★ Audiobooks and DRM

For those of you who don’t know — and there’s no reas­on, per­haps, that you should — DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, and it is a tech­no­logy by which con­tent dis­trib­ut­ors (record com­pan­ies, for the most part) attempt to con­trol how a cus­tom­er exper­i­ences their product.

Now, audiobooks.

The start­ing pis­tol for Internet-dis­trib­uted audiobooks has been fired and Audible.com is at the ‘b’ of the bang. They have a huge selec­tion of titles read by great act­ors and if you go for one of their monthly plans, like I do, you can enjoy two books per month for very little cash. Top draw­er.

The trouble? Audible’s titles are DRM’d. That is, they are locked down tight. Countless are the times I’ve said to a friend of mine, ‘Oh, you’d love this book I’m listen­ing to…’ and then trail off because I know I won’t be able to lend it. The DRM means only a few machines I’ve nom­in­ated can play­back the audio.

Well, this stinks. That much is obvi­ous. But you’d think that Audible are doing this because of the pres­sures put upon them by pub­lish­ers. It turns out that this is not neces­sar­ily the case. In an art­icle for Publisher’s Weekly art­icle, Cory Doctorow (whose book Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, I review here) relates the saga of try­ing to get (i) his pub­lish­er, then (ii) Audible, then (iii) the online Apple iTunes store to offer his new book without DRM. Thus far, he’s only man­aged to con­vince the first two.

Audiobooks are fant­ast­ic. They are unabridged, high-qual­ity record­ings of stor­ies that you can enjoy when you’re out walk­ing, doing the dishes, or work­ing out. If Steve Jobs — and there­fore Apple — is ser­i­ous about his atti­tude towards DRM, he should make sure the online Apple store sup­ports pure, unfiddled-with MP3s for both music and the spoken word.

I’m pretty sure this is what read­ers want. It’s what I want.

As a coda, you can down­load an audiobook of the first edi­tion of Déjà Vu here — for £500.

H’only jok­ing! It is, of course, free as in air.