Audible, but I suspect they may not be. Worth looking into.
Thank you – I don’t think I’m trying to say it’s financially a disaster – rather that the credit/non-credit policies aren’t aligned and that the Audiblegate campaign is (I think rightly) not happy about this
Anyone ‘investing’ in NFTs now hasn’t been paying the slightest attention as the market collapses and should be rightly fired for incompetence.
I have to say I’m wincing rather a lot at the moment with the number of publishing big players who seem very pleased with themselves about getting involved with NFTs, seemingly with little if any understanding about what that means