Amazon buys Audible, promises to kill DRM if we complain

Amazon's just bought audiobook provider Audible, the exclusive provider of audiobooks to iTunes, Amazon's rival for audio downloads. Even though Apple says it prefers that its suppliers deliver non-DRM media (and even though Audible's DRM does nothing to prevent piracy), Audible has a mandatory DRM policy for the books it sells. That is to say, even if they author doesn't want DRM on his or her books, Audible will only deliver those books with DRM on them. As part of the deal, an Amazon spokesman said:
Audible's audio books are wrapped in a layer of DRM, which Amazon does not plan to remove unless customers start to complain.
Mike adds, "Audible audio books are the last source of media I purchase that includes DRM I can't easily bypass. Books, of all things, should be open and protected. I shouldn't have to wear special glasses to read a particular novel - nor should I need a special player to listen to a particular novel. What do people recommend we do to show Amazon the advantage of releasing audiobooks without DRM?"

It's a good question. I'm an audiobook junkie -- I've spent thousands of dollars on Audible books over the years, hoping that the problem of DRM would never bite me in the ass. Of course, it did -- when I switched away from iTunes, I had to spend a solid month, running two Powerbooks, full time, to get the DRM off my Audible audiobooks by playing them back in realtime while capturing the audio with Audio Hijack Pro. Since then, I've learned my lesson: I order my audiobooks on CD and rip them manually, which is a huge pain in the ass, but way more future-proof than Audible's products.

Let's hope that Amazon does the right thing here, following the DRM-free ethos in its music store -- and the DRM-free ethos in the CD audiobooks it sells (I've diverted all the money I used to spent on Audible audiobooks to buying audiobooks on CD from Amazon anyway). Link (Thanks, Mike!)


  1. At one point there was an audio converter that could rip Audible…if I still used a PC I’d remember what it was. *MUCH* easier than Hijack…something like AudioGold or something…

    My big problem was that I couldn’t get these dang things to convert to CD for the car…worked *PERFECTLY* on the iPod. Once I got a stereo that worked with my player, I never thought about this again. DRM is annoying, but I knew going in I was going to be tethered to a specific device…

  2. So If I do not buy because of the DRM from amazon I am not a customer so they wont take my complaints seriously?

  3. @EricT, exactly. Even when you are a customer you have to sift through a dogpile of links to get “help”. There’s no go-to, direct feedback form (at least not one that’s easy to find).

  4. Anyone know of a link, or e-mail address, that we can use to voice our boycott of DRM’ed Audible audio books. I for one will go back to using Audible, if they remove DRM.

  5. Hmmm. I’ve been an Audible member almost since they opened, so this concerns me. Hopefully Amazon will continue to honor Audible’s TOS and any purchased audiobooks will always be available for download by the purchaser, even if the subscription is discontinued.

    As for converting the books to non-DRM format, it’s been a piece of cake since Audible started letting you burn your purchases to CD. It’s still a bit time-consuming on longer books that can run 30 hours or more, but easy on shorter stuff. Just burn them to CD, then rip to MP3 or other non-DRM format.

  6. Sorry for the blatant plug but when I was searching for info about converting Audible to MP3 most of the methods were long out of date as Audible put pressure on software creators to respect their DRM (‘Goldwave’ etc). When I eventually found out how to do it I documented it here –

    It’s an old post but it still works and is much faster than any of the other methods.

  7. I’d agree that contacting audible or amazon about this may be the best way to get amazon to drop the DRM.

    If you want more free and DRM-free audio books check out . They have lots of audio books from the public domain.

  8. When Sony dropped their DRM I actually called the Audible help line. I am a subscriber and a paying customer but I hate the idea that my audible books are temporary – they cost twice as much as the novel which will last 1000 years buried in mud for crying out loud.

    Anyway, I reached a very nice lady. I put on my best “How to Win Friends and Influence People” mentat like skills to convince her to send a note up the supervisory chain stating that A. it was hurting me as a customer. B. It cost them a lot more in support costs for people who switch. C. The music industry spent millions trying to fight it and eventually gave up. D. The authors didn’t always want it. and E. people were starting to get mad, including both authors and users.

    I think we just have to keep the pressure on, especially as it moves to Amazon. They probably won’t listen to techno-libertarians like us but they will listen to the mom and pop who want to go from an iPod to a mp3 CD player in their car.

  9. I got a GPS device last year whose audio book format only worked with Audible files. I thought I’d be good to go since I had bought Audible audio books from iTunes, but then I found out the files in iTunes, although provided by Audible, weren’t Audible files but a locked iTunes MP4. That was convertible to MP3, but after hours on the phone w/ Audible tech support I learnt that there was no way to convert a file to Audible. What a screwed up system when the same company’s files don’t work on two like devices!

  10. Growing up, Dad always talked me into getting records instead of tapes, going so far as to tape them for me, and re-taping them if they got fried or damaged. I am grateful that he planted the seed of having a “master,” esp. since it’s sweet having early 80’s classics on vinyl. I’ve spent less than $20 on DRM media, and even then I considered the files disposeable– I paid for the instant access. It’s the same as buying a tape instead of a record or CD– it’s fragile and likely to stop working at some point.

