A celebration of Libro.fm: the indie, DRM-free Audible alternative that helps your local bookseller (with giveaway!)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/12/bezos-vs-bookselling.html


I looked up my favorite book, and while it is on there(!) I can’t order it because my creditcard isn’t from the right country :frowning:

Anyway, if you are in the right country (it’s not mentioned what countries those are) this is a hearty recommendation for Jasper Fforde’s “Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron”:

It’s dystopian sci-fi that somehow manages to be a lot of fun despite the dystopia part.

Edit to add: It has the bureaucracy of Kafka and the repressed society out of 1984 combined with the humor and weirdness of Douglass Adams or Terry Pratchett mixed together in a way that never breaks the internal logic of the story or becomes silly. It really is amazing!


I recommend: The Library at Mt. Char by Scott Hawkins. This is a really great book, extremely original and spectacularly well written. The premise is so creative it’s hard to explain, I’d say it’s like a super dark version of Harry Potter mixed with Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell, but that doesn’t really do it justice. All the pieces fall into place by the end, and every character’s arc is well completed. If you like fantasy, horror, or sci-fi you will really enjoy this audiobook.


My two favorite books to recommend are short story collections. Both have elements of magic realism and absurdism, but at the core of my recommendation of these two books and authors is that they tell good stories.

Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners Is a fantastic collection of short stories. Rather than sell the collection, I will connect you to an amuse bouche from the book offered by the author for free. Selected shorts has a recording of The Faery Handbag audio here¹ and the author offers the full text of the story on her site. (via Libro.FM)

Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised by Wolves is the kind of short story collection that share with others while on trip. I heard the short story from which the collection takes it’s name from on the radio and was enraptured. What gave me goosebumps wasn’t some great revelation or fear contained in the story, but it was the writing itself. (via Libro.FM)

From Reading Rainbow, Gif found at GfCat
Note 1: Via iHeart Radio Podcast, Selected Shorts, Fables and Fairytales, October 12, 2017

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Sissy Spacek does a wonderful job of reading this book.

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NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, starting with The Fifth Season, is excellently narrated by Robin Miles. Great characters, very interesting setting, and compelling plot.


While I appreciate the anti DRM arguments, I’ve used Audible for decades and have 800 books in my library which I can download as many times as I wish. But I’ve also tried Libro.fm. It’s a fine service too. Audiobooks today are productions, just like movies and TV shows. They are performed by actors, sound edited and professionally mixed. The movies and TV shows I buy are DRM protected. It’s not unreasonable that audiobooks are also protected. And I know you’ll hate this response.

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Will Libro audio books work on my new Kindle Paperwhite?

The audiobooks I’ve enjoyed the most are the first three books of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, as narrated by the author himself. Unfortunately as far as I know the version of these books with Stephen King as the narrator were never released on any medium other than cassette tape, and I listened to those tapes so many times they eventually disintegrated. He apologizes in an introduction to one of the books (probably The Gunslinger) for his voice, claiming not to be a professional voice actor. But other than a very few hiccups he was great, and really brought the characters to life. I sure wish those audiobooks would be released in a modern digital format - I’d buy them again in a second.


Hard to beat a classic Hugo/Nebula award-winning sci-fi with several excellent narrators reading over 21 hours. Good bang-for-your-buck brain candy.

Or try Sapiens if you’re looking for something more intellectual.


They have one participating store in all of Europe :slightly_frowning_face:


My state has none :frowning:

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Dune, for me, was an important audiobook/reading experience. Through 5th grade, my parents read most everything to me. It was hit or miss as to whether I was brilliant or as the term was at the time, retarded. It all changed when teacher from Canada suggested I had dyslexia. After a lot of testing from outside experts, the school then tested me. I was declared legally blind so I could get access to the Library of Congress Book for the Blind and get books from Recording For the Blind. I am sighted, but I with all the remediation in the world, I still read print very poorly and slowly.

The ability to access a normal printed book without an intermediary at my own pace was transformative and empowering. I can not explain how much gaining access to audio books changed my world for the better.

Dune was in the fist dozen books that my mother ordered for me. Some books came on record or fexidisks, most came on 4 track audio cassettes. Dune was a book well suited for audio. I think it was the first time I realized what a good narrator could do for a book. I still vividly remember entire sections of narrative. That black pebble that read facts to him is one of the reasons I bought the first first iPod nano. I think I put Dune on that device and listened to it almost immediately. It was as though I a bit of science fiction had become real, a tiny device was reading a book to me.

