All library audiobooks going to DRM-free MP3s


Is iTunes really a primary sales channel for Audible books? I thought Audible was an Amazon company, and iTunes sold its own audiobooks. Apple definitely makes it more difficult to buy Audible books directly on an iPhone–you can’t do it through the Audible app but instead have to go to the Audible site with the phone’s browser.

Audible is the sole and exclusive supplier of audiobooks to Itunes.

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What makes me angriest about Audible, apart from its virtual monopoly on recorded books, is that you must have Microsoft Windows or MacOS in order to use the Audible download manager or Itunes, without which you cannot decode and listen to Audible’s proprietary and DRM-ridden sound files. Linux users are outta luck. (Yeah, you might be able to run Itunes under WINE, maybe not. Not sure it’s worth dropping money on an Audible audiobook to find out.)


This is great news! I long ago gave up on trying to get downloadable audiobooks from the library to work on our computers. We’ve been using the big boxes of CDs on road trips. They clutter up the footwells of our smugmobile.

Interesting–learn something new every day.

I work in a library. I get to help people learn how to use audiobooks. Many of these people are elderly and not terrible comfortable with their futuristic tablets. Even on a good day, assuming the network is running at full speed and the stars are in alignment, it takes about half an hour to get set up, but given the multiple passwords, accounts, security checks, and moments of “I think I may have already registered an Adobe ID…” the whole thing often takes longer. And that is when these people are assisted by someone who has done this hundreds of times. Even worse, I sometimes spend hours on a device only to find out that it is incompatible.

This is huge from an accessibility standpoint. Elderly people aren’t stupid. They have been paying attention for the last fifty years and are keenly aware of the future they were promised. Search for book. Push button. Read book. It should be that fucking intuitive. But it isn’t, and every layer of abstraction piled on above that (“Oh, I’m sorry, that publisher doesn’t release ebooks.” “No, the adobe ID uses your email address as the ID, but it is different from your email address.” “No, after checking out a book you have to download it to your device.” “No, sorry, someone already checked out that book.” “Yes, I know it is just a file, but we only have a small number of copies.”)… well, it’s a lot of stuff to overcome.

Printed books are easy. ebooks should be too, and yet we now have a system that takes the worst parts of a books analog and digital equivalents and forces them on people.

Cynically, I wonder if this is done intentionally to discourage people from borrowing ebooks.

So anyway, I broke the news to the IT department sitting next to me over lunch, and needless to say we are all relieved. Yay!


I agree that the audiobook support situation for libraries has been crazy-hard. My heart goes out to you. My wife stopped working in a library just as this was developing, so I don’t get first-hand reports of how bad it is.

I also don’t understand why there has been this reluctance to make it easier. The standard assumption is that they are afraid that if regular people get ahold of MP3 files, then the torrentz will rule and their future revenue will drop to near zero.

It looks like Apple and Amazon have put the lie to that idea, finally, by remaining in business after converting to MP3 audio files. We can only guess that it took a long time for Audible to see what was staring them in the face.

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Absolutely and to-the-rooftops “Yes!” to your thoughts. And in the context of Overdrive doing anything in the interest of the consumer (I believe many library conferences could hold multiple sessions titled, “Overdrive Hate-A-Thon”), color me impressed.

It is false that Overdrive is removing the DRM. What is true is that they are changing the format to MP3, however it is false that the files will be DRM free. From : “MP3 audiobooks are still being borrowed, and users are prompted to delete when the lending period is over. Titles still expire in the OverDrive app at the end of the lending period” and from Twitter: “@OverDriveLibs: once a title expires it shows you the jacket cover until u delete but u can’t listen anymore” and “@OverDriveLibs: this process is the same as it now with mp3 audiobooks we offer.”

TL;DR: The DRM stays, the format is changing to MP3, it is not a day to celebrate.

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In defense of Overdrive, they have been working to streamline their UI. It used to be a mess. For example, you had to add a book to your cart, then check it out, and then once that was all done you could begin downloading it. Now it is much less confusing.

Does this mean that older audiobooks in WMA format, already “in stock” at libraries, will be converted to MP3? ‘Cause I’d really like to be able to listen to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion books on my smartphone.

Nope - iTunes will not run under WINE.

Our audiobooks have been DRM-free for years. See:


What’s the licensing/patent-bully status of MP3?

I guess it’s just wishful thinking to hope for Opus/Vorbis and Ogg.

Here is OverDrive’s announcement about the switch to MP3 only:

If the titles still expire, there has to be DRM involved. I believe these will still be .odm files that require OverDrive’s player or apps to translate to MP3s.

I have the small happiness that I can stop answering the “Why doesn’t this audiobook work on my device?” question, at least in terms of format compatibility. But not the bigger happiness of DRM really going away.

Unless they’ve changed in the last couple of years, (I haven’t downloaded via Overdrive since 2011,) these are DRM-free. The app sunsets its ability to play the files, but they can be played by other mp3-capable apps.

Need some clarity, for sure. It sounds like if you load it into its app, it deletes it, but you’re “prompted to delete,” too, which sounds like a voluntary move.

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