  11. I get most of my audiobooks these days by downloading from my public library. They are wma drm’d, unfortunately, but the price is right…

    Unfortunately, the two main (maybe the two ONLY) vendors for downloadable audiobooks for libraries: netlibrary and overdrive, both use wma drm, which is a pain in the arse.

    I’ve been a long time emusic subscriber (*sigh* I miss the days of unlimited downloads…) and they’ve recently started a drm-free audiobook download subscription service. The books are available in mp3 format. I think this was posted on boingboing somewhere? Anyway, you can check them out at if you’re interested in drm-free downloadable audiobooks.

  12. WTF people? The “ease of subverting Audible’s DRM” is not an argument to keep it, it’s another argument for its uselessness.

    I had an Audible subscription for 2 years. Then I switched computers, my ipod broke, and in general I didn’t want to go through the hassles of conversion, so now I torrent all my audiobooks for free.

    Another example of DRM decreasing revenue, rather than “protecting” it.

  13. I know of one company that seems to do it right, but they sell recordings of college course lectures rather than books. “The Teaching Company” offers electronic downloads in addition to hard media…and the files are DRM-free. My wife and I spend quite a lot of money on them every year and the ease of use we gain from not having to contend with DRM actually is a factor. Admittedly, we’re both big nerds…either way, they seem to be doing good business, so it’s obviously possible to not treat your customers like presumptive criminals and yet make a decent profit. (Are you listening, Audible/

    (No affiliation – just a fan.)

  14. Joe@6: Sorry, but it’s just not true that the ability to burn and rip Audible books makes it easier to rip them. If I’d gone that route, it would have required me to burn 400+ CDs (which is several days’ work, and which requires that you stand by, swapping discs, day and night) and then rip them (ditto). And when it was done, I’d have weird overlaps in the file, since burning a track that’s longer than 70min to a CD produces mid-sentence breaks in the file.

    Mshea@10: The thing that really cheeses me off about Audible is their refusal to do non-DRM books even if they author wants a non-DRM book. My agent was ready to do the deal with Audible when they said, “Sorry, it’s DRM or nothing.” It’s not as though Audible doesn’t know how to distribute MP3s (several of their free as in beer feeds are MP3), and it’s not as though Apple won’t sell a DRM-free file for them. It’s sheer bloody-mindedness, and it turned me off the company.

  15. On Windows, Audible burns through Nero. And Nero has an option for burning to a disk image on a hard drive rather than a CD. It also will automatically create filenames for the images when burning multiple CDs. Mount the image as a drive with Daemon Tools or something similar and start ripping. When I do it that way, I end up with fade-outs and fade-ins in the middle of sentences. A little annoying, but not as annoying as ripping in real-time.

  16. I tried Audible when I had a Dell DJ and it was a complete nightmare. Too much work. So I went back to burning CDs to MP3s from the library.

    If it worked well, Audible could be very handy.

  17. I’m a audiobook freak (mostly torrented MP3s, but I’ve ripped my share of audio CDs – Aubrey/Maturin comes to mind; 40 GB so far)and those Overdrive books are kind of a pain, my Sansa doesn’t like the DRMed WMAs. Found a good solution, google for FairUse4WM – gets rid of the DRM fast and easy. You still have WMAs tho, that’s a pain to convert to MP3s……

  18. Cory – While I am impressed by your efforts to remove the DRM from your downloads, I am curious as to why you didn’t re-download your purchases in one of the other formats that would be compatible with your player/computer?

  19. I paid something like $30 for Noteburner, which allows me to mount a pseudo- cd burner and converts anything I send to that burner into MP3s (so I just click “burn to CD” on Audible manager, windows media player or itunes). It works much more quickly than other of the other methods I’ve tried, although I haven’t figured out how to do it through linux.

  20. Audible better act fast if they want to keep me as a customer. I’ve been playing around with eMusic’s recently added Audio Books, which are all delivered as straight mp3’s, with no DRM. What I’ve discovered is there is a significant overlap between books offered on the two sites, and I’d much rather purchase it in a format I can use on my newest mp3 player (which is not supported by Audible).

  21. Summary: “Audible recently announced that it is working to provide an option of DRM-free spoken work audio titles on for content owners and publishers who prefer this method…”

    I just contacted them today via
    (Product:Non-Device…, Category: Technical… Activation)

    I am an Amazon customer, and I love their music store because (among other reasons) it is DRM-free. I am confident I will become an Audible customer in the near future.

    I have read that Audible will drop the use of DRM when it hears from customers that they do not want it (

    You can count this as my complaint about DRM. I have already contacted Amazon about it, and their customer support suggested I contact Audible support directly.

    I imagine that many have already contacted you about this, so my question is this: When can I expect Audible to stop using DRM?

    The response was:

    Thank you for contacting On its behalf, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience and I am most committed to satisfying and resolving your inquiry to the fullest of my abilities.

    As per your email, Audible recently announced that it is working to provide an option of DRM-free spoken work audio titles on for content owners and publishers who prefer this method and are committed to working with Audible to maintain a great customer experience. Currently we do not have an implementation date. Once this happen we will notify all of our potential and current customers. Thanks for your patience.

    Here at Audible, we truly value and appreciate your business; if you need further assistance, please respond to this email or if you wish, please provide me with a contact number and the best available time to reach you.

    For additional questions, how to contact us and hours of operation, please visit us at:

Comments are closed.