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Apple and Amazon Agree to End Audiobook Exclusivity Deal

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Amazon and Apple have agreed to end their exclusivity agreement for audiobooks following a European Commission (EC) probe, according to a new report from Reuters.

The two companies had an exclusivity agreement whereby Apple could only source audiobooks from Amazon‘s Audible business and Audible could not supply other music digital platforms with the content besides Apple’s iTunes store.

“The exclusivity agreement affected the sales opportunities of audiobook publishers since, apart from Audible, there were few alternative purchasers available,” said Andreas Mundt, head of Germany’s antitrust regulator, the Bundeskartellamt. Removing the obligations “will enable a wider range of offer and lower prices for consumers.”

The German Booksellers Association filed a complaint about the practice, along with other concerns, to the EC and German antitrust authorities in November 2015 alleging the contract amounted to an abuse of Audible’s dominant position in the German audiobook market, where it has a 90% market share. The EC then began its investigation.

A spokesperson for Audible said that as a result of the ending of the exclusivity agreement the EC and the FCO will be closing their files:

We look forward to continuing to offer customers our unmatched selection of hundreds of thousands of audiobooks in the Apple iTunes store, and to working with our many content providers and audio partners to continue to create the powerful listening experiences that meaningfully enrich daily life for our customers and our customers to come.

The European Federation of International Booksellers (EIBF) have also welcomed the decision. Its co-presidents Jean-Luc Treutenaere and Fabian Paagman said in a statement: “Booksellers have always been in favour of a vibrant and competitive environment which is good both for businesses and for consumers. The audiobook market is a very promising one and the possibility that more players can offer audiobooks on the market in level playing field conditions is excellent news.”

The exclusivity agreement predated Amazon’s acquisition of Audible in 2008.

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