I hearted your post because that book was absolutely one of my favorites. I even remember trying to walk in a non rhythmic pattern on the undercut beach “cliffs” that are made each winter where I live. I imagined myself, as a kid, as Paul Atreides or a Feman, and waited for sandworm to appear as I slid down a few feet when the sandbank collapse under my weight.

Thump, thump, thump…

Worm sign.



I am replying to those whose recommendations I heart.

@SamWinston On Etsy there is a pink blob of a pin labeled “Ham” with legs and arms, and a eyes peering through a rectangular cutout. I showed it to my spouse and said it reminded me of our eldest. My spouse said, “What?” I had to explain the ham costume and how it related to the book To Kill a Mockingbird.

There are certain stories I go back to again and again. This is one of them. I don’t read it every year, there just isn’t time for that, but I do go back to it often enough that I am surprised how easy it is to find an audio version of the book.

I think my mother read this to me first, and then I got it on 4 track cassette. Later, I had it assigned in highschool and found it in at least one college English course. I find something new in it every time I read it, partly because I am older when I reread it.

I hearted your recommendation because I too love this book. There are more books that I have read once and will never read again, and that is the way it should be. That written, this is on a very short list of mine of books I go back to again and again from time to time. Oddly, I have no intention on reading ,“Go Set A Watchman”.

@kingannoy you had me at “It’s dystopian sci-fi that somehow manages to be a lot of fun despite the dystopia part.”

Then you added an edit:

I’ve now added to my giant list of media that I want to consume, as well as an active reading list.

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Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Listened to this on a family vacation three years ago. Then listened to it again two years ago. Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld books are fun on their own but this one, read by Stephen Briggs, is fantastic. We all laughed all through the story. Steven Briggs does great voices and the material is just fantastic. The Discworld novels generally are seen as teen books but, as a guy creeping up on retirement, I still enjoy reading these in between my normal fare. I strongly suggest you give it a listen. https://libre.fm/artist/Terry+Pratchett/album/Discworld+30%3A+The+Wee+Free+Men+%28Isis+Audio+Books%29+128br


While I have nothing against Audible, I think that “protected” should be in quotes there. DRM is laughably ineffective at stopping piracy. All it actually does is punish the consumer by limiting the ways they can use the media they legitimately bought. A company that actually realizes this and offers customers a legitimate product that isn’t limited in this way, while also helping booksellers (believe me, we need the help) is aces in my book.


It’s funny how much a good book can effect your life - and how intertwined a book becomes with what’s happening in your life at the time of reading. I remember reading Dune for the first time at my friend’s cottage (I was 25 instead of in Grade 5 though). Right around that time I became increasingly obsessed with reading and listening to books. I’ve added two more of my favourite (free) listens below that you might enjoy:

A Canticle for Leibowitz - great full-cast dramatization, very good production value

Foundation - classic sci-fi by Asimov, free full-cast dramatization. Note that the sound quality is very off at some points but if you can look past that then you’re in for a treat.



I don’t think that first link worked properly…

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It’s more that I don’t understand it.

Do you think it’s reasonable that audiobooks should have DRM even when the writer and author object? Because if authors and publishers don’t consent to having their copyrighted works locked to Amazon/Audible’s proprietary file format, Audible refuses to carry them. Does copyright protection extend to forcing creators to accept a distributor’s lock-in? How does that benefit us creators?

Also: everything in Audible catalog (except the titles Audible itself records) are available without DRM on Google Play, Downpour, and Libro.fm (and all library audiobook downloads are DRM-free, too). So even if you believe that DRM is protecting audiobooks, it’s surely not protecting them from being checked out of the library, for free, without DRM, and circulated on the internet, right?

There’s really no rationale for Amazon imposing mandatory DRM on rightsholders and customers except lock-in. If this was about protecting us, they’d let us opt out. If this was about protecting works, then publishers would refuse to distribute through DRM-free channels.

Amazon sells all its music – where it was a latecomer – without DRM. Amazon sells all its audiobooks – where it dominates – with mandatory DRM.


Thank you for both suggestions and links. I used books on records, flexidiscs and 4 track cassettes well past their sunset (ironically I spent years making them ), so, dealing with sound quality issues shouldn’t bother me much.

I will be listening to both of them. Foundation and A Canticle for Leibowitz have been on my list for far too long, but there almost always seems to be something that seems to supersede them. Right now, I am slowly trying to find the stories that were used as the base for Barlowe’s Guide To Extraterrestrials, as an adult, I can now enter the worlds that inspired that artest. I have a fondness for the books that had beautiful illustrations that connected to larger works of science fiction, like the TTA, Terran Trade Authority books. Unfortunately for Barlowe’s guide, many of the titles he used are out of print and unavailable in any affordable format.

Again thank you for the links to the audio.