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Apple & Audiobook Firms Insist On DRM

from the this-never-ends dept

We've been discussing the trouble that's been going on in the world of ebooks, as publishers are still coming to terms with the ebook era, and it seems that there are similar problems in the older world of audiobooks. TorrentFreak points us to an article by Cory Doctorow at Publisher's Weekly, where he discusses the difficulty he has had in publishing a DRM-free audiobook. Even once his publisher got on board, there were problems. First it was with Audible, the main audiobook seller -- who flat out refused. Yet on a more recent book, Audible was willing to go DRM-free, but Apple turned them down. Yes, Apple. The company that at one point claimed DRM was bad and should be ditched, and convinced the record labels to ditch DRM. Yet, as we've noted in the past, outside of music, Apple is still a huge DRM supporter. So it is with audiobooks apparently. When Doctorow, his publisher and Audible all told Apple they wanted to put a DRM-free copy of his audiobook in iTunes, he was told no. Other audiobook publishers are just as bad, if not worse, apparently requiring ridiculous license agreements, DRM and even software downloads. One of these days, the audiobook world is going to have to come to terms with what pretty much every other digital content provider has realized: making life more difficult for customers is not a way to succeed long term.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 4:40pm

    Man, the audiobook industry is screwed once people start sharing them more often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

    The hell?

    "I came up with what I thought was an elegant solution: a benediction to the audio file: “Random House Audio and Cory Doctorow, the copyright holders to this recording, grant you permission to use this book in any way consistent with your nation's copyright laws.” This is a good EULA, I thought, as it stands up for every word of copyright law. Random House was game, too. Audible wasn't."

    Why the hell not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    johnjac (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

    Just a thought about YouTube

    What if people started recording themselves reading on YouTube? How hard would it be for 'Publishers' to find and send take down notices for them all?

    Someone should start a revolution, I would, but I"m too lazy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    lavi d (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Business Opportunity

    Time to register, sign up some unknown authors willing to read their own works into a microphone, set up the free downloads and get ready to convert readers into fans!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    TheStupidOne, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 5:07pm


    I'm thinking that Apple likely would have had to make some bigger changes that just putting it in the store (since they are hard coded for DRM already) and it wasn't worth the cost to upgrade the new system to allow DRM free audio books. Now I think this is completely stupid, but just a reason they might have said no

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Business Opportunity

    Sign my helmeted ass up....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Business Opportunity

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    teknosapien (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 6:13pm

    Why not publish it on

    Why do people always think you have to go to Apple or some other Cooperate solution to get what you want?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    Re: Why not publish it on

    Outside the Internet you pretty much have to and this is made so intentionally by evil lobbyists. Big corporations are working hard to ensure that even within the Internet you must go to some evil corporation to get what you want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    blindFreedomFighter, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 7:13pm

    and what stops me from recording myself reading a book

    youd have to get or know my voice....
    and ill give it away if you drm stuff and ill make sure at least one blind person gets it each time

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 7:34pm

    I know this sounds a bit radical, but it seems to me this presents an opportunity for people who print and sell books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    BentFranklin, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:13pm

    I aspire to live a DRM-free and I will go without certain technologies to live it. Some people seriously overestimate the importance of their products in my life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Ben, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:13pm

    This isn't about DRM

    Apple make money selling it's DRM to others. The people want music without DRM, Apple gave it to them. But you don;t through the baby out with the bath watter, so to speak.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:22pm

    Re: This isn't about DRM

    DRM is the bathwater.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:49pm

    "Apple & Audiobook Firms Insist On DRM"

    Which is why many listeners of audiobooks prefer the DRM-free Torrent networks! DRM sucks! Always has, always will. Plays on one proprietary device if your lucky, but not someone else's brand device. Converting from one file format to another, so it works on all your other stuff? DRM proprietary hardware? I don't think so. Sick of it. }:p
    It's DRM-free products all the way. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Jake, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:37am

    What I want to know is, why the hell are Doctorow and Random House wasting time and money with resellers anyway? The files don't have to be all that big -128kb/s is almost overkill for spoken-word- and if they're charging for the download then a first-year web programming student could knock out the necessary code in a couple of weeks, max.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Jim, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:43am

    Apple did not convince the majors to go DRM-free

    Jobs wrote his "Thoughts on Music" missive on 2/6/07, in which he said the music biz would be better off without DRM. EMI announced they were ditching DRM on 4/2/07. Jobs was present in London at the EMI announcement.

