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What You Need to Know Before You Return a Book on Audible in 2021

It’s a fantastic service for subscribers that you can easily and conveniently return a book on Audible. This great feature allows us to take chances on books by authors and narrators we don’t know yet. But there are two things you absolutely need to know before you decide to exchange an audiobook!

What You Need to Know Before You Return a Book on Audible

There are two big issues with the Audible returns policy, one affects you directly as a subscriber, and the other indirectly because it is very bad for audiobook creators. And that’s something you as an avid listener and maybe even fan should be aware of!

How often can you return a book on Audible?

Audible’s info on how often you can exchange an audiobook is misleading to you as a customer. Many Audible subscribers think the audiobook service works like a digital library, that you can always get several audiobooks for one Audible credit, simply by returning audiobooks over and over again. Sometimes, customer service even directly encourages you to return an audiobook once you’ve finished it and get another one! Audible promotes the exchange service everywhere all the time. So, it’s easy to assume you can just keep returning titles and get something new for your Audible credit. This is rather misleading!

Because it can make for a really nasty surprise when one day, you get an email from Audible stating that you have “abused the rules” and won’t be able to exchange titles again. I don’t know about you, but an email like that would definitely freak me out!

The Audible credit system is not a library. When you return an audiobook after finishing it, it’s as if you bought a book at your local bookstore, took it home, read it, then bring it back to get something else.

Somewhere in the smaller print, Audible talks about two exchanges per year. It’s likely that you’ll be able to return more books, either directly on their website or through customer service. But they definitely won’t let you get more than one audiobook for every Audible credit! And that brings us to the second issue that you have to be aware of whenever you want to return a book on Audible that you already listened to…

What happens when I return a book on Audible?

Audible is a giant company and belongs to Amazon. So one could assume that it’s part of their service to you as a customer to exchange audiobooks, something they pay for to get an edge over competitors. But they don’t! (… pay for it, that is.) The exchange is paid for entirely by the audiobook creators!

That seems fair and makes sense when an audiobook is badly produced and no one can stand listening to it. Or when the story doesn’t actually have the promised length. It protects Audible and us subscribers from fraudulent publishers.

But when listeners finish a book, enjoy it reasonably much, and then Audible encourages them to return the audiobook anyway, you do assume the author and narrator would be paid for their work, right? They definitely deserve to be!

Many people thought it was indeed Audible that took the loss for exchanges, paying royalties to the audiobook creators while giving you back your money or Audible credit. Until a glitch in Audible’s royalty statements allowed creators to see how unexpectedly high the return rate actually is and how very much money they lost.

This led to an outcry among audiobook creators. Don’t forget, audiobooks aren’t only made by big publishers like Penguin Random House, but also many small publishing houses and self-published authors who pay for audiobook creation out of their own pocket!

So, what Audible offers you as a seemingly gracious service actually didn’t cost Audible a dime! They simply didn’t pay royalties to the audiobook creators, many of whom are small businesses or just one person trying to share their work with us. Creating an audiobook costs thousands of dollars and if they don’t make that back, authors likely won’t turn more of their books into audiobooks, which hurts us as listeners, too!

As a result of this outcry, Audible has adjusted its rules and will now pay royalties for returned titles if they are returned later than 7 days after the original purchase. That’s definitely a win for indie publishers!

But it’s still really important that you as an Audible subscriber are aware of the bigger picture and know under which conditions authors and narrators are paid for the audiobook you listened to!

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How to Return a Book on Audible

Now, let’s get to the technical part of returning an Audible book! Please be aware that you can’t do Audible returns in the app. You either have to use a browser to return a book on Audible yourself or contact customer support.

For a feature Audible promotes so much, they have burrowed it surprisingly deep in the settings. But you can get there in 3 clicks – even though they aren’t the most intuitive ones.

First, you go to your Audible Account Details in the upper right corner. Click on your name to get to the dropdown menu, Account Details will be the first item in the menu that opens up.

Returning an Audible book: Audible Account Details
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On the new page you will see a menu on the left-hand side with your Membership details. Click on Purchase history.

How to return an Audible book: Audible Purchase History
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Now you will see all the Audible books you have previously purchased and those that are eligible for return will have a button next to them. Once you click on that you can choose your reason for returning the Audible book. And that’s it!

Audible Returns: Exchanging an audiobook
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Audible books used to stay in your library after returning them but this has recently been fixed. Once you exchange an audiobook, it will disappear from your Audible library.

It’s perfectly fair and understandable to return books you don’t like and can’t finish, or that you can’t listen to because of technical issues. But please consider carefully which titles really deserve to be exchanged. Remember, it’s not always Audible that takes the loss!

How to Get Audiobooks Cheaper

If you’ve “re-used” Audible credits before because audiobooks are so expensive, there are many better options for more affordable audiobook-listening that will ensure that you can listen to as many audiobooks as you want – legally – while authors and narrators are paid fairly.

One option is signing up for an unlimited audiobook subscription like Audible’s own Audible Plus (this is actually free for you as an Audible Premium Plus subscriber), Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited which includes thousands of audiobooks, services like Scribd, or digital libraries like Hoopla that you can use with your local library card. Another option is to buy cheap audiobooks that cost significantly less than an Audible credit, like Amazon’s Whispersync deals or Chirp audiobooks.

Check out my guide on affordable audiobook binge-listening to find the best audiobook service for you!

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3 thoughts on “What You Need to Know Before You Return a Book on Audible in 2021”

  1. Thanks for talking about the issues with returning books from a small publisher’s perspective! I was only made aware of that quite recently, and it seemed unbelievable that Audible was treating its audiobook creators so poorly. Good to know there’s at least something in place for them now!

    1. Yeah, for a long time I thought that this was simply a loss Audible/Amazon took. Just like when you return an item to Amazon and you know they’ll just put it in the trash. It’s really nasty that such a huge company put all of this on the indie authors. First, they entice them to publish exclusively through ACX/Audible, and then they offer their subscribers a service like this on the back of the same indie authors. I found this honestly shocking!
      On top of that, returned Audible books used to stay in your library, making the decision to return another book all the much easier since you could listen to it again regardless. Fortunately, they’ve fixed that too now. When you give it back, it is indeed gone!

    2. now they are rip[ping off customers as well, they banned customers for abusive level of returns. In one case an hearing impaired autistic who loved redial bought the whole series at once and couldn’t hear the dramatized recording and they banned him even though he bought a defective book and a book by accident and keep stonewalling him with the same banned notice over and over and even when he doesn’t ask about returns, they remind him anyways.

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