The European Commission has announced a joint decision between Apple and Audible to end their exclusive arrangement for the sale of audiobooks on the iTunes Store, potentially opening up competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe. Audible has been Apple’s exclusive supplier of audiobook titles for the iTunes Store since its debut in 2003, preventing other companies that provide downloadable audiobooks from accessing the iTunes Store, as well as precluding Audible from supplying its titles to other third-party platforms — although the agreement has not prevented Audible, which is now owned by Amazon, from selling its audiobooks directly to consumers. The new agreement between Amazon/Audible and Apple came following communications with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office, who were looking into antitrust concerns around the exclusivity arrangement following a complaint raised by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which raised several other complaints against Audible as well.
Audible is the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word content, originally founded in 1995 and later sold to Amazon in 2008; the original Apple/Audible deal signed in 2003 predates the acquisition of Audible by Amazon. It originally required Apple to source audiobooks exclusively from Audible, and prevented Audible from supplying audiobooks to digital music platforms other than the iTunes Store. It’s unclear whether Amazon/Audible and Apple’s agreement is limited only to European distribution of audiobooks or whether it will affect their business relationship worldwide. [via TechCrunch]