audiobooks without the DRM


While it’s nice to have a large source of DRM free audiobooks, the Downpour UK catalogue will have to improve before it can replace Audible for me. I looked down the list of Hugo Award winning novels and wasn’t able to find any of the 20-ish I searched for. Whereas most of them were available on Audible UK. I ended up renewing the Audible membership I cancelled in my excitement about Downpour :flushed:.

I’ve been buying audiobooks without DRM from eMusic for quite awhile. eMusic is OK, sometimes a bit of a pain, and their audiobook catalog isn’t very deep. Glad to have another alternative! Looks like Downpour’s book club charges less per month, and the monthly credit is good for a year, whereas the eMusic monthly credit expires each month.

But I notice that Downpour’s terms of service conflates “buy” with “license.” Downpour appears to explicitly deny the right of first sale. That is, Downpour asserts I may not loan or give an audiobook I have “bought” to a friend or family member, or sell it used.

If “buying” from downpour doesn’t give me the rights of an owner, I think they shouldn’t use the word “buy.” They should consistently say “license” or “rent.” It’s a good value, regardless, I just think it’s important we’re all clear on what it means to trade in digital goods.

I’m aware that Cory’s thinking about these members is far clearer than mine. I’d be curious to hear his take on this.

Thanks, Cory! Great start to the new year!

There is another option too. If your area is like mine, you can get tons of audio books on CD for free from your local library, and CDs are DRM-free. Of course, if you want to put them on your phone, you have to rip them, but that is not a big deal.

Being an honest type of guy, I delete the rips when I am done. I suggest you do the same. Honestly, how often do you listen to the same book twice? For me, that list extends to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, so for those I own original BBC radio series on MP3.

By the way, I have some MP3 audiobooks from E-Music. Completely DRM-free and pretty good selection. The only thing ruining it is the subscription model (you subscribe and get a certain amount of credit each month to spend). At least this was the way it worked a few years ago when I left.

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Looks good, but… Half the titles I looked at are not available in Australia. Region-blocking is just as bad as DRM, so no thanks, I’ll skip and stick to borrowing books from my library.

At the very least they could filter the search results so people outside the US don’t see pages and pages of results that they are not “entitled” to purchase.


Public libraries + your personal computer x time = massive digital library of DRM-free audiobooks. Still, downpour is a good option for things you might not find in your library, or for authors you really want to support.

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I have been using Audible since 2001 or 2002, and the DRM has gotten in my way countless times. For instance they never supported the WebOS platform the entire time it existed.

Therefor I have no moral qualms with devising a way to strip the DRM, using their own software that they made freely available (A DirectX plugin):

For the last few years I’ve been using Ambling Books as much as possible. But Audible’s library dwarfes everyone else’s.

I used WeRead4You a lot for the short time they existed. Too bad they couldn’t hold out.

I never heard of Downpour, so here’s how it stacks up to Ambling:

                       Downpour   Ambling + LibriVox[1]
Science Fiction        1276       1256 + 178
James Blish            0          0 + 1
Lois McMaster Bujold   25         24
Fritz Leiber           1          1
Ursula K. LeGuin[2]    8          4
Vonda McIntyre         5          6
Iain M Banks[3]        11         8
"Vinge"                3 Vernor   3 Vernor
                       1 Joan D   2 Joan D
Spider Robinson        12         10
Tanya Huff             5          5
Catherin Asaro         11         9
David Weber            16         13
"Feinman"[4]           0          4
"Void Series"          1          0
Peter F Hamilton[5]    7          6
Silverberg[6]          20         9

[1] Ambling embeds the LibriVox library seamlessly with it’s own, for free. Including playing in their player. That is a significant convenience improvement over accessing LibriVox directly. Zip files and metadata are an unholy chore to manage on a mobile device.

[2] In Ambling, when you search “LeGuin” You get their 4 actual LeGuin titles, plus countless further choices that are “like LeGuin”, by what measure I don’t know. In Downpour, you get exactly what matches the search and nothing else. See [3] before deciding how much you like that.

[3] In Downpour, when you search “Iain M Banks” you get 1 hit, and even that one hit is wrong. If you search “Iain Banks” you get 11 (correct) hits. In Ambling, you get the same 8 hits whether you search for Iain M Banks, Iain Banks, or even Ian M Banks (misspell Iain as Ian), plus the “similar” suggestions as usual.

[4] Intentional misspelling. Ambling pulled up all 4 of their Richard P. Feynman.
However, if you search "Feynman"in Downpour, you get 6 titles by Feynman himself, and 5 more by other people that are about him or include him. While Ambling gives four potentially related suggestions that are not related at all.

[5] Neither Ambling or Downpour recognized “Void Series” as pertaining to Peter F. Hamilton. One of Downpour’s 7 results was actually the anthology “The New Space Opera”, and none of Amblings 6 results was. But, Ambling DOES also have “The New Space Opera”. The other 6 titles were the same 6 titles in both stores.

[6] 5 of Downpours 20 results are edited by, not authored. Another 3 are anthologies where he had a story included. Ambling has 2 of those 3 anthologies. So the difference here is not as striking as it looks, though Downpour still wins.

So Downpour clearly has a bigger library than Ambling, though compared to Audible both Downpour and Ambling are identical, a tiny fraction of Audible, and Ambling still occasionally has a book that Downpour does not have. And Ambling has the better search and suggestions most of the time, though occasionally the Downpour search actually does better.

Prices were usually identical between the two. To the penny, even for oddball prices like $13.56 for Feynman or $18.36 for A Galaxy Trilogy and The New Space Opera. $25.46 for Lord Valentines Castle. Other times Ambling was slightly more. Temporal Void: Downpour $19.50, Ambling $21.56

However Ambling does not play any loyalty games with “credits”, that are only spendable there, and which expire leaving you with nothing. (No one is perfect, everyone will screw up some percentage of the time, or buy something they didn’t really want because time ran out, etc.) Credits are one of the things I hate about Audible, and always have since I started using Audible in 2001 or 2002.

But you do not have to buy credits at Downpour. The deal may be better with credits, or the credits may just make it very difficult to calculate if the deal is better or worse.

However, Downpour has a rental option, which no one else has. That is potentially useful.

However Ambling has LibriVox, which I find very (not potentially) useful. (What can I say, Ilike H Beam Piper :wink: And they don’t charge anything for it. There is not even any monthly subscription or anything. You could use Amblings player app, and Amblings web site and servers, to browse for, download, and play LibriVox titles for free without ever giving Ambling a dime. And of course you don’t have to use their player, it’s just a greate player that gives all the same convenience as Audibles player, without the vendor lock-in. You can play any other audio files in Amblings player, and you can play Amblings audio files in any other player.

I have not yet looked at Downpours Android app. I don’t even know if it’s a player or just a shopper yet.

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