    Things don't happen that fast in big companies. When Jobs wrote his letter, He ALREADY KNEW what EMI was going to do. The letter was meant to PRETEND that he cared about customers.

    Expect another letter at some point from Apple recommending that the movie industry ditch DRM. When that happens, you can be sure that Disney will make an announcement a month of so later. Apple uses DRM to lock competitors out and customers in. They'll only move away from it when it suits their interests, not their customers'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Cipher-0, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:15am

    Re: Re: This isn't about DRM

    DRM is the bathwater.

    DRM is the soap scum left behind after you toss the bathwater.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:33am ?

    I wonder if Cory knows about, which does offer DRM free (serialized) books, but in that case, it's donations-driven. You get the books for free, but are encouraged to leave a donation (and 75% of that donation gets sent to the author of the book)

    And as Cory releases a lot of his own book in serialized audio form already. It would be a good fit, I'd say.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    BoloMKXXVIII (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:48am


    Am I missing something? Why bother to DRM an audio book? Everybody and their brother can simply record from the analog out port. If you loose a bit of fidelity, so what? It is an audio book. It matters with music, but not with someone reading aloud. Apple proved that people will pay for something they can steal if the environment is right. Adding DRM is not the right way to go. Making the process of finding the right audio book, buying it and using it at a reasonable price is the road map to success.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Not yours but ours

    Apple just doesn't like others' DRM. But it is fine for them to DRM your files to sell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    vastrightwing, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Reselling content over and over and over

    The answer is that DRM is NOT about preventing people from copying content. Everyone knows you can’t stop that. It’s about making copying difficult to do. It’s about controlling the media and forcing manufacturers to pay to license the format. Publishers know people can and will copy the content. DRM is intended to lock down the format so a manufacturer must pay a license in order to build a player or to sell media. The licensor can dictate what the device can and more important, can not do. For example, Sony pays to have the DVD logo on its DVD players. Sony is told what the device is allowed to do and is not allowed to do. Samsung pays Sony to display the Blu-Ray Logo and so on. Content companies want DRM so consumers will have to re-purchase the content all over again. Even though you can copy/RIP/Transcode content easily, there is a large amount of money to be made by selling the same content to people who already purchased it, if it’s easier to re-buy it again rather than transcode the content. Content publishers will never agree to have Sony/Samsung build a consumer device capable of transcoding content. Notice that eBook readers all have their own proprietary format. This is what publishers want. They don’t want hardware manufacturers building eBook readers that use plain text as a format. That would kill them. Instead, build an eBook reader with a format that won’t work with any other eBook reader. This is what publishers want. It’s a chance to resell the same book again and again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Nina Paley (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:58pm

    I had the same problem with iTunes

    The reason "Sita Sings the Blues" isn't on iTunes is because they won't distribute any movies without DRM. They were interested, but that was a deal breaker for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    jessicawell (profile), Mar 30th, 2010 @ 8:34pm

    I had the same problem with iTunes

    Why bother to DRM an audio book? I know one way of playing m4b iTunes Ebook on mp3 players other than iPod, iPhone, such as PSP, Blackberry, Creative Zen. Refer to this :How to convert iTunes m4b Ebook onto mp3 player or your blackberry phone free

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Jerry Hall, Dec 21st, 2014 @ 10:43am


    Good luck donating your e-books to libraries too. That's being killed as well. I still remember the dumbfounded looks at an e-book conference in San Diego when the industry stared at me like I was an alien.

    Apparently nobody told the industry that some of us like to donate our books so others not so fortunate might have access to them.

    This still needs to be addressed. We have a for-profit industry effectively cutting off a significant level of donations. What's next, excess food being burned so we can't feed the homeless?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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