Audible and Apple end exclusivity agreement after EC probe

Following scrutiny from European regulators, Apple will no longer exclusively distribute Audible audiobooks according to Reuters.

The so-called exclusivity obligations required Apple AAPL, -0.01% to source audiobooks only from Amazon's AMZN, -0.28% Audible unit which, in turn, was prevented from supplying its audiobooks to other digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store, the two regulators said.

Since 2003, Amazon-owned Audible has been the sole proprietor of audiobook on iTunes, a deal that has ruffled plenty of publishing feathers and raised some antitrust red flags around the world.

The European Commission said the two tech giants have agreed to open up the iOS book service to audiobooks distributed by other publishers.

In an aim to improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, Apple and Amazon have agreed to end an exclusivity agreement that made Audible the only seller of audiobooks inside of iTunes.

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The EU's antitrust arm, welcomed the agreement between the two companies, dated 5 January 2017, after Bundeskartellamt, the Federal Cartel Office of Germany, cleared the case, by closing proceedings against the two companies.

The watchdog said that there was no further reason to continue the investigation.

At the time, around 90 percent of all audiobook downloads in Germany were made via Audible or Amazon websites, or via the iTunes Store, indicating why publishers and booksellers had chose to complain. Back in 2015, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association began its complaint by saying that Apple and Amazon were "abusing their dominant market position" with the audiobook deal.

The exclusivity agreement predated Amazon's acquisition of Audible in 2008. Mundt explained that this change will enable a wider range of offers and lower prices for consumers.

  • Douglas